Focolare President on Interreligious Meeting in Assisi

“The Road Opened by Blessed John Paul II Has Made Great Progress”

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ROME, JULY 13, 2011 ( Here is the statement of Maria Voce, president of the Focolari Movement, that was published today in the L’Osservatore Romano, on the meeting to be held this October in Assisi with representatives of the world’s religions and non-believers titled “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace.”

The meeting is the third in a series of similar gatherings held in the Italian town, the first two were held in 1986 and 2002. The 1986 meeting was called by John Paul II on the occasion of the U.N. International Year of Peace, and the next meeting, on Jan. 24, 2002, was convoked by John Paul II following the Sept. 11 attacks, and it was geared especially to ward off the danger of a confrontation with Islam.

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In this time of great upheaval, “the walls in which the various civilizations live with their individual culture are crumbling,” and, “a city-world without walls can be seen on the horizon, full of hope.” This was the vision offered by Chiara Lubich in London in 2004, before an audience of representatives of numerous religions, on the topic of the future for a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious society of our time, faced with the risk of a clash of civilizations

In the 1970s, speaking at an international congress of young people, Chiara had asked them to, “not close their eyes at the sight of this torment of humanity but to conscientiously enter into the gestation of the new world.” “You are here,” she added, “to be formed in a “world mentality,” to become “world-man.”

In these twenty-five years, the road opened by Blessed John Paul II has made great progress thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. It is he who guides history in this great design of unity, despite the many shadows, which fall across our planet. We are witnesses to it. For our Movement, almost as a surprise, the unexplored page of interreligious dialogue was opened. Chiara Lubich recognized a sign of the Holy Spirit in the interest shown in her spiritual experience by representatives of different religions present at Guildhall in London in 1979. 

Since then, numerous developments have occurred in more than 30 years. In 1972, when Chiara invited young people to become protagonists in the gestation of a new world, she gave them what she called a “very powerful weapon of love,” “the model capable of re-creating the unity of the world:” Jesus crucified who calls out to his Father in his abandonment. It is He, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord, who is the key, which opens dialogue even in the most difficult situations.

Today, dialogue between religions cannot be limited only to leaders, scholars and specialists. It must become a dialogue of the people, a dialogue of life. We meet Christians and Muslims everywhere who are testament to the fact that one can progress from fear of the other to the discovery of the other and contribute to a peaceful living together in their cities.

We begin now to pray for the great meeting in Assisi next October; in the hope and expectation of new surprises from the Holy Spirit.

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