When I arrived in Recife
on the 5th of November 1959,
I was stunned by the lack of equality,
by the gap between rich and poor,
by the discrimination,
by the hunger you saw
on the faces of so many,
the destitution, the lack
of compassion on the part of the rich towards the poor.
I said to myself: ‘In the face of this
we cannot be passive onlookers’.
Something has to change.
What must change? People’s hearts.
I thought: Here we need people who are “new”, to generate new structures from which will emerge new cities, and a new people”.
(From an interview on RAI Television)
On the 10th of March 2001, the final farewell to Ginetta was truly a celebration, a celebration of “heaven on earth”. Lia Brunet who with Ginetta lived the adventure of the beginnings of the Focolare Movement, alongside Chiara Lubich, described it for us: “From early morning an endless procession, a veritable river of people of all walks of life filed past her coffin. There were bishops, and there were children, simple farmers and Members of Parliament, entrepreneurs and representatives of the media.”
This took place in a new city, the little town of Araceli, the heart of the vast Movement that now extends throughout Brazil: a little town complete with homes, schools and an industrial complex, where the gap between rich and poor no longer exists. “This little town has risen up,” Ginetta herself once recounted, “where previously there was only a mud-brick hut, without water or electricity, far from the nearest town.
But the certainty that this little town would become a reality – as Chiara had foretold – gave everyone the courage to keep on going, day after day, with the powerful assistance of God’s abundant providence which always arrived at just the right moment, unfailing proof that we are looked after by a loving Father”.
Those who visit Araceli – like that journalist from RAI television who interviewed Ginetta – leave with the conviction that this little town is a prophetic sign of a future city. Ginetta unhesitatingly confirmed this:
“There is really no doubt about that. I see that the many people who come here are deeply struck – and they come in great numbers to visit us. They say things like: ‘This is what the world should be like. If this life were to overflow into the world, all barriers would crumble, divisions would be wiped away and conflicts would disappear.’
‘Here everyone is happy. We thought happiness did not exist. Instead we have found itjust when we had lost all hope. Here there is hope enough for everyone’.
From the moment we set foot in Brazil we were firmly convinced that only God could solve its social problems, and that this would happen when his Word had transformed people’s hearts, including the hearts of the rich, of the leaders, of everyone. Because to take from those who have and give to those who have not is something only God could do! Only God!
But for us, God was not something abstract, up there in heaven somewhere; on the contrary, we had discovered that we could have him present among us by living the words of Jesus: “Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them”(Mt. 18:20).
And so our commitment was to give witness to God present in a community of people who were ready to give their lives for one another. Then He in our midst would show us the way to go ahead.”
On the day Ginetta left us, among the vast number of condolence messages sent by well known civic and religious leaders from all over the country, was the one of the Vice-President of Brazil, Marco Maciel. In his message he recalled the year 1959, when Ginetta started the Focolare Movement in Brazil, which now numbers 250,000 people throughout the land.
He wrote, “I, too, must give my witness to this stupendous work of brotherhood and love of neighbour which has borne great fruits in our society and which has benefited the most needy in our country.”