When asked about her thoughts on inculturation today Maria Voce responded: “It’s the incarnation of the light of the Gospel in the African cultures,” She was addressing an audience of 350 people who were attending the School of Inculturation held last week at the Focolare’s permanent Mariapolis Piero near Nairobi, Kenya.
There was the same joy and enthusiasm as when Chiara Lubich had placed the first stone of that Mariapolis in 1992, and of the School of Inculturation that would later be erected there. The Focolare foundress had imagined a school for across the board dialogue in the permanent Mariapolis, dialogue between the Gospel and the African cultures, a school that would give a new impulse to evangelization.
Co-president Jesús Morán went on to say: “’Making yourself one’ (see Cor. 19:22) has Jesus in his abandonment on the cross for its model, when he made himself nothing for humankind, a nothing of love. Like Him, we should also learn to make ourselves one in front of the different cultures, so that we can then experience that this is never a nothingness that nullifies, but only enriches.”
For many of those attending the school, this was also their answer to the many challenges that the African continent faces including inculturation. But it is also an answer to the phenomenon of globalization.
“Inculturation is required,” Morán remarked. “By living the Spirituality of Unity we can draw closer to other people’s cultures with respect for their truth, and discover through dialogue the beauty of our differences not only in Africa but everywhere in the world.” Maria Voce went on: “a world with so many problems on its shoulders because of the lack of peace and harmony. . . By ‘making ourselves one’ as deeply as possible, we promote inculturation which can be a process towards reconciliation.” Since its founding twenty four years ago “the school has developed the tools that were first identified when the school began, and they have reached a second generation.” Looking to the future, “we’re moving into a new phase that may lead to further proliferation of the school.”
These words by the president sounded like a “call to new awareness and responsibility” as many observed, to continue on the path of inculturation that Chiara had intuited after first coming into contact with the people of Africa in 1960. The Focolare president particularly stressed the understanding Chiara had in 1992 regarding the light of the Gospel as a pure “white light” capable of penetrating and illumining the diverse cultures making them into a reciprocal gift for one another and for the world.
Peter from Cameroon remarked: “Maria Voce pointed our hearts to our particular calling to incarnate the Spirituality of Unity that is never imposed, but as Chiara said is a ‘white light’ that illumines. Globalization has become an unstoppable process in which our specific gift is this life of the Gospel.”
Nicodème from Burundi: “As I return home I seem to understand that I have to start from myself, living the Gospel in the midst of society and politics and in the conflicts, so that I can be an answer of love to the expectations of so many African countries. We can’t put this off.”