70 years after the first Mariapolis was held in Italy’s Dolomites, 2019 sees the Mariapolis returning to its place of origin and inviting participants from all over Europe. We interview Peter Forst, director of the Focolare Movement for Central Europe and one of the organizers of the event.
Today’s Europe appears very divided – with Brexit on one side and walls against immigration on the other. What is the point of having a European Mariapolis?
It was the realisation of how divided Europe really is that gave birth to the idea of the European Mariapolis.
We realised that here in Europe we hold very different opinions, sometimes opposing opinions, about developments in Europe with regard to migration, values, etc.
The primary purpose of the Mariapolis is to strengthen relationships, to create spaces for communion and sharing and to encourage all humanity to set out on the pathways of universal fraternity – of unity between individuals and between peoples. So we hope to be able to witness that it is possible to remain united – even if there are many differences between us.
How has the Mariapolis changed – from 1949 to 2019?
The first Mariapolis was very spontaneous. Today more logistics are involved in the organisation and preparation of the programme. But we want the spirit of this European Mariapolis to be the same as that of 60 or 70 years ago: we want to experience and give witness to the fact that humanity is a family. How do we do it? Unconditional love.
Why have it in the Dolomites?
The idea of having this Mariapolis in the same place as the first Mariapolis immediately felt right to all of us. Seventy years ago, in the summer of 1949, Chiara Lubich was on holiday with her first companions at Tonadico in the Dolomites. Together with the Italian parliamentarian Igino Giordani, they lived an experience of light, of extraordinary union with God and of profound unity. It was from this experience that the Focolare Movement grew.
It was not nostalgia that prompted us to choose the Dolomites, but the conviction that it is important in this period “after Chiara” to go back to our roots – to find the way forward and to find answers for today.
Who will participate? What is the programme? What do you mean by the title “Aim High”?
The Mariapolis is open to everyone. There are 600 places for each of the four weeks. Registration is open until January 31st (www.mariapolieuropea.org).
The programme will offer trips, sports, games, music, spirituality, prayers, creative workshops and forums on various themes – all to provide participants with opportunities for real encounters.
We thought that “Aim high” seemed to be a suitable title, reminding us to try to live all our relationships on higher levels – both spiritually and humanly speaking.
Then, of course, once we are there in the mountains, we will aim high automatically!