The bond of love between Chiara Lubich and Rome

An evening in the Italian capital was dedicated to Focolare’s founder and her close relationship with Rome, where she 20 years ago became an honorary citizen. The book Conversations: via telephone link-up was also released.

January 22 is an important day for Rome, not only because it is Chiara Lubich’s birthday – she was born in 1920, and her centenary is being celebrated this year – but also because on January 22, 2000, in the midst of the Jubilee Year, the then Mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli decided to give her honorary citizenship.
On that occasion Chiara pointed out that the name of Rome (“Roma”), read in reverse, is “amor” or “love”. Since then her vision of a capital invaded by evangelical love, through what was later called “Roma-Amor”, launched a new phase for the Focolare community in Rome, with greater witness and commitment to the city.
Twenty years later, this year on January 22 an evening was dedicated to Chiara in her memory.

“In my opinion there is an element of Chiara’s experience that connects with the experience of St. Paul, with both of them becoming citizens of Rome,” said Rutelli. “Chiara mentioned St. Paul several times, and this link between the two has an extraordinary strength and symbolism.
“And Chiara, since January 22, 2000, committed to dedicating herself to Rome in a better and more complete way, embodying mutual love everywhere. What could be more beautiful than to make these words ours, today?”

During the course of the evening there was also an in-depth look at the book Conversations: via telephone link-up by Michel Vandeleene, which contains 300 spiritual thoughts from Chiara. These were texts that she communicated, connecting regularly by conference call initially from Switzerland (which is why it is called the “CH” link-up) with the most important centres of the Focolare Movement scattered throughout the five continents. It was also an opportunity to hear news and about events in the life of the movement throughout the world.

“We find ourselves at the source of a sort of personal and collective diary, in which Chiara’s experience is linked to the life of the members of the movement,” said Professor Maria Intrieri, professor of ancient history at the University of Calabria in Italy.

“There are two types: the great story of Chiara and her work in the Church, and with the Church in the streets of the world, but there is also the micro-history, the small experiences, the meetings she has at the Focolare’s international headquarters, her travels, or a letter that comes to her from a child. Chiara did it to be more and more a single family.”

“We realize that these two terms – conversation and connection – share deep roots: to be in the same place and to be linked together,” said Professor Cristiana Freni, professor of the philosophy of language at Salesian University. “This is what Chiara wanted to do back in 1980: to make people feel members of the same family and establish profound ontological ties through the link-up.”

Michel Vandeleene stressed the importance of the language used in Chiara’s spiritual thoughts. “A person’s vocabulary reflects her soul, and when you see Chiara’s vocabulary you see an open, joyful, evangelical, determined person. Even how someone’s words are used helps us understand so much about her. She uses the word “sweetness” to refer to union with God, or the loving presence of God in our midst. Editing this compilation, I was struck by Chiara’s vision of Christianity: a positive, fascinating spirituality that cannot but be attractive.”

Director Marco Aleotti explained what the link-up is today. “Since Chiara’s death, we asked ourselves: what will happen to the link-up? We continue to produce it every two months, and anyone can connect with it through the web. The feedback afterwards from the live broadcast,” he concludes, “shows that many people continue to have the same experience of being one family, just like the link-ups with Chiara.”

Lorenzo Russo

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