Born in Martignano (Trent) on 27 November 1924, Vittoria Salizzoni, who moved temporarily to France with her family, felt God’s call at the age of 13: an intuition which she tried momentarily to put aside. At the age of 21 she met Chiara Lubich and was attracted by the novelty of the life she lived. Her doubts dissolved immediately: the path through which she could respond to that “calling” she had felt ever since childhood, was the focolare. Aletta (“little wing,” the name that Chiara gave her to remind her of the winged flight she had to take without looking back) stood by Chiara for 20 years in the discovery and implementation of the features of the Charism the Holy Spirit was slowly revealing to them.
Among these, besides the specific spirituality of unity which is its particular characterstic, were the main concrete aspects of Christian life. What specifically suited the figure of Aletta, was the concern for health and protection of the environment. Chiara herself had explained this aspect to her as: «the entire humanity of Jesus; the life of Jesus in each person. Jesus was born of a woman like us, suffered the cold and hunger, cried, and experienced human affection. He fed the hungry, multiplied the bread and fishes, and healed many sick people. But above all he was full of love for mankind, and his suffering… Suffering, death and the resurrection are also expressions of this aspect.»
In the 1960s and 1970s Chiara asked her to open the focolare house in Istanbul, where Aletta would have many and profound contacts with Patriarch Athenagoras I. So on many occasions, she had the chance to accompany Chiara in her visits to the Patriarch. During her stay in those lands, Aletta discovered the beauty of the Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Orient, in which she saw the importance of translating truth in life, exalting love. The contacts she established were the precursor of a fertile dialogue that has continued up to today, with the current Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.
After the death of Athenagoras, Aletta moved to Lebanon. Those were years of civil war, which with the continuous air raids, repeated the lesson of the movement’s early years in Trent: “everything collapses, only God remains!” She shared with the local people the insecurity and risks of those long years of war, supporting, consoling, and imbuing hope. Difficulties and dangers did not hinder the spread of the charism of unity, not only in Lebanon but across the Middle East, which Aletta visited periodically. In 1990 she returned to Rome for good.
«During those first years in Piazza Cappuccini – recounts Palmira, who is also from that first group of focolarine women of Trent – I would go with Aletta to the valleys to meet the first communities that were sprouting. She was like an angel, and it explains clearly why Chiara immediately called her so. And she was like the batter of an angel’s wing, for Chiara and for all of us throughout these 70 years of her life in the focolare. She didn’t talk much, but what she said put us all in the essential facts of life. What characterized her most was simplicity, an inborn serenity and enviable psycho-physical balance.»
Ten days before her death, Aletta recorded a video message to the youths of the Movement, the gen, gathered for their congress: «I want to greet all the gen of the world on their 50th anniversary. May they all make progress; they are young, still strong, and can do all they wish!»
Upon announcing the death of Aletta to the Movement worldwide, Maria Voce, the Focolare President wrote: «With joy and immense gratitude we are accompanying Aletta to the house of the Father. We could not have had a better model than her, who gave her life without measure.»
By Anna Friso