The next General Assembly of the Focolare Movement will be completely online. A worldwide survey has identified four themes to be explored.

The General Assembly of the Focolare Movement, postponed from the beginning of September 2020 to the end of January 2021, will be held completely online. Such was the decision announced by Maria Voce, president of the Movement, at the beginning of December following a survey among all those responsible for the Movement around the world and a subsequent assessment by the General Council of the Focolare.

The decision to hold the Assembly online was also helped by the preparations underway after the initial postponement. A survey amongst all the members of the movement identified a number of key themes to focus on in this Assembly. These are: Charism, Incarnation, Environment and Future, Together with the New Generations.

Issues Relating to Integral Ecology and Journeying Together with the New Generations. Participants have already been provided with material on these subjects, and experts in these areas have offered their reflections in a number of webinars.

The path
Due to the aggravated situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was obvious that many of the 362 participants in this six-year event would not be able to travel. This left two options: to either postpone the Assembly further, or hold it partially or completely online. Besides the legal and technical issues to be resolved, other serious questions had to be addressed: how would it be possible to create, in an online assembly, the kind of communion among the participants which would help them to get to know one another and share views about candidates and issues? And how could everyone be guaranteed the same level of technical access and participation in the dialogues?

It was also clear that, because of the different time zones, the programme had to take place within a specific timeframe which was equally acceptable to participants from Vancouver in Western Canada as those from Oceania. In short, how could the challenges that the global situation was also imposing on the Focolare Movement be overcome within such a short space of time?

Discussions at different levels revealed an overriding willingness to face these challenges with responsibility and creativity rather than postpone this important event any longer. And to make the choice easier, it was just at that time the Vatican gave extraordinary permission to hold the Assembly online, provided that the confidentiality, secrecy and freedom of expression of the vote during the elections were guaranteed.  Consequently, Maria Voce decided to organise an online Assembly for everyone – even those who would have been able to meet physically.

The technical challenge and online voting
Technicians and computer scientists are currently working on ways to create multiple possibilities for formal and informal online meetings. An internationally recognised voting system has successfully passed its first tests. A worldwide communion of goods is trying to ensure that all participants have the tools they need for a stable Internet connection. And for the participants who (from a European perspective) live “on the other side” of the world, solutions are being sought to ease the burden of time zones.

The pre-assembly journey also offers the opportunity to look at the legal issues related to how the meeting is conducted and get to know the candidates nominated for the different roles.

Joachim Schwind



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