Could you explain the meaning of the title of this Congress: Contemplate Christ through the eyes of Mary?

No person has known, or will ever know Jesus as Mary did, because she is the Immaculate One, she is his Mother; she is a living Gospel, and therefore “another Jesus”. In order to see, know and contemplate Jesus through her eyes, we have to try as much as we can to imitate her in her “constant yes” to the will of God. And in a certain sense, to re-live her life in us.

What relevance do Mary, the Rosary and prayer have in today’s world?

Mary and prayer have an enormous value in our times. There is now a new type of terrorism in the world – the most terrible – which could be an effect, as many think, of the presence of Evil with a capital E. The normal means aren’t enough to combat this evil. We have to turn to Good with a capital G, therefore to God and to everything that He represents. This is why prayer is so important; the Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi is one example of this and so is reciting the Rosary.

Today’s world is divided between rich and poor and this is one of the main causes which gives rise to terrorism. We’re called to work as never before to bring about solidarity, the sharing of goods, universal brotherhood, in order to make humanity one family. Because Mary is the universal Mother, She can give us a hand as no one else can.

What would you say to those who don’t believe in prayer and in its effectiveness in everyday life?

Usually those who don’t believe in prayer have little faith in God. We need to help them rekindle this faith. There are many means at our disposal. One of the most effective means is the witness that we Christians can give when we love one another. In fact, Christ promised the conversion of the world to those who are united in love. He said, “That all may be one so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).

What is the relationship between Mary, with the spiritual life she represents, and the creative work of artists?

Artists are predisposed towards creating beautiful things. In fact, I’ve seen that for them, if they are believers, the greatest attribute they can give to God is beauty. It’s true that God is Truth, that God is Love, but God is also Beauty. And Mary is the one who is “all beautiful”; you could say she is the incarnation of beauty. That’s the reason of her relationship with artists and of their relationship with her. They are truly attracted by Mary: they have painted her, sculpted her, sung songs in her honour in all ages and in every imaginable way.

What was the idea behind the Marian Congress, which is starting next Monday?

It all started on 16 October 2002 at the end of the Wednesday audience with the Holy Father after he signed the Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. I was among the 600 or so people of our Movement present in St Peter’s Square. On that day he handed me a long letter which, among other things, said, “On this occasion I would like to entrust to the focolarini the Rosary (…) I am certain that your devotion to the Holy Virgin will help you give prominence to the initiative of dedicating the coming year to the Rosary.”

From that moment on, all over the world, there has been an abundance of ideas to promote the Rosary as widely as possible. The Marian Congress is one of these activities.

Can you tell us, in a few words, what the three-day program of the congress will consist of?

There will be reflections on the Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father on the Rosary and on the new “Mysteries of Light” with testimonies given by families, politicians, consecrated men and women, priests and young people. There will be two round table discussions: one dedicated to the various ecclesial movements, on the subject of the Rosary, and the other dedicated to Christians of other denominations who will comment on the Pope’s letter.

The talks will be interspersed with artistic performances and exhibits worthy of honouring Mary, the “all beautiful”.

Mass will be celebrated by Cardinals and Archbishops, among whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, Vatican City, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Archbishop of Prague, Monsignor Rylko, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and others.

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