Less than a century has passed since the end of World War II, yet it seems that today’s Europe has somewhat lost sight of its original challenge. The old continent was setting for two world wars, with millions of dead and many cities and communities destroyed, yet in the 1950s it launched a renaissance that could not even have been hoped for. The founding fathers of the present-day European Union saw beyond the special interests of each country and thought on a grander scale: a community of peoples who would be able to design an economic rebirth and future of peace.
We talked with Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, in an interview that took the form of nine questions. It was released in time for the European Mariapolis that will take place over the next months of July and August at Tonadico, in the region of Trent, Italy. The interview unfolded into a plain-spoken, frank conversation, taking on topics such as politics, youth, bearing witness as Christians today, the Europe we hope for, and what a European Mariapolis might mean.
Diversity between various communities of peoples is valuable, affirmed Maria Voce, and there is no need to give in to superiority or nationalism. At the Mariapolis, diversity becomes a way for everyone to be enriched, becoming a moment in which everyone can show the wealth of their culture.
“If everyone stretches themselves to do this,” she continues, “no one feels the need to assert their identity, because everyone’s identity is recognised, valued and enriched by unity.” And this is what the European Mariapolis can give and signify for those participating, fulfilling together a phrase that Chiara Lubich said back in 2004:
“The highest dignity for humanity is not to feel like a cluster of peoples who are often at odds with each other, but being one people out of mutual love that is enriched by each person’s diversity, and as a result safeguarding the unity of the different identities.”
Another topic that was covered was the role of young people in today’s society and their scarce participation in political life. Maria Voce does not doubt their abilities, and she values the witness of many young people who presently have an influence, for example, on environmental issues.
The new generations are committed “to projects that look to the good of humanity, not just the immediacy of the passing day, for projects that require concrete action and that show an authentic life,” affirms Focolare’s president.
The task for Christians, as well, is difficult enough, but they can spread values of solidarity, fraternity, love for the last and the least, for the poorest, by personally living a life that follows the light of the Gospel.
The questions could not have overlooked her own meeting with the charism of unity, which happened in Rome during her university years and, as a result, her first experience of Mariapolis, which we discovered occurred in 1959 in the Dolomite valleys, where she got to know Chiara Lubich. Maria Voce herself is a witness to that wide variety of people who took a break each year in those enchanting places. They were attracted by being able to experience reciprocal love and fraternity first-hand, thus fulfilling Jesus’ prayer, “May all be one.”
The final question drew out a hope and a wish from her. “My hopes for Europe are that it might discover its beauty and calling: peoples who are united, who are recognisable as themselves, yet who see in each other common principles and values. The history of people is also my history, the history of every European people is also my history. It’s part of my story and lives within my story.”