In Focolare president Maria Voce’s message for the re-opening of the centre she urged the priests at Vinea Mea to have a new pastoral approach, in which priests are Christ for the world, going out out to the existential outskirts. Among those present were Bishop Mario Meini and Bishop Luciano Giovannetti, along with various mayors from neighbouring regions and some 200 guests from several regions of Italy.

Maria Voce highlighted the importance of Vinea Mea Centre in connection with the permanent Mariapolis of Loppiano from which its formative proposal draws its life. “Loppiano is a small living portion of hte Church and like a cross-section of a new society, showing what the world could be like if Christian love were placed at the basis of every relationship; a place in which new people are formed, people open to dialogue and communion, people capable of offering their own life as a gift to others.

“She recalled the wishes expressed by Chiara Lubich to priests in 1966, who were the first to attend the nascent school for priests: “Learn how to put everything aside, to strip yourselves of every pretext of power, in order to ensure the presence of Jesus among you. Then it will be inevitable for Jesus to bring forth a new form of pastoral ministry and a new kind of priest, priests capable of giving their lives for everyone.” She also wished them that such experiences would multiply and spread to many other countries.

Vita Zanolini and Elena Di Taranto from the architect’s studio at the Ave Art Centre described the challenges posed by the restoration project of the antiquated Franciscan convent from the 16th century, trying to render the environments suitable for the communitarian lifestyle that is the characteristic of this school for priests, while continuing to respect the continuity and memory of the historic building.

Bishop Mario Meini, bishop of Fiesole, Italy highlighted the human dimension of the priest, the fact that he must be a person with everyone else, a brother of all: “The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that the priest is ‘taken from among men’ and that his is a ‘ministry in the community’. There is need for a priestly spirituality that is not linked to a culture or to an environment, but one which gives voice to the whole world, one which is part of the flow of history today; we need priests who are the bearers of communion.”

Hungarian Father Dom Imre Kiss, who is responsible for the Vinea Mea Centre, described the formation method and program of courses of formation for priests. “We are a single community, but we live in small focolares suitable in size for a family in which mutual love becomes practical and deep, and where you can learn what it means to say that “the spirituality of communion renders enivironments suitable for the lifestyle that constitutes what is specific to this school for priests: the new communitarian dimension of the Church.”

 Stefania Tanesini

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