A mild-mannered yet decisive man, profoundly convinced that the Gospel is one of the most revolutionary books ever written containing the power to change the world, Marco Aquini lived all his life for this. He left us a month ago, on 4 January.

Meeting Marco left its mark. He was one of those rare people whose gaze reached right inside you and touched your heart. A man of few words, he would approach any problem you had with a gentle, practical approach. Any advice he gave was never imposed on you, rather it served to help you draw out solutions from within yourself.
Marco was born in 1958 in Udine, Italy. He was one of the first young people to get to know the Focolare Movement in the Friuli region, where the people are known for being serious, industrious and self-disciplined. From a young age he experienced the hard blows that life can bring when his father was killed in a serious accident. But his encounter with the spirituality of the Focolare Movement proved to be a turning point in his life.

In 1978, during a summer program with the Gen (the young people of the Focolare Movement), Marco discerned the calling to give himself to God as a Focolarino. At the same time, together with others, he responded to Chiara Lubich’s invitation to sign a pledge to remain faithful to God to the end of his life, which has become known in the Focolare Movement as the “Pact to be faithful right to the end”. On that occasion, Marco wrote to Chiara, “Before I got to know the ‘Ideal’ (the Focolare spirituality), I was closed within my own gilded world. Living the Ideal, I’m now coming out of myself. I go back home conscious of having the powerful potential to change the world in which I live”.

From his early years as a Focolarino, his contribution was always whole-hearted and passionate, firstly in Germany, then back in Italy at the Movement’s Centre, where he was involved in establishing two organizations to assist those most in need and to promote peace: AMU (‘Associazione Mondo Unito’/ ‘United World Association’), and ‘New Humanity’ the Focolare’s NGO accredited to the United Nations.

For many years he served as counsellor for the aspect of “Communion of Goods, Economy and Work” at the Focolare’s international centre, and was for some years co-responsible for the Youth for a United World movement. From 2000 he sat beside Chiara and Eli to read news stories in the regular “Link Up” video conference calls with the whole family of the Focolare Movement worldwide.

Another personal tragedy was to profoundly affect Marco’s life: the unexplained disappearance of his sister, Chiara, who had long endured fragile health. Together with his mother, he suffered greatly as the search continued until, sadly, her body was found. Even in this situation, Marco managed to hold on to his belief in the love of God, which gave him the strength to support his family. Later, together with his mother, Franca, Marco helped to set up a day centre, named after his sister, to provide support and social integration for people with physical and psychological disabilities, as part of the “Associazione Insieme Si Può” / “Together We Can Association”, which Marco never ceased to accompany, even at a distance.

In Rome, at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinus in Urbe, he was Visiting Lecturer on courses in International Cooperation for Development and Sociology of Development. Most recently, he joined the team of Città Nuova, bringing his economic expertise to the administration of the Focolare magazine. Throughout his life, he never failed to find ways to love the weakest and suffering neighbours, including regularly offering the benefit of his skills and experience to a Caritas outreach group near Rome.

In November 2018, he communicated to his friends the discovery of a life-threatening illness. He faced this new step on the journey with a renewed choice of God, and despite being in great pain, he also expressed finding great joy. Maria Voce in her telegram to the worldwide Focolare community, chose to emphasize his vocation as a Focolarino, as well as his sober, honest and straight forward nature which was expressed so well in the Gospel phrase Chiara offered for him to live: Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’ (Mt 5:37), and how he lived his illness in such an extraordinary manner.

The last phase of Marco’s life left those around him speechless as they witnessed the rapid unstoppable deterioration of his health over two months, until he reached the heavenly goal on the morning of 4 January. His funeral was attended by people of all kinds, all linked to him in different ways and all somehow “roped together” with him to climb, no longer his beloved high mountains, but the highs and lows of this life, accompanied by his luminous and authentic example.

Patrizia Mazzola

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