Returning from the visit in Great Britain with the Holy Father, as I sat beside him on the plane, we spoke of Chiara Luce Badano. He said that “we shall have to value our Blessed as a valuable example for youths.” This is what Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State of the Holy See confided to the young people who filled the great Roman Basilica in the presence of 3 cardinals, 15 bishops, and 200 priests who were concelebrating with him. The cardinal recalled the challenge that Chiara Luce had handed over to young people: “I can no longer run – she said – but I want to pass on the baton, like at the Olympics.” The cardinal added: “Your presence here is a sign that you’ve accepted this challenge.” Then he recalled the invitation of John Paul II at the World Youth Day of August 1989: “Young people, don’t be afraid to become saints! Fly high!”
In his homily, the Secretary of State reviewed some of the highlights of Chiara Luce’s life: A firm and constant faith in the love of God which was reflected in love of neighbor; a joyful life, filled with many interests and healthy friendships; a precocious Christian maturity which demonstrated itself in the way she faced sickness and death in a heroic way. He spoke of the factors that contributed to her formation: First, her family, which “carried out its educational duty perfectly” as did the ecclesial community and the social environment of Sassello. Then he added: “The Focolare Movement played a determining role in the formation of Chiara Badano. In fact, at the age of nine she met the Movement in which she had a strong and progressive communitarian experience of Christian life” and “deepened her personal relationship with God” to the point of living that last extraordinary stage in her life and concluded her ascent to holiness.”
Chiara Badano, the Secretary of State concluded, was and is an example which gives concreteness to the recent message of the Pope to Young People for the World Youth Day in Madrid: “Often the Cross frightens us because it seems to negate life. In reality, the opposite is true! Suffering is God’s “yes” to man, the maximum expression of his love and the fountain from which the eternal life flows.
In her final words of thanks, Maria Voce, President of the Focolare, remembered with deep emotion that the Basilica of Saint Paul was also the site for the final farewell to Chiara Lubich on the 18th of March 2008. “These two celebrations – she added – melt into one. From this place the witness that Chiara Luce gave to us is launched to all. Now it’s our turn.” Maria Voce’s words were then expressed symbolically by two young people who were handed on a baton, that they might continue the race with Chiara Luce.
Then Cardinal Bertone surprised Chiara Luce’s parents by extending to them a special blessing from Pope Benedict for their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary. The basilica exploded with applause for the couple who are also a witness and example for everyone.
At the Angelus, Pope Benedict’s XVI’s words were received by the youths with much joy and emotion.
(…) only Love with the capital “L” can give us true happiness! This has been demonstrated by another witness, a young girl who, yesterday, was proclaimed Blessed here in Rome.
I speak of Chiara Badano, an Italian girl, born in 1971, who was led to her death by an illness just shortly before she would have turned nineteen. But she was a ray of light as her nickname reminds us: Chiara ‘Luce’ (‘Light’).
Her parish and the diocese of Acqui Terme and the Focolare Movement, to which she belonged, are in celebration today – and it’s a feast for all young people who can find example of Christian integrity in her. Her last words of full adherence to God’s will were: “Bye, Mamma. Be happy because I am.”
We give praise to God, because his love is stronger than evil and death; and we thank the Virgin Mary who guides the young, even through difficulty and sufferings, to fall in love with Jesus and to rediscover the beauty of life.”