After World Youth Day in Lisbon, the International Meeting of Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement was held from 8th-10th August 2023 in Braga, northern Portugal.
In the aftermath of the World Youth Day in Lisbon, 87 bishops from 42 countries stayed on in Portugal for a meeting, organised by the Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement. They gathered to reflect on “The Mysticism of Encounter – Contemplation and Mission in a Changing Age“. En route to Braga, on 7th August, the first stop had to be the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, as it was the feast day of the two shepherd saints, Francisco and Jacinta.
Recognising that massive changes are occurring, which call for an adequate response also from the Church, from 8th-10th August they reflected on and put into practice the “mysticism of we”, seen as a response to the new stage of witness and proclamation of the Gospel to which the Holy Spirit is calling the Church today. They took up once more Pope Francis words to the Focolare Movement on his visit to the little town of Loppiano in 2018, when he said that the charism of unity given to Chiara Lubich “is a providential stimulus and a powerful help to live the evangelical mysticism of ‘we’”.
Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare Movement, and Jesús Morán, Co-President, attended the whole meeting and made various contributions. Margaret’s talk invited everyone to “Start from unity in order to ‘be’ and to ‘speak’ today“. Unity is the life of God, she said, and we who want to imitate that life are invited to live it and we have a duty to proclaim it courageously.
The comments and sharing in plenary that followed highlighted a renewed faith in the importance of seeking unity in the Church and in the world; and language groups enabled further deepening of the subject.
The various components of each day contributed to experiencing the ‘mysticism of we’, whether that was in the conversation with a group of young people who took part in WYD; in the testimonies shared by bishops on the synodal path; or insights into the daily life and suffering of particular Churches.
A few weeks before the Synod Assembly in October, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary of the Synod, and Prof. Piero Coda, a member of the Synod’s theological team, contributed to the meeting by video link. The Synod aims to help us rediscover unity in the one baptism, to equip us to live together despite our differences, and to teach us how to inhabit the tensions in which we inevitably find ourselves.
A panel discussion that set out to present some answers to the pressing problems in the Church and societies today, generated much interest and led to numerous questions. Father Fabio Ciardi, OMI, emphasised the treasures to be found in charisms both old and new; Francesca Di Giovanni, former undersecretary of the Vatican State, spoke of the place of women in the Church, who must not only be valued according to roles they might have but considered in view of the ‘gift’ they are for the Church. Rosinha and Amandio Cruz, a married couple working within the Archdiocese of Braga, presented aspects of the renewal of the Church and of evangelisation which are supported in particular by families.
On the last day, Father Fabio Ciardi spoke on the ‘wounds’ of the Church today, and on the light Chiara Lubich had found in the discovery-revelation of Jesus Forsaken. He is the one who took upon himself every division and who generates reconciliation; he is the foundation of the ‘mysticism of we’.
There were also moments of recreation and cultural enrichment, such as the visit to the nearby Bom Jesus do Monte Shrine, where Cardinal Francis Kriengsak, Archbishop of Bangkok, presided over the Eucharistic celebration. Francis Kriengsak, Then, with a glorious sunset as a backdrop, the local Focolare community offered a typical Portuguese dinner, followed by an exhibition of traditional dances.
At the conclusion of the meeting, in the Mass presided over by Cardinal Lazarus You, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, the Bishops renewed their commitment to put into practice Jesus’ commandment: “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).