The funeral of Oreste Basso, focolarino and priest, was held at Rocca di Papa in the presence of hundreds of people as well as telecast live via internet. A huge number of testimonies, messages and thanks arrived from all over the world including the Vatican Secretary of State.
The homage to Oreste Basso during his funeral celebrations on the 15th April 2013 began with the words: “The Holy Father wishes to express his deep condolences to the entire Focolare Movement”. This message signed by the Secretary of State, cardinal Bertone, was read by Maria Voce. It also remembered “his generous service to the Church as a fervent priest who did his utmost to joyously proclaim the gospel and zealously witness to charity”.
Cardinal Bertone, who knew Oreste Basso personally in the course of discussions on some details of the Focolare Movement’s (Work of Mary) statutes, also expressed his own thoughts through a letter to the Focolare president. It read: “I was impressed with his keen listening to advice and his total willingness to collaborate. I experienced a sense of true fraternity with him, which left me with this feeling of friendship even later on when we no longer meet. I sensed the fineness of his soul as a fellow priest, in the Movement, without authoritarianism. It served me as an example.”
The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Rylko, wrote: “I appreciated his clarity of ideas and his profoundness as witness to the gospel”. He considered him as “a faithful and an untiring collaborator of Chiara Lubich”; “His being a priest with a heart conformed to that of Jesus shone beyond his amiable trait, and he witnessed to the flowering that the Movement’s charism can bring about of the grace of the sacrament of priesthood”.
Marco Tecilla, the first focolarino and Oreste’s fellow companion for many years right till the final moments of his life, narrated his story. He said it was only a brief presentation of a life lived to the fullest.
Oreste Basso, a focolarino who was amongst the closest collaborators of Chiara Lubich since the 50s, passed away peacefully at the age of 91 between Saturday night and Sunday 14th April morning. He can be described as a “giant” of the Focolare. During his lifetime, he undertook various functions of great responsibility in governing the Movement, thereby becoming an eloquent witness to the charism of unity. Ordained a priest in 1981, he considered the ministry as a service and a calling to a greater love. He was elected Co-president of the Movement in 1996 and he exercised a fundamental role at the time of the foundress’ death (14th March 2008) and during the General Assembly that followed (July 2008). During this assembly, which was the first of its kind for the Focolare, the person who was to succeed Chiara Lubich as president was elected.
Born in Florence on the 1st January 1922, he met the Focolare in Milan in 1949, when he along with his friends (Piero Pasolini, Danilo Zanzucchi, Guglielmo Boselli, Giorgio Battisti), who later all became focolarini, heard Ginetta Caliari speak at the university canteen. He worked for a prestigious firm in Milan as engineer and inspector of locomotive engines. In those difficult years that followed World War II, the spirituality and life of the Movement based on the gospel were for him a discovery of a force, which with others would have given back peace, progress and hope to the world. In 1951 he opened the first male focolare in the main town of the Lombard region along with other companions. At the end of the 50s, Chiara Lubich called him to be at the Centre of the Movement in Castelli Romani, where he exercised his functions in a spirit of service. Everyone who met him experienced a deep sense of being family.
The Centre of the Focolare is receiving messages from all over the world expressing condolences and a deep gratitude for Oreste Basso’s tireless work in service of the Church, the Movement, and for his vividly evangelical life. Some spoke of “a sanctity with a sense of humour” bringing to mind this wonderful gift he possessed.
Oreste’s last words reveal his deep relationship with Mary that marked his whole life: “Beautiful, wonderful, amazing, Paradise. There’s Our Lady… we must pray, above all we must help the poor and the weakest who are the ones most in need of mercy”.
Marco Tecilla while concluding said: “We always asked Chiara for a sentence of the gospel to guide us during our lifetime, and Chiara proposed to Oreste the phrase: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1Cor 11,1). Now that he has completed his journey, we feel that Oreste recommends this sentence to each one of us”.