Chiara Lubich’s first appointment was at Lambeth Palace, in audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Primate of the Church of England.
Chiara Lubich herself spoke about this audience during a press conference in London:
“Archbishop Williams was particularly interested in our experience of interreligious dialogue. He asked me what our secret was. I referred to the Novo Millennio Ineunte, where the Pope deals in depth with the mystery of Jesus who, on the cross, cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ After having lost his mother, his disciples and soon afterwards his very life, Jesus also lost his sense of unity with the Father, which meant everything to him. Jesus was reduced to nothing. This is a point of our spirituality of communion, which teaches us to be ‘nothing’ in front of people of other religions, to be a ‘nothingness of love’ to be able to ‘enter’ in them, because – as we said – we must ‘know how to get into the other’s skin’, to the point of understanding what it means for them to be Buddhists, Muslims, or Hindus. But we can enter in others if we are nothing. Jesus Forsaken is our model for this.”
“We also spoke about other subjects, such as the ecumenical movement; the commitment that we – together with a large number of Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Orthodox movements – have taken upon ourselves to contribute towards making the “Europe of the Spirit” a reality. Being a theologian, he was very interested in this topic.”
“I was greatly impressed by the quality of the relationship between Chiara and the Archbishop,” commented Callan Slipper, minister of the Church of England and focolarino, who was present at the audience. “The Archbishop had an attitude of profound openness, he is one who knows how to listen and appreciate. This attitude was evident from the very first moment when, after Chiara had named all the preceding Primates of the Church of England she had come to know, the Archbishop jokingly remarked, ‘Then you know the Church of England better than I do!’ When he was informed of Chiara’s appointments during her visit, he affirmed that what was about to take place in those days was very timely because “we have great need of it both as a nation and as a Church.”
The ecumenical page of Focolare relations with the Church of England began in 1961, with Archdeacon Bernard Pawley, who had met Chiara Lubich in Rome. Later, some Anglican ministers participated at a meeting among Catholics and Evangelical Lutherans in Grottaferrata (Rome). They were deeply touched by the atmosphere created by reciprocal love, which made them recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In 1966, at Lambeth Palace, London, Chiara met the then Primate of the Church of England, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, for the first time. “I can see God’s hand in this Work,” he told Chiara, encouraging her to spread the spirituality of the Movement in the Church of England. Later Chiara also met his successors: Coggan, Runcie and Carey. In Great Britain the Focolare Movement includes Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. At Welwyn Garden City, an “ecumenical little town” is coming to life. It is the unity that lies at the heart of the Focolare spirituality, which particularly draws the interest of Anglicans.