The Focolare Movement’s contribution towards dialogue between Christian Churches. Maria Voce spoke at the Angelicum, in Rome, on the 25th anniversary of the Encyclical Ut unum sint
“It all started from discovering that God is Love”. Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement indicated this as the starting point that led to the progressive intuition and definition of the spirituality of unity, that animates the Movement founded by Chiara Lubich. She was speaking at the St Thomas Aquinas University in Rome, where a monthly cycle of conferences is being held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Encyclical Ut unum sint.
During her speech she highlighted the contribution towards unity among Christian Churches offered by the charism God gave to Chiara Lubich and the spirituality of communion derived from it. The key ideas of this spirituality indicate the steps that lead to the unity of the human family, to the realization of Jesus’ prayer “…that all may be one”, “the goal of the Focolare Movement”.
The discovery of the Love of God, Father leads to the awareness that we are all brothers and sisters. And, therefore, as Chiara Lubich used to explain “loving God as children means loving our brothers and sisters”. So, love towards our neighbour is another key idea of the spirituality of unity – Maria Voce affirmed. In other words, this means that one is to follow the path of the Gospel. Quoting Chiara’s words, she said: “Immediately, we perceived that the charism of unity is […] a light to understand the Gospel better, to see it as a source of love and unity and a strength to live it with determination”.
She related that soon they realised that Jesus’ new commandment, “… love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34), indicated the measure for their love. They had “to be ready to give their life for one another”, as Christ did. Thus, the first focolarini started to live mutual love, and they made a pact of unity among themselves. This was “the beginning of a particular lifestyle suggested by the Holy Spirit: it had a communitarian dimension”.
Whilst putting mutual love into practice, Chiara and her companions experienced the presence of Jesus among them. The Focolari President quoted Lubich: “We saw our lives take a qualitative leap foward: we felt a new peace […] We realized what was happening, when we read the Gospel words: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Mt 18:20). Mutual love united us […] Jesus present among us sealed our unity”.
Maria Voce explained that seeking to have the presence of Jesus in the midst contributed to the name “Work of Mary” by which the Focolare Movement is also known. This name expresses the Movement’s commitment to imitate Mary; just as she gave birth to Jesus, the Focolare members live to give birth to the spiritual presence of Jesus in the midst through mutual love .
It was soon realized that the spirituality of unity could be lived in various situations. Maria Voce related: “At the beginning of the 1960s, Chiara Lubich met brothers and sisters of the Lutheran Church; then she met Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Orthodox and members of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and it was discovered that this presence of Jesus in the midst could also be established among Christians of different Churches”. This discovery opened the path to dialogue, both on a theological level and on the level of “life”. It was supported by the experience of unity among Christians of different Churches , already a reality within the Movement.
However, experiences of lack of unity may also occur. Focolare members consider these as an opportunity to “work” for unity and rebuild it. While quoting Chiara Lubich’s words, Maria Voce explained that the road to unity is Jesus foresaken: “Since Jesus covered himself with all our evils, we can discover his face behind every pain […], we can embrace him in all sufferings […] and say our yes as he did. […] and He will live in us, as the Risen Lord”. She continued: “Later, Chiara discovered the face of Jesus foresaken also in the divisions between the Christian Churches. Even here, ‘the main work of the Focolare Movement’ is to heal the divisions and work for unity”.
Then, she highlighted the contribution that an experience of unity among theologians of various Churches “could offer to ecumenical dialogue”: “If theologians let themselves be guided by being one in Christ”, Jesus “will facilitate the understanding of the different theological points of view” and “together they will rediscover the truth”.
The last part of her speech was dedicated to the charism of unity as a road to holiness.
Maria Voce recalled that the diocesan phase in the cause of the beatification and canonization of Chiara Lubich has been completed, and the process now goes to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.
Claudia Di Lorenzi