January 1998. Palermo prepared for the Grand Jubilee of the year 2000 attracting to itself the signs of light and shadow. It was a mute city, bloodied by the past and recent massacres of the mafia, but also a city determined to redeem itself and show its true countenance. January 2018. Today, the Sicilian capital appears as a “mosaic city,” an advanced expression of the dialogue between the various European cultures and the Arab world, and an outpost of Middle East culture within the European fabric.
In the presence of Mayor Leoluca Orlando and the authorities of some representatives of the institutions, on 20 January the city wanted to “commemorate” – as a “commitment” to proceed in the same direction – an event which was for the city a step in its “magnificent providential design,” according to the words Chiara Lubich expressed then.
During the various speeches, some aspects of the life of the Focolare over the last 20 years emerged: the social commitment and in the field of schooling, especially in some outskirt districts like Ballarò, Brancaccio and Zen, the promotion of events and the reflection on some grand themes like ecumenism, commitment toward the new generations with the start-up of schools of civil participation, and the discussion with personalities from the economic, political, cultural and art sectors. In these years the Focolare community has contributed to the journey of the entire city towards the construction of a “city of reception and rights,” with the values of fraternity and the continual pursuit of dialogue.
“The memory of the honorary citizenship given to Chiara Lubich,” affirmed Mayor Orlando, “is an occasion to see the city’s progress, in the name of respect for the human being and the construction of a community founded on the values of unity and brotherhood: those on which Chiara had founded her movement and which today brings together millions of people worldwide. Today those values are part of the daily life of Palermo, with reception and solidarity which are the testing grounds, but also an extraordinary occasion to confirm the will of the Palermo people to build a city on a human scale and that welcomes others, as is continually demonstrated in civil society’s undertakings.”
The Archbishop of Palermo, Bishop Corrado Lorefice, encouraged all to continue along this path of fraternity through dialogue at all levels, towards a goal “indicated prophetically by Chiara Lubich: that Palermo may become a city on the hill, to which one can refer for the achievement of God’s design for the community of people.” He added, “the celebration of such an event expresses the deep harmony between the city of Palermo and the values contained in Chiara’s charism: work for the reconstruction of unity of the human family.”
Maria Voce, President of the Focolare, encouraged all in a message to “share the many moments of fraternity that have been consolidated all these years to promote acceptance, lawfulness and peace,” with the hope “that the city may increasingly stand out for its active testimony on the various fronts of dialogue, multiplying initiatives and imbuing hope and valorising the talents of all in the perspective of unity.” The adhesion to the “City for fraternity” Association, created by the Municipality of Palermo, further commits its citizens to draw inspiration from universal fraternity in every future decision and action.