Maria Voce, Focolare president, leaves on her first trip to Asia with the Pope’s blessing, “in the hope of numerous graces”. His blessing is “extended to all the communities in the countries to be visited, which are especially close to the Pope’s heart.” So said the letter signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State.
The programme includes: Korea (6-10/1), Japan (11-16/1), Philippines (17-31/1 including Tagaytay, Manila and Cebu), Thailand (1-20/2 including Bangkok and Chiang Mai)
Of particular importance are the interfaith meetings. In Tokyo, Japan, on 15 January Maria Voce has been invited to address 5000 adherents of the lay Buddhist movement Rissho Kosei Kai (RKK), while on 3 February in Bangkok, Thailand, she will speak at the IVth Christian-Buddhist symposium on the subject, “Dharma and Buddhist compassion – Christian Agape in the world today.” The symposium has been jointly organised by the Mahachulalongkorn University in Chang Mai, the Focolare Movement and the RKK, and there will be participants from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, USA, Great Britain and Italy. While in Thailand, Maria Voce will meet Grand Master Ajahn Tong and will speak to young Buddhist monks at the Mahachulalongkorn University.
“This dialogue is in continuity with that begun 30 years ago by Chiara Lubich. After her departure, it must not stop, it must receive a new boost,” said Maria Voce. In 1981, at the invitation of Nikkyo Niwano, Chiara Lubich had shared her Christian experience in Tokyo with over 10000 adherents of the RKK, sowing the seeds of a dialogue of life that has developed over the years.
“The Focolare movement in Thailand has many Buddhist friends that share this Ideal and who are working together for a more united world, and for lasting peace for all,” declared the Buddhist monk Pra Thongrattana at Chiara Lubich’s funeral. Bearing a message from Grand Master Ajahn Tong, he had said,“Chiara is the one who brought light to a world in darkness.”
In each city she visits, Maria Voce will go to meet the local Catholic Bishop, and will also meet the Focolare community.
In Korea, her programme includes a meeting with a small group of parliamentarians who belong to the Focolare’s Political Movement for Unity.
In the Philippines, on 28 January in Manila, she will take part in a round table during the meeting for all the Bishops and clergy of that country, an event which happens every ten years.