Paris welcomes Maria Voce

Sunday 9 May. In the western outskirts of Paris the Boulogne-Billancourt Theatre is crowded. There are over 600 people from all over Northern France, from Vandea to Alsace, not forgetting those from the capital itself and surroundings as well as representatives of different nations, most noticeably a numerous group from Cameroon.

Explosions of joy alternate with moments of silence, of listening. The diversity and richness of the Focolare’s work in these regions are presented to Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti. In Alsace, for example, there are a number of initiatives to encourage people from different political parties to meet together in search of a common good; the Western region presents its work with the different churches and ecclesial communities in the ‘Together for Europe’ project, where about 800 people participate; the Ile de France area tells of an experience of fraternity between children of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds; while a teacher from the Northern outskirts of Paris tells of his work with his students to change the climate of violence which dominates their school by putting into practice the points of the Art of Loving. Their experience has spread to other schools; and finally the work carried out around the small town of Arny, in the context of the Economy of Communion, giving a light of hope in an economic world that is so disorientated.

In the second part of the programme, Maria Voce replies to questions that are put to her on different topics, in an atmosphere of great joy and freedom.

Songs and choreographies, animated by a group of young people, envelope the hall in a final festive dance.

The following day begins under the protection of Mary at the Sanctuary of the Miraculous Medal, a place of pilgrimage for millions of visitors each year. Afterwards, a press conference at the Centre d’Accueil de la Presse Etrangere (CAPE), near the Champs-Elysees.

In the afternoon a visit to Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and President of the French Bishop’s Conference. Maria Voce updates him on her recent visit to the Pope; then to the Nunciature, with a warm welcome from the Nuncio, Mons Luigi Ventura, and a special Italian coffee as a sign of welcome.

At the end of the afternoon, Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti meet with a group of priests of the Movement coming from different regions: they are dynamic, and well known and valued in their dioceses. They are often entrusted with important responsibilities.

The day finishes with a meeting with the directors of the different branches and aspects of the movement in France (about 40) who provide the guests with a rich and varied overview of the work done by the Focolare in France. Maria Voce takes the occasion to underline the importance of this group – ‘which forms the heart of a territory and from which everything should begin’, thanks to the reciprocal love amongst its members and an attentive listening to the Holy Spirit, in order to understand which initiatives to take ahead.

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