With an area of 2,8000,000 square kilometres, the Republic of Argentina has a great variety of climates, from tropical heat to Antarctic cold. Between the Andes mountain chain and Atlantic shores lies an endless fertile plain: Las Pampas, that famous “breadbasket of the world”. The variety of landscapes makes them tourist destinations for many visitors.
Argentina is a nation open to the many immigrants who have made this country their home and contributed to its development. Forty million inhabitants, concentrated in large cities, who can trace their origins back to many different parts of the world, the majority Spanish and Italian.
The history of Argentina is presented as a series of conflicts that are still reflected in the present: the battle between the provinces and the central government of Buenos Aires, coups (the last dictatorship being the hardest, between 1976 and 1983), the war that was lost to England for the Falkland Islands in 1982, the 30% of the population that lives below the poverty level.
The majority of the population claims to be Roman Catholic, with a presence of other Christian denominations. Then there are groups of Jews and Muslims, and a minority of faithful of other religions and people of no religious belief.
Cultural environments such as the arts and sport have produced world famous figures.
When Chiara Lubich visited Argentina in 1998, she had the opportunity of having different meetings in which she appreciated the cultural, religious, political and social richness and diversity of this people. When she met with 8000 Focolare members, she left them with a charge: “Here I suggest a 360° dialogue; so love everyone… And in order to reach this 360° dialogue, you must begin from the first point of the art of loving. This is what I would ask of you, then: love everyone.”
The Focolare Movement arrived in Argentina in 1957 through a priest who had attended a Mariapolis in the Dolomite Mountains, Italy. A first community began in Santa Maria de Catamarca (in the northeast), which is rich in ancient culture.
Towards the end 1958, Lia Brunet, Marco Tecilla and Ada Ungaro arrived in South America, with an itinerary that included Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. In October 1961 and in February 1962 the first focolares were established in Buenos Aires, to animate the growing community.
The spirituality of unity appeared like a new way for this young population, and spread quickly. The Mariapolis multiplied and, in 1963 Ciudad Nueva Publishing House was opened. The next few years were fundamental for the Focolare in Argentina. Chiara Lubich visited this land three consecutive times (1964, 1965 and 1966). In 1966 she placed the first stone of the Mariapolis Center in Jose C. Paz near Buenos Aires.
Like a beacon for Argentina and its neighbors, in 1968 Mariapolis of O’Higgins was born in the province of Buenos Aires (today it is known as Mariapolis Lia). It has become an important formation center for members of the Movement, and of spreading its spreading among thousands of people who visit it every weekend. Since 1968 more than four thousand youths from around the world have spent time in this Mariapolis, trying to become true witnesses of this lifestyle in their places of origin.
In 1980 a Social Research Center was begun to explore the Social Doctrine of the Church and its implementation in the Argentine political and social setting. Then came the School for Ecumenical Training for Focolare members who are invovled in the Church’s dialogue with different Christian Churches. Many of them now belong to the Ecumenical Councils of their diocese.
The dialogue among the Movements and ecclesial communities has produced abundant fruits for the Church in Argentina.
A stable dialogue of mutual knowledge, understanding and very strong collaboration has been established with faitful of the Great Religions – Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others.
There are also groups of people who share in the spirit of the Focolare, without holding any particulare religious faith.
Chiara’s proposal of a 360° dialogue is taking root in several social settings through people and structures of the Focolare Movement.
In 1991 the Economy of Communion was also begun inn Argentina and “Solidaridad” Industrial Park was opened in the O’Higgins Mariapolis. Fifty-six businesses and economic initiatives currently belong to the project.
Because of a deep political and economic crisis, in 2001 the Political Movement for Unity was begun, which promotes several training projects, reflections and activities. Political dialogue groups were formed and a Political and Social Training School for young people, with twelve centers in the country. As a result of this involvement in social issues, a Political Society and Fraternity Chair was established at the National University of La Plata. It was the beginning of the University Network for the Study of Fraternity (RUEF).
The Focolare Movement in Argentina has 7,000 involved members, 42,000 adherents, thousands of sympathizers, a Mariapolis town with 200 inhabitants, Ciudad Nueva Publishing House, three Mariapolis Centres for formation training, focolares in major cities, communities spread throughout the country social projects and participation in several political, social, cultural and ecclesial environments. There are many other people who have come into contact and remain connected to the Movement’s many expressions in this land.
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