22 January 2020 -22 January 2021: the Centenary year of Chiara Lubich’s birth ends today. 365 days, marked by the pandemic, quite different from what has been planned, but they were ones that opened new paths and new perspectives.

‘Celebrate to meet’ was the motto chosen for the Centenary of the birth of Chiara Lubich (1920-2020), the founder of the Focolare Movement. A year ago, there were many initiatives planned in different parts of the world to celebrate this event, little thinking that a pandemic would crop up and leave its mark on it, but indeed it did not stop it. In some cases, it has even enhanced the possibilities of ‘meeting’ Chiara.

Let us go back to the beginning. The Centenary celebrations started on December 7, 2019 when  the exhibition “Chiara Lubich World-City” was inaugurated at the Galleries in Trent, Lubich’s hometown. This inauguration was held under the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic, and it was promoted by the Historic Museum Foundation of the Trent region in collaboration with the Chiara Lubich Centre.  Maria Voce, the  President  of the Focolare Movement was awarded the “Seal of St. Wenceslas” by the Autonomous Province of Trent on that same day. On the following day, a separate section of the exhibition, dedicated to the years 1949-1959, was inaugurated in Tonadico, in the municipality of Primiero San Martino di Castrozza (Italy).

In the following weeks, similar exhibitions, enriched with the local touch, were launched in other countries. The exhibition in Nairobi (Kenya) highlights the Movement’s development in Africa, while a section of the one in Jerusalem is dedicated to Lubich’s relationship with this city and her dream that is now becoming a reality: a centre of spirituality, study, dialogue and formation for unity.

Chiara Lubich was born on January 22. In 2020, precisely on this date, Rome celebrated her birth centenary through an evening dedicated to her, while it was twenty years before when the Italian capital conferred on her its honorary citizenship. Francesco Rutelli, the former mayor of Rome said: “On that 22nd January 2000, Chiara pronounced her committment to work more and better for Rome, by promoting concrete mutual love everywhere.  What could be more beautiful than making her words our own, today?”

A few days later, Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Republic addressed the gathering during  the Centenary event that was held at the “Chiara Lubich” Mariapolis Centre in Cadine (TN). Besides Maria Voce, the president of the Movement, Jesús Morán, the co-president and the local authorities, there were more than 900 people present. Another 20,000 watched the live streaming transmission. In his speech Mattarella highlighted fraternity, applied to civil and political activity, as the distinctive feature of Chiara Lubich’s spirituality.

Trent also provided the setting for the first part of the international conference: “A Charism at the service of the Church and humanity“. 7 Cardinals and 137 Bishops, friends of the Focolare Movement from 50 countries, participated in this conference, the second part of which was held in the international Focolare small town of Loppiano (Incisa Figline in Valdarno – Italy). In his message, Pope Francis warmly welcomed this conference, expressing “gratitude to God for the gift of the charism of unity through the witness and teaching (…) of Chiara Lubich”.

During the same days, another event linked to the Centenary took place at the Mariapolis Centre in Castel Gandolfo. More than 400 religious men and women, consecrated and lay Catholics – including a group from the Orthodox Church – from 100 religious families in 33 countries were the protagonists at the event: “Charisms in Communion: Chiara Lubich’s Prophecy“, a workshop for dialogue among different charisms promoting communion between religious families through the spirituality of unity.

Then the pandemic began to spread in countries all over the world. And this meant change even for the Centenary: some events had to be cancelled, others were moved to the web. The Trent exhibition has been enriched with a virtual itinerary. Thanks to an intergenerational team, the one planned in Brazil has been transformed, and an itinerary dedicated to Chiara Lubich is now being launched on social media through social profiles @focolaresbrasil (Facebook, Instagram and Youtube). Web-based initiatives have allowed many more people to visit the exhibitions dedicated to Lubich than the ones where one would have actually been able to go to a place to see.

But there were other events that could still take place: such as the issue of two postage stamps dedicated to Chiara Lubich in the Czech Republic and the Competition for Italian schools on the theme: “One city is not enough”. A number of schools participated in this competition that was promoted by the Chiara Lubich/New Humanity Centre and by the Foundation of the Historical Museum of Trentino, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, University and Research. The prize-giving ceremony will be held on February 16, 2021.

The lockdown forced the International Focolare Centre in Rocca di Papa (Italy) to close its doors during certain periods in 2020. But since a few months, visits have been made possible in compliance with current health regulations. One of the most important visits was that of His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, who came to pray at the tomb of Chiara Lubich.

There were also various new publications linked to the Centenary and events to present and promote them, both in presence and via web, namely: the twenty-ninth edition of the book “Meditations” by Chiara Lubich; two texts from the series “Works of Chiara Lubich” published by Città Nuova: “Conversations through link-ups” edited by Michel Vandeleene and “Talks in the civil and ecclesial sphere” edited by Vera Araújo; and the new biography about Chiara Lubich, the way of unity, between history and prophecy, written by Maurizio Gentilini. The English edition of the biography by Gentilini was also presented at the Italian Consulate in Mumbai, India, during a web event dedicated to Chiara Lubich’s centenary. Stefania Constanza, the Italian Consul in Mumbai, Vinu Aram, director of the Shanti Ashram in Coimbatore and Maurizio Gentilini took part in this web event.

A “mixed” approach was chosen – partly in “presence” at Trent and partly online – for the study meeting about “Chiara Lubich in dialogue with the world. A linguistic, philological and literary approach to her writings”. This was organised by the Chiara Lubich Centre and the Study and Research Group on Linguistics, Philology and Literature of the Abbà School (Interdisciplinary Study Centre of the Focolare Movement) together with experts from various countries. Some of the papers are available in the section “Conference Documents” on the Chiara Lubich Centre website.

On January 3, 2021, almost when the centenary year was coming to its end, Rai Uno, the main Italian television network presented the TV-movie “Chiara Lubich. Love conquers all”. The director of this movie was Giacomo Campiotti, while Cristiana Capotondi played the role of Chiara Lubich. 5 million 641 thousand viewers watched the film that was made by Rai Fiction and Eliseo Multimedia. Then, many others in other countries of the world were able to see it thanks to RaiPlay and Rai Italia.

And today, January 22, 2021, the Centenary comes to its end. But does it really end? Recently, when Maria Voce, the president of the Focolare Movement spoke about this, she said that ‘the living encounter with Chiara cannot be limited to 100 years, to a centenary year. It is not over; it will continue as long as there are people from Chiara’s family on earth who will continue to witness that Chiara is alive, that Chiara’s charism still has something to say to the world”.

Anna Lisa Innocenti

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