“It was a good dose of optimism, because it makes you realize that God is at work in the Church.” This was the recent impression left by the president of the Focolare Movement, Maria Voce, at the conclusion of the annual Assembly of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, which she attended.
The Vatican office that supports the activity of the lay faithful and of the movements and associations in diverse settings around the world, this year focused the attention of its meeting on “The question of God today.” The three-day meeting, from November 24-26 included debates and concrete personal testimonies – an unusual thing – of some lay people concerning how their lives changed after their encounter with God. “It seemed to me,” comments Maria Voce, “that a new style of communion has entered the Church, one that gives priority to the recounting of life experiences.”
The need to speak of God was a point raised in every presentation that given during the Assembly. “Not doing so,” Maria Voce pointed out, “would mean giving up the search for the truth, which is manifested in the desperate thirst for happiness and anguish at the thought of death. But for this to happen, there needs to be a further step, that of a deep relationship with the other, a true relationship, in which each one must die to him and herself in order to welcome the other completely. This is a death for love, a gift.”
These annual Assemblies of the Pontifical Council of the Laity are also precious opportunities to meet the members of other Movements and Associations. “On these occasions,” recounts the president, “you see the relationship that the movements have with each other. You sense that this relationship has been built in the different parts of the world,” Africa, Europe, America, Asia, and the Middle East. Maria Voce recalled: “A new presence of martyrdom emerged, and the movements are quite engaged in this form of testimony: witnessing to God even in these situations, living the faith in all its fullness. And while in some parts of the world there is a martyrdom of blood, in Europe, instead, there is the problem of secularism and Christians give a strong witness that often takes the form of martyrdom.”
The World Youth Day in Madrid was also discussed during the Assembly. “An extraordinary cascade of light, joy and hope,” said Pope Benedict XVI when he met with the participants, “has illuminated Madrid, but also old Europe and the entire world, clearly reproposing the relevancy of the search for God today. No one was able to remain indifferent, no one was able to think that the question of God was irrelevant to the person of today.”
The president of the Focolare Movement personally greeted Benedict XVI, who said to her: “The focolarini cannot be missing.” And Maria Voce: “Holy Father, this year the entire Movement is committed to living the Word of God, and so we are preparing for the Synod.” And the Holy Father replied: “Thank you.”