One of the first married focolarini and co-founder of the New Families Movement, Danilo Zanzucchi died serenely on 16 November 2022 at the age of 102 in his home in Grottaferrata (Rome), surrounded by his wife Anna Maria, their five children (Chiaretta, Michele, Mariannita Giovanni and Francesco) and some of their 12 grandchildren.
Danilo was the eldest son of a respected family from Parma (Italy). On his trips to Milan to work on the first constructions he designed, he met the charism of unity through Ginetta Calliari, one of Chiara Lubich’s first companions. He was already a fervent Catholic, involved in politics and the diocesan president of the Italian Catholic University Federation and subsequently of the Men of Catholic Action.
The impact with the charism led him to make an even greater commitment to God and to wish to base his life on living the Gospel. Anna Maria, his fiancée shared this choice. Around them the first community of Parma was born. They were greatly attracted by the innovative vocation of married focolarini pioneered by Igino Giordani.
They decided to leave the promising career of an engineer and the privileges of a comfortable life to move with their then four children, as a family-focolare to Rome and devote themselves full time to the Focolare Movement.
One of Danilo’s first assignments was the completion of the building in Rocca di Papa destined to become the Mariapolis Centre and, later, the international headquarters of the Movement. He then went to work for Città Nuova publishing house.
He worked closely with Chiara and played a major part in the formation of generations of married couples from different continents who, like him, wanted to follow in the footsteps of Giordani. In 1980, Anna Maria and he were invited as auditors to the Synod on the Family and in 1981 Chiara Lubich asked them to be part of the Central Council of the Movement, with the role of coordinators of New Families worldwide.
In the 1980s, they also received a Papal appointment as consultors and, subsequently, as members of the Vatican Dicastery for the Family. Because of these responsibilities Danilo and Anna Maria met Pope Wojtyla several times. They also appeared on TV in Italy and in worldwide broadcasts to share their experience and their work at the service of the family.
In the time of Benedict XVI, their collaboration with the Holy See increased to the point that he asked them to write the text for the Way of the Cross (2012) which took place at the Colosseum and over which he presided.
Danilo received many talents which he rendered abundantly fruitful. His long life is a hymn of glory to God stretched out in time. The entire Focolare Movement, in particular the host of married focolarini and the myriad of families from all over the world, for which he was an example, a confidant, a lovable and secure point of reference, are deeply grateful to him with a gratitude that pays homage to his humanity.
He was a giant of righteousness, tenderness, simplicity and wisdom.
Thank you Danilo for continuing to be that evangelical child which shone through your very being, your words, your exquisite humour, your paintings, the countless cartoons that you improvised (often on paper napkins) and which gave joy to all of us.
Anna and Alberto Friso