During her tenure as President of the Focolare Movement, (2008-2021), Maria Voce had the opportunity to meet Pope Ratzinger several times. She told us about her relationship with the emeritus Pope and her impression of the contribution of Pope Benedict’s pontificate to the Church and the world.

“When I was received in audience in his study, it was to like going into the living room of a home, where you could talk and be welcomed with love, I would even say, with loving attention. At the same time with noble finesse, tact and delicacy”. At the news of the departure of Pope Benedict XVI, the memories of Maria Voce, former President of the Focolare Movement, immediately returned to 13th  April, 2010, when, with the then Co-President of the Focolare, Fr. Giancarlo Faletti, she was received by the Pope.

It was the second year after the death of our foundress, Chiara Lubich. The Co-President and I went to consign the life of the Movement into the hands of the Pope. We realized that he was already very aware of many things. We told him about our trip to various Asian countries from which we had just returned. He was pleased to hear about our visit to China, which is an important frontier for the Church. He rejoiced at what the Movement was doing to help the process of reconciliation between the Chinese Bishops and the Pope. He gave us his blessing and encouraged us to continue on the way to holiness. Personally, I was always impressed by his fine kindness and at the same time his warm and familiar welcome. He had a great sense of harmony, perhaps due to his love for music, which was also evident in the way his study was furnished: a welcoming place like a home, sacred like a church”.

Did you meet Pope Benedict XVI as President of the Focolare on any other occasions?

“In 2008 he received Co-President Faletti and I, immediately after the General Assembly of the Focolare in which we had been elected, the first after the death of our foundress. He then invited me to travel on the same train as him, with many personalities, to the “Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world” held in Assisi on 27th October 2011, twenty five years after the first event held by Pope John Paul II in 1986. Finally, I participated in his last audience on 27th February, 2013 after the announcement of his resignation.”

What are your thoughts about his decision?

“When he realized that he no longer had the strength to carry out his task, he had the courage to make room for others who, in his opinion, had more strength and opportunity to do better. A choice that, as I said at the time, offered a synthesis of his theological and spiritual reflection. He highlighted the primacy of God, the sense that history is guided by him. And he directed us to grasp the signs of the times and to respond to them by having the courage to make difficult but innovative choices. He gave a clear note of hope because of “the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ”.  I think I am not mistaken in stating that the Church to which Pope Benedict always looked, even in making this choice, is a “Church-communion”, the fruit of Vatican II but also a vision, “increasingly an expression of the essence of the Church” as he himself had pointed out. And that “increasingly” tells us that we have not yet fully realized it and invites each of us to work in that direction with ever greater responsibility”.

The day after his election as Pontiff, Chiara Lubich wrote: “From what I know about him, since he has special gifts for understanding the light of the Spirit, he will not fail to surprise and surpass every expectation”. In your opinion, what was the most significant contribution made to the Church by Pope Benedict XVI? What is he saying to the Church of today and to what the Synod is preparing for the future?

“Pope Ratzinger understood the reality of Movements in the Church as the ‘springtime of the Spirit’. His speech, when still a Cardinal, to the Congress of Movements before the big meeting of Pentecost 1998 with Pope John Paul II, is fundamental. What he said in 1969 in a series of radio lectures is also impressive, thinking of today’s times; it reveals his profound spirituality and essentiality and a vision that must have remained in his heart throughout his pontificate. He said that very difficult times were coming for the Church, that its real crisis had just begun and that it would have to deal with major upheavals. But, the then Card. Ratzinger, also said that he was very sure about what would remain in the end: not the Church of political worship, but the Church of faith. It will no longer be the dominant social force to the extent that it has been until recently. But, he concluded, the Church will have a new blossoming and will appear as the home of humanity, where life and hope can be found beyond death”.

Anna Lisa Innocenti


  • Gracias por este artículo, me conmueve esta visión de la Iglesia como casa donde encontrar vida y esperanza,… (en nuestra experiencia, camino de comunión). Saludos desde Ecuador.
    ¨Numerosas expresiones había escuchado sobre el Papa Benedicto XVI, que decían de dureza, rigidez, conservadorismo, lejanía; y en un momento me dije no puedo creer lo que dicen sin intentar conocerlo; así, me aventuré a leer algunos escritos, no podría decir cuáles específicamente, pero sí puedo compartir la experiencia de haberlo hecho. Sentí, después de leer, una alegría profunda al percibir que todo era sabiduría, que no es solo estudio, sino vida. También sentía la paz que provoca la presencia de la verdad. Le estoy agradecida, consiente que el Espíritu Santo obra en nuestras vidas, por lo sembrado en cada uno por la Palabra y las palabras de quienes hablan con sabiduría, verdad y concreto amor.¨

  • Grazie per queste Parole Che sono attuale fin Ora. Sia qu’elle ricordate da Margaret a Gerusalemme e Al centre dellOpera, Sia qu’elle Di Emmaüs in Vaticano…. Cosi il nostro Papa Benedetto non muore, rimane Vivo per le sue parole e operare. Grazie papa Benedetto XVI. Ora dal Cielo vedi la tua Chiesa e proteggila da ogni proseïtismo

  • Anch’io ho incontrato più volte papa Benedetto ed ho ascoltato direttamente la sua parola. Ho letto molti suoi libri, ma in particolare mi ha colpito quanto scrive in “Gesù di Nazareth” a proposito del significato del “pane” e di conseguenza dell’eucarestia. “Per comprendere in tutta la sua profondità il discorso del pane pronunciato da Gesù…in previsione della futura chiesa universale che comprenderà giudei e greci – tutti i popoli del mondo-…
    il pane terreno può diventare veicolo della presenza di Cristo, perché esso stesso reca in se il mistero della passione , perché unisce in se la morte e la risurrezione. … ”
    E’ questo il fondamento del dialogo interreligioso e del Regno di Dio costituito dalla sua chiesa raccolta alle estremità della terra !
    Benedetto XVI è a pieno titolo un “Dottore della Chiesa” perchè con lucidità “escatologica” ha saputo indicare il cammino e il futuro della Chiesa contemporanea.
    Beppe Moschella

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