John 17 wants to be a voice that calls the Churches to reconciliation and unity according to Jesus’s prayer: “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). It is based on the belief that evangelization is far more efficacious when it is accompanied by the witness of unity among Christians. The members of this movement wish to be catalysts of unity. For this reason they strive to establish fraternal relationships of friendship everywhere, especially among Christians of different Churches.
Sixty members of this Movement, along with Joe Tosini and Mike Herron, two of the founders, went to Rome for the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (RCC). The Pope had invited the RCC to rediscover its own ecumenical roots. In fact, the experience of effusion and baptism in the Holy Spirit first took place in 1967 among a group of young Catholics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and was the result of encounters with Pentecostals.
The presence of pastors from different denominations on stage during the Vigil of Pentecost at the Circus Maximus in Rome was a visible sign of those origins.
Pope Francis asked the Catholic Charismatics to be a privileged place in the Church in which to walk the path towards unity in “reconciled diversity:” Today the unity of Christians is more urgent than ever, united by the working of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and in action in favour of the weakest. Walk together….work together….love one another….love one another….the Spirit wants us to be on the move.”
The group from John 17, which was mostly made up of leaders from the Pentecostal Church, wanted to take advantage of their trip to Rome to meet with Focolare president, Maria Voce, and to get to know Chiara Lubich’s charism of unity. They visited the Mariapolis Centre in Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, on June 17, accompanied by the pastor from the Evangelical Church of the Reconcilliation of Caserta, Pastor Traettino. The purpose of their meeting was also to prepare for the private audience with Pope Francis on June 8th that went on for a good two hours.
The convergence of purpose and spirit between the two movements – the Focolare and John 17 – was clear and the hours spent together were filled with joy and praise to God. Pastor Traettino reminded everyone that unity is built “starting from the feet upwards” and not from the head; that is, by placing oneself at the service of one’s neighbours. This commitment was sealed by a ritual foot-washing and a prayer for one another.
Maria Voce and Focolare members from different Churches shared the essence of the spirituality of unity with them, along with their experience of living the Gospel.