His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople came to the Focolare Movement’s international centre on 20 October, where he visited the tomb of Chiara Lubich. He met representatives of the Movement’s General Council. This is the transcript of his address.
Homily of his Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome,
and Ecumenical Patriarch, for the Centenary of the birth of Chiara Lubich
Rocca di Papa-Rome, 20th October 2020
Dear Maria Voce, Emmaus, President of the Focolare Movement, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
With great joy we have accepted the invitation to come here at the end of this journey to the Eternal City, Ancient Rome, to Rocca di Papa, where our beloved Chiara is resting, awaiting the Resurrection. It is particularly significant that we come in the centenary year of her birth – Chiara was, in fact, born in 1920 – to pay homage to her and to express our thanks to the Lord of life for having granted her to us for so long, but above all for having flooded her with his dazzling grace, expressed in the phrase that reminds us of her here: “And we have believed in Love”.
The Love in which she believed and in which she grafted her whole life does not belong to this world, but did become incarnate in the world so that we could experience Him, so that we could know Him, so that we could meet Him in our brothers and sisters, everywhere in the world; so that we could taste Him, becoming one with Him, in the Holy and Divine Eucharist.
How many other things our Chiara would have done if she were still among us! But it is not the years that give meaning to life, it is not the quantity, the length, but how we use the talents that He has offered us. It is the quality of life, spent to bear witness to Him who is Life.
If we think, for example, of St Basil of Caesarea, the great Father of the Church, the first of the Cappadocian Fathers, he had a very short life, not even fifty years. And yet that short life, offered entirely to the Lord, produced theological, liturgical, dogmatic and ascetic works, which “bear unmistakable traces of his pen, his mind and his heart”. He was a forerunner in caring for the poor and suffering, building a little city of charity with inns, hospices and a leprosarium, called the Basiliad: it was the first hospital in history. He also took care of nature and animals, about which modern themes emerge in his famous prayer dedicated to animals.
If in such a few years St Basil did such works, it is because he had completely filled his whole life with Love for Christ, giving him his breath of every moment to the point of giving his soul to God, much tried by austerities, illnesses and worn out by worries.
Our Chiara lived a longer life, but in the same way she left us a legacy on which we must meditate much still. She left us the charism of unity at all levels. She lived it, experienced it, spent all her strength on it and taught everyone to play their role in society in the best way possible. We can safely say that Chiara took on this commitment to fraternity, unity and peace in all areas of human life, giving us a message through her life and her writings that we cannot ignore. The Movement and all the works that exist today, thanks to her charism, are the witness of a life spent for the Lord, which has also passed through the Cross, but was always aimed at the Resurrection.
After Chiara, the helm then passed to a very dear sister of ours, whose friendship with us and with our Ecumenical Patriarchate is long and steadfast, since the years of her stay in Constantinople, where she truly left an indelible mark of the ministry of fraternity, unity and love for all: Maria Voce-Emmaus.
Taking on Chiara’s mantle, during these years Maria Voce has known how to be like the good servant in the Parable of the Talents. She did not hide the talent underground, but she made it fruitful again and again, and her Lord will certainly know how to show his gratitude to her. Having reached the end of your term as President, we also wish to thank you for your great contribution to this work; the memory we have of you, like all of you, is in our heart, and you will certainly continue the charism, wherever the Lord will call you.
May God, in His immense mercy, grant this work that is pleasing to Him, a worthy successor, who is once again able to surprise and amaze us and all of you, to enlighten every people in the world with the power of Love that overcomes all things, because “to love, the Christian must do as God does: not wait to be loved, but be the first to love”. (Cit. Chiara Lubich).
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.