“My wish for the new president would be that she might always listen to the Holy Spirit and, as a consequence, build everything “in unity”- Maria Voce had said a few days before her re-election, not knowing that these words would soon become the opening words of her second term.
Taking advantage of a break in the General Assembly of the Focolare that is still in progress (it ends on 28 September), the different editions of New City magazine interviewed the newly re-elected president of the Focolare and Jesús Morán, the Co-President. The questions relate to the life of the Movement and the great challenges that await it. We quote below some excerpts; click here for the link to the full interview in Italian.
How should we respond to what Pope Francis is saying to the Church and society today?
Maria Voce: “We should take the charism of unity as our starting point: we also must think of the poor and the marginalized, but starting from our specific aim. I was thrilled when Pope Francis said in Redipuglia (Italy) that “war is madness.” It is a disease, so it needs to be treated. What kind of care can we, focolarini, offer? The only one we have is our charism, which asks us to build relationships of peace, of mutual understanding even among people who ignore each other, who hate each other, to contribute to the journey towards unity. ”
Jesús Morán: “We are not renown for our frantic search for power, it is not our style. Rather we try to start processes. Pope Francis compares the Church not so much to a sphere as to a polyhedron, thus affirming that the most important trends have emerged often in the peripheries. All of this seems to me to be perfectly in tune with a work that has a very strong principle of unity. Chiara (Lubich) herself often started things in the periphery, as exemplified by the Economy of Communion which was born in Brazil, or ecumenism that gained new perspectives with Chiara’s meetings with Athenagoras in Istanbul, while Fontem [Cameroon] showed the inculturation “of the Focolare” … We can live this principle too, that is to go to the peripheries and be open to what emerges there which can then be universalised. ”
How to respond to the great challenges posed by the situation in the Middle East, in which the focolarini are on the front line?
Maria Voce: “I have the impression that the movement is doing much more than it appears. I received a letter a few days ago from the focolarine in Damascus who asked me for permission to go to visit the community of Aleppo, where there are already some focolarini. I said yes, even if the risks are undeniable: the charism of unity can and must be present in these places in order to build relationships, to bring a little peace. Obviously political solutions at the international level are needed, as well as the humanitarian aid which arrives and is more or less evenly distributed; the Movement tries to eradicate hatred from the hearts of men and women, an operation without which true and lasting political solutions will never be found.” “If there’s something that the charism can do is to spread the culture of encounter, mutual trust, love, helping those in need regardless of their religious affiliation or social status, or the border that divides them. We must also ask what the charism of unity has to say in the face of these conflicts, what effect can it possibly have … I remember that Chiara, citing a true episode that happened in Colombia, said that you can stop the hands of a terrorist simply by doing an act of love. We must do all of this, committing ourselves more and better, all together.”
Jesús Morán: “It is basically a question of developing the dialogues that we are involved in. Over the past days in the Assembly in my study group there was a Muslim: to have a brother of another religion with whom to share everything is not a trivial matter, a brother who feels he represents the Muslim Focolare Movement. It’s a miracle! This presence of the Focolare Movement in the Islamic lands must therefore be developed, as well as fostering our inter-religious dialogue. Just a small thing? Maybe, but I think it is something fundamental. An opportunity to have direct contact with people of the movement in these places of suffering: it is important to give voice to the true reality, to what people are living through the words of the protagonists. This often means conveying a different view of the facts and problems than generally spread by the media. ”
The Church and society are confronted with the question of the family. In this field the Focolare have a long experience to offer …
Maria Voce: “The question of the family in the Church cannot be reduced to an exclusively sacramental matter. The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, but they are signs and there can be others as well. Someone wrote to me after hearing the introduction to a talk I gave on the Eucharist. She is separated and lives with a divorced man with children and feels strongly to be Christian and Catholic, but feels the discomfort of her position that, in a sense, puts her outside of the Catholic Church. But she writes: “I have never felt out of it and continue to attend church. When I go to ask for the blessing of the priest who distributes the sacrament, Jesus also enters in me in that moment. I try to live, to do my part. I’m on a journey.”
“God asks us, in fact, to help everyone to follow their own path to holiness, that is, to approach God with the means available (…). Chiara explained to us the “sources of God” in her time and did not put the emphasis only on his presence in the Eucharist, but also on other presences of God in the world, also in the Word and our brother. I think the movement can be an embrace for these families; but since it is part of the Church, embracing these people makes them feel less outsiders because they are embraced by a portion of the Church. Later other experiences, other ways may be found; let’s see what the Synod will say. I think it would be a mistake to expect that extraordinary solutions will suddenly emerge; what will come out are some credible and workable experiences, not so much universal solutions.”
Jesús Morán: “The problem of the family before being a sacramental problem is an anthropological one. At stake is the very plan of God for man, on the relationship between man and woman, on the relational nature of human beings as such, therefore on the dynamics of gift, of relationships (which could be defined as “Trinitarian”). Certainly the stakes are high and the Pope has also said: we are not having a Synod to solve the problem of the divorced, that’s not what worries us because in the end you could find the solutions which were already tried out in past centuries. The problem is much more serious: what is happening to man today, how does he develop, how does he learn to relate to others and where does he learn this? This is the real problem of the family. We are comforted to know that also many secular voices, not necessarily Catholic, put the emphasis on this problem of relationships and the future of the family and of mankind. “