Focolare Movement Celebrates 1st Beatified Member

Pope Told Cardinal That Blessed Chiara Is a Model for Youth

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ROME, SEPT. 27, 2010 ( God is addressing a particular invitation to youth through the beatification of an 18-year-old Italian girl raised to the altars on Saturday.

This was the affirmation made Sunday by Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, when he spoke of Blessed Chiara «Luce» Badano (1971-1990).

Chiara died in 1990 of bone cancer just a few weeks before her 19th birthday. She is the first member of the Catholic lay Focolare Movement to be raised to the altars.

Cardinal Bertone celebrated a thanksgiving Mass in her honor on Sunday at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

He recounted that on the return trip from the United Kingdom, he and the Holy Father spoke of the saintly girl.

«Seated next to him on the plane, we spoke of Chiara Luce Badano and he told me that this, our blessed, is an example to be appreciated by young people,» Cardinal Bertone said.

Do not be afraid

Speaking of Chiara’s spirituality, the cardinal noted her exhortation to youth, «I can no longer run, but I would like to pass the torch, as at the Olympics.» During her battle with cancer, Chiara lost the use of her legs. «Your participation is the sign that you have accepted this charge.»

And Cardinal Bertone recalled Pope John Paul II’s invitation for the 1989 World Youth Day: «Young people, do not be afraid to be saints! Fly high.»

Forming a saint

Cardinal Bertone went on to reflect about the factors that contributed to Blessed Chiara’s spirituality.

First of all, the family that «fulfilled perfectly its educational task,» as well as the ecclesial community and the social environment of Sassello, then the Focolare Movement where Chiara «made a progressive and strong community experience of Christian life» and «learned to deepen her personal relationship with God.»

He said her witness concretely reflects the Pope’s words in his recent message for World Youth Day ’11: «[T]he Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God’s ‘yes’ to mankind, the supreme expression of his love and the source from which eternal life flows.»

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Bertone gave Maria Teresa and Ruggero, Chiara Luce’s parents, a special blessing from Benedict XVI for their forthcoming 50th wedding anniversary.

Strong woman

At Saturday’s beatification ceremony, Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, spoke of Blessed Chiara as a «girl of a crystalline heart,» «modern, sportswoman, positive, who in a world rich in well-being, but often ill with sadness and unhappiness, transmits to us a message of optimism and transparency.»

He recounted episodes from her short life, ranging from giving a snack to a poor person, to taking in a marginalized lady, to giving witness in a cafe with friends because «what matters is not so much speaking of God. I must proclaim him with my life.»

When she could no longer use her legs, she said: «I no longer have legs, but the Lord has given me wings.»

«An apparently fragile girl, she was in fact a strong woman,» Archbishop Amato affirmed. She found this strength in the spirituality of the Focolare Movement, founded by Chiara Lubich, with whom Chiara Badano communicated frequently via letter, and from whom she received her nickname «Luce» (light).

A spirituality confirmed

Maria Voce, the president of the Focolare Movement, said Chiara Luce’s beatification is a «historic movement» because it is a «confirmation on the part of the Church that the spirituality of unity leads to holiness.»

«It’s a new commitment,» she added. «Chiara Luce invites us to run on the path of sanctity.»

At the end of the celebration, Chiara’s mother, Maria Teresa, said it «was a highly profound emotional» moment, «our thanksgiving to God for having given us a daughter is infinite.»

Chiara was the couple’s only child. She was born after 11 years of marriage.

Speaking with journalists, Chiara’s mother left this message to parents who discover an illness in their children: «They are moments of great sorrow, but consolation can only come from God. We have been supported by the strength of unity, a strength that does not come only from the unity between us, but from the power of unity unleashed by all the people of the Movement.»

[Jesús Colina contributed to this report]
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