The international conference entitled “A Charism at the Service of the Church and Humanity” showed interesting perspectives for the Church. The participants, 7 Cardinals and 137 Bishops, friends of the Focolare Movement from 50 countries, gathered first at Trento and then at Loppiano
It was a symbolic and solemn scene on the sanctuary of the Theotokós of Loppiano, that is, in a church dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. Surrounded by the inhabitants of this little town of the Focolare Movement who represented the people of God, a large assembly of Cardinals and Bishops declared to each other that they lived fraternal love according to the commandment of Jesus, ready to share each other’s joys and sorrows, to love the community of the other as their own, in short, to love each other to the point of giving their lives for one another. This solemn “pact”, formulated on Tuesday, February 11th, was the culmination of an international conference entitled “A Charism at the Service of the Church and Humanity” which gathered 7 Cardinals and 137 Bishops, friends of the Focolare Movement, representing 50 countries, first at Trento and then at Loppiano.
Never before has participation in this annual conference been so numerous, due also to the fact that the meeting took place in the year of the Centenary of Chiara Lubich’s birth. The programme reflected the motto chosen for the Centenary: “Celebrate to meet”. The first part of the conference, which took place in Trento, the birthplace of the founder of the Focolare Movement, was in fact dedicated primarily to the celebration of this event: the visit to the exhibition “Chiara Lubich City World” at the Galleries of Trento; the greeting of the authorities at the headquarters of the Autonomous Province of Trento; the Eucharistic celebration in the Cathedral of the city and the artistic re-enactment “From the Tridentine Council to Tridentine Chiara ” held in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where the Council was held and in which Chiara Lubich received her baptism.
Celebratory moments that were not characterized by the simple nostalgic memory of a historical figure, but opened our eyes to the relevance of Chiara’s charism, such as its global, ecclesial and ecumenical dimension. This was strongly underlined by a long message from Pope Francis, who warmly welcomed this conference expressing “gratitude to God for the gift of the charism of unity through the witness and teaching (…) of Chiara Lubich”.
The Pope’s invitation to the Bishops, to “always put themselves back in the school of the Holy Spirit” and to live the main points of Chiara Lubich’s spirituality, was achieved in the second part of the programme held in the International Focolare Little Town in Loppiano near Florence. The context of a small community of 800 inhabitants, who see in Jesus’ commandment of mutual love the law of their living together, stimulated the prelates to do the same. The scenes of communion and sharing were moving, beginning with the small things: mutual help, deep listening, attentive reception of the requests, needs and ideas of each one. True “ministers” at the service of one another.
Against the background of a profound and rich analysis of the historical context in which Chiara Lubich lived and worked, presented by Andrea Riccardi of the Sant’Egidio Community, the ecclesial dimensions that flow from Chiara’s charism were deepened: a Church that becomes dialogue; the ‘mysticism of us’ that is achieved in a Church-communion; the ecumenical dimension; the different formation paths offered by the Focolare Movement to deepen and spread these dimensions. The lived experiences of Bishops from all over the world illustrated the possibility of achieving this in their personal life and in their service to the Church.
“It was not a matter of looking back,” an African bishop emphasised at the conclusion of the conference, “but an overture, that is, a beginning and an opening to the future. The “pact” that the Bishops made in Loppiano, in the Church of the Mother of God, had been signed, in the very same place, by Pope Francis together with the inhabitants of the Little Town during his visit to Loppiano. It is a pact, signed with the support of the People of God who implement it and continually draw strength from it, which can also be for the Bishops a beginning, a starting point, an overture which makes one glimpse the playing of new notes on the path of dialogue, of new harmonies on the path of communion of the Church of the future.
Joachim Schwind – Anna Lisa Innocenti