The Focolare has a particular ecumenical lifestyle. Within the Movement there are Christians from approximately 350 churches and ecclesial communities who whilst being rooted in their own church are at the same time able to create links between Christians in a variety of other churches.
Our goal: The Movement aims to make a real contribution to breaking down the walls that separate the Churches removing prejudices and providing the space where the different types of ecumenical dialogue can bear fruit. This ‘dialogue of life’ enables Christians to give witness to the possibility of living together.
The foundation is the Gospel lived under the light of the spirituality of unity, the specific spirituality of the Focolare. Christians from the various Churches, living this spirituality, feel the need to recognise and deepen common patrimony and to also value the sources of spiritual life that are found within the different Churches. The novelty lies in that all feel they are part of a family and are linked by the commandment of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you are to love one another. If there is this love among you, then all will know that you are my disciples.” (Jn13,34)
Being united in the love of Christ is a requisite to have the presence of Christ amongst his friends (cf. Mt 18,20) and has become the characteristic of the ecumenical life of the Focolare Movement.
A new route to ecumenism: 50 years after the commitment by the Movement to work for the unity of Christians, a new form of ecumenism took shape: the ‘dialogue of life’ which describes-how the whole people of God (which includes bishops, priests, lay people) can participate in the process of bringing the Churches closer and in this way contribute towards the full visible communion between them. Chiara commented: ‘Over the centuries every Church, in some way, has turned rigid through waves of indifference and misunderstanding, if not of mutual hatred. What is needed in each church is a supplement of love. Indeed, the Christian world needs to be overwhelmed by a torrent of love’ (Graz – Austria 1997).
The fruits have developed across the world and over time. The dialogue of life has gradually become the dialogue of a people. Today in the Focolare Movement there are Christians from more than 350 Churches and ecclesial communities. Among them there are also some bishops who take the opportunity to meet every year to share together their life of living the Gospel and so deepen their communion in Christ.
Some ‘Ecumenical Schools’ have been established providing formation courses in Europe, the Middle East and in the Americas.
An ecumenical little town was set up in Ottmaring, near Augsburg Germany, back in 1968 by the Focolare and the ‘Brotherhood of Common Life’ which is a Lutheran fraternity founded on Jesus’ prayer for unity (cf. Jn:17). Today there are about 120 residents. The aim of this place is to show that it is possible for Christians of different Churches to live in unity.
‘Together for Europe’. In 1999 a new way opened up for Movements and ecclesial communities to share: ‘Together for Europe’. International meetings held on 8th May 2004 and 12th May 2007 both in Stuttgart, Germany. The final statement of the meeting set out how they could work together as an alliance based on mutual love, to collaborate in favour of the common good, commitment to life, for the family, peace, the poor and for a fair economy as well as safeguarding the environment.
Historical background: Our ecumenical dialogue began in 1961 when in Darmstadt, Germany a group of evangelical Lutherans listened to a talk given by Chiara Lubich. They were greatly moved by her simple but radical proposal of a life based on the Word of God. In the same year after many contacts and informal meetings a secretariat for ecumenism was set up in Rome and known as Centro “Uno” for the unity of Christians. Igino Giordani was the first director and remained so until his death in 1980.
In 1955, initially through a Swiss architect, the Movement reached the Swiss Reformed Church.
The first contacts with the Anglican Church were made before the Second Vatican Council. In 1966 ChiaraLubich met Archbishop Michael Ramsey the then Primate of the Church of England. Following him all the subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury including the present, Rowan Williams, have encouraged the spread of the spirituality of the Focolare within the Anglican Church.
In 1967 Chiara met some prominent ecumenists of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
The history of the fraternal relationships between the Focolare Movement and the Orthodox is rooted in the extraordinary meeting between Chiara Lubich and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople. ‘It was 13th June in 1967’ Chiara recounts, ‘he welcomed me as if we had always known one another. “I was waiting for you” he exclaimed and asked me to tell him about the contacts between the Movement and Lutherans and Anglicans.’ In total Chiara met Athenagoras I 25 times. The relationship continued with Patriarch Demetrios I. Today contact with the current Patriarch Bartolomew I continues in the same spirit of respect and friendship. Afterwards the spirituality of the Movement has been welcomed by the Ancient Churches of the East and so dialogue has developed with the Syrian- Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and Assyrian Churches.
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