Speech of Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare Movement to the World Council of Churches. Geneva, 28 November 2022
Reverend Professor Ioan Sauca,
Reverend Professor Dr. Jerry Pillay
collaborators and friends of this prestigious institution inspired by the Holy Spirit
Firstly, I would like to give you my warmest greetings and express my great joy to be here today. Thank you for inviting me, I am very honored. I have a deep admiration for the work that the Ecumenical Council of Churches has been doing for 80 years to enable communion among all Christians to grow day by day and to bring the spirit of reconciliation and unity into the world. The recent General Assembly of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Karlsruhe highlighted this fervent commitment of yours!
Twenty years ago, Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, came here at the invitation of the then General Secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser and of Professor Ioan Sauca.
I am very grateful to be with you all today, to commemorate this anniversary! I give praise to God because I am aware that I am walking on ground that I hold sacred, because of the experience of fraternity that the Council offers to Christianity and to the world.
I have come to assure you of the willingness and availability of the Focolare Movement to continue 'walking together' with the World Council of Churches, as Chiara Lubich and Konrad Raiser expressed twenty years ago in their joint declaration, following a strong experience of hope and unity.
For those not familiar with the Focolare Movement, I can briefly introduce it.
It was founded in 1943 by Chiara Lubich and aims to give a contribution to realizing the prayer of Jesus to the Father, as beautifully described in John 17, in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, by promoting fraternity between people, cultures and religions, in order to reach the goal of a united world.
Our ecumenical experience, which dates back to 1961, involves Christians, lay people, ordained ministers, and leaders from over 350 churches.
In addition, since 1999 a relationship of communion and collaboration has begun with various Movements and Ecclesial Communities within the ecumenical initiative of 'Together for Europe'. It builds bridges between the Churches and strives to promote a common witness in the social sphere, a particularly urgent challenge both in today's multicultural and multireligious context and in the face of the current crises in justice and peace.
We are Christians from various churches who are totally faithful to our own communities and we are are part of the Focolare Movement at various levels.
Living the same ideal of unity, we experience a deep communion in Christ and a mutual exchange of gifts between our respective Churches. In this way, by following Christ in listening to the Spirit and in the practice of mutual love, we already live, in a certain sense, as one people bearing common witness to our life together in Christ. In different ways we strive to renew human society in the light of the Gospel.
The spirituality of unity is centered on living the Word of God which is put into practice in daily life as a response to His Love (cf. Mt 7:21-27); it invites us to make Jesus' New Commandment our own (cf. Jn 13:34). This helps us not only to love the other person as ourselves, but also the other person’s Church as our own; it is rooted in Jesus crucified and forsaken (cf. Mk 15:34; Mt 27:21), the key to a lifestyle and the source of the Spirit that opens the way to unity. It is a spirituality that makes it possible to live the experience of Christ's presence among those who are united in His name (cf. Mt 18:20) which allows us to see that unity is possible while respecting plurality and diversity, reflecting the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.
What Reverend Konrad Raiser and Chiara Lubich stated in 2002, that for the Churches intending to make visible the unity they sincerely seek, it is necessary to change their conduct towards God and among themselves, seems to come true today.
They declared that the Churches "are called to metanoia and kenosis, in which we find the way to practice the most genuine penance and live the most authentic humility".
They continued: "If we detach ourselves from false securities, if we find in God our true and only identity, if we have the courage to be open and vulnerable to each other, then we will begin to live as pilgrims on a journey. We will discover the God of surprises who will lead us on roads never travelled, and we will discover each other as real travelling companions.”
In truth, steps have been taken!
How has the ecumenical commitment in the Focolare Movement progressed?
- International and local meetings have continued.
- The network between Bishops and Moderators of different churches has developed. The Movement's little towns in Germany, Holland and Great Britain are reference points, with their ecumenical centers and communities.
- At Sophia University Institute, to our joy, the joint 'Patriarch Athenagoras-Chiara ecumenical chair was established in December 2017. It has conducted degree courses and held expert seminars together with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the latest of which was last June: the Halki Summit V, on the critical issue of safeguarding the environment.
- We also cannot forget the fact that around the world, many people pray for unity and support ecumenical initiatives by collaborating with local Churches and groups. They stay connected with the help of our International Ecumenical Office, which you know well, the 'Centro Uno'.
Cooperation with the WCC has always remained constant, just think of the many relationships built over time and the occasions for exchange that have taken place over the years.
This was confirmed by the cordial welcome we received today from the entire Staff and the profound conversations we had with the two General Secretaries.
Allow me to express a special thanks to Reverend Joan Sauca for the whole period of his mandate. We fondly remember your very welcome visit to the Rocca di Papa International Centre last January, which I am happy to have now been able to reciprocate.
Dialogue has a privileged place in my heart, indeed I can say that it is at the root of my vocation: in Chiara’s footsteps, to give my life to God for unity.
I have seen the fruits of this in my own country. Helped by the example of my parents and later sustained by the charism of unity, in the Holy Land and then in my community life in the Focolare, in other cultural and geographic contexts, I have experienced how important dialogue is, how it breaks down prejudices, nurtures mutual knowledge, authentic listening to the other and establishes relationships with those who think differently from us or with those who even provoke and inflict pain.
I have seen walls of suspicion and indifference crumble, relationships and dialogue groups come into being, and they are still alive and operating today.
It is therefore a personal priority of mine to continue the experience of sincere friendship between the Focolare Movement and the WCC, because it is a source of mutual inspiration to increase the culture of dialogue ever more, so that it becomes a universal lifestyle.
I wholeheartedly confirm that we intend to renew the commitment made 20 years ago by Rev Konrad Raiser and Chiara Lubich. I quote: 'To foster ever more a dialogue of the people. A dialogue that does not contradict theological dialogue, nor other forms of traditional dialogue between the individual churches, but rather fosters and hastens the fulfilment of Jesus' Testament: 'That all may be one so that the world may believe' (Jn 17:21)".
Best wishes to Rev. Jerry Pillay! May the Holy Spirit always give us new impetus to work together and reap the fruits of deeper communion to enrich the Unity we wish to witness to the world.