A Pilgrimage of Unity and Renewal

The 80th anniversary of the Focolare Movement began with a special pilgrimage made by the General Council of the Movement and representatives of all the Movement’s regions, 103 people in all from 39 countries. The pilgrimage had been scheduled to take place in the Holy Land but the outbreak of war there forced a change of plan. The itinerary moved to Italy and took the form of a journey from Rome to Assisi to Loreto and back to Rome where on the 7th December the Pope received the group in a private audience.

The President of Focolare, Margaret Karram, hoped that the pilgrimage would be a shared experience of unity, true fraternity, and mutual love and it did indeed turn out to be a profound spiritual experience for the participants.

The significance of Assisi in this pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the history of the Focolare Movement. Chiara was baptized Silvia but inspired by the radical lives of the saints of Assisi, she chose to be called “Chiara”, after St. Clare. The Franciscan friars accompanied the group and in their descriptions of the various places, they highlighted the importance of art, attentive hearts and modern spirituality. At the convent of St. Clare, Mother Abbess Sr. Clare Agnes emphasized the urgency of implementing the Charism of Unity, reflecting on St. Clare’s key concepts: ‘Holy Unity’ and ‘Highest Poverty.’ Unity, seen as holy, requires embracing poverty and taking a step towards becoming a more collective reality. The pilgrimage continued to the shrine of the “Stripping”, where Bishop Sorrentino of Assisi drew parallels between St. Francis’ radical choice and the crises facing the world today.



In Loreto, there was a visit to the Holy House of Nazareth, believed to have been transported there in 1291. Chiara Lubich’s life-changing experience in Loreto, where she discerned her vocation, was vividly recounted.


Renewed Commitment in Rome: Audience with Pope Francis

The final stage of the pilgrimage took place in Rome, symbolically following the footsteps of great witnesses of faith like St. Peter and St. Paul. The participants visited significant places that embodied the authenticity of early Christian communities. On December 7th, marking the 80th anniversary of the Focolare Movement, they had the privilege of an audience with Pope Francis.

In his address, Pope Francis urged the participants to work towards a fully synodal and missionary Church, emphasizing the need for new forms of participation and co-responsibility. He stressed the relevance of Chiara’s charism in today’s secularized world and urged a return to the Gospel, calling for a commitment to peace amid global conflicts. The Pope’s words resonated as a mandate for the Focolare Movement to actively pursue unity and peace.

Margaret Karram highlighted three key points from the Pope’s message: ecclesial maturity, faithfulness to the charism by returning to the Gospel, and a strong commitment to peace. The audience with Pope Francis marked a pivotal moment, inspiring a renewed dedication to the charism of unity and a mission to be builders of peace.

Echoes from the Pilgrimage

Participants from various regions shared their reflections on the pilgrimage. Werner, a member of the Swiss Reformed Church, expressed admiration for Pope Francis as a Christian with integrity, vowing to bring peace to his community. Mervat, a Syrian Orthodox participant, found Pope Francis’s words a confirmation of the call to renew her commitment to living the Gospel and promoting unity.

Cherylanne shared initiatives from India, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia, including a letter from children appealing for an end to violence. Raphael, representing Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, saw the pilgrimage as a return to the origins of the charism, calling for an active commitment to peace. Roberto, based in Austria, expressed gratitude for the collective spirituality that unites individuals worldwide, echoing the Pope’s call to live the Gospel in daily life.

Catherine Burke and Andreas Aman represented Western Europe. Andreas said, “For me this pilgrimage was a two-dimensional experience. From a personal point of view it was like cleansing my soul, mind and agenda of all the urgencies so as to immerse myself in the life and holiness of Francis, Clare of Assisi, Saint Paul etc. With the “glasses” of our charism it was a discovery that has left a burning mark inside me. Then from a collective point of view, the traveling together, getting to know each other better, forgiving each other, identifying with one another helps our collaboration on practical matters. Finally, being warmly welcomed on 7th December by the Pope was like the cherry on the cake!”

Catherine added, “After the pilgrimage and the very special meeting with Pope Frances my commitment is to build fraternity wherever I am, not so much with words but with actions, as a pathway to Peace!”


The pilgrimage was not just a physical journey; it became a collective renewal of faith, a commitment to unity, and a call to be instruments of peace. As the participants dispersed to their respective corners of the globe, they carried with them the spirit of fraternity and a shared mission to make a positive impact in their communities. The pilgrimage marked a significant milestone in the 80-year journey of the Focolare Movement, reigniting the flame of unity.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U9NH83jVbU&t=2s

The December Link Up was dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Movement and the pilgrimage