Chiara Lubich consecrated herself to God on Dec. 7, 1943. At the height of the War, young Lubich and a group of friends who were rediscovering the Gospel began to live it concretely, realizing that everything passes in life.
They discovered the God of Love, the ideal for which it is worthwhile to spend one’s life. Hence, love was the spark that gave birth to the Focolare Movement. The name focolar arises from this experience.The Focolare movement marks Dec. 7 as the anniversary of its birth. On the 70th anniversary of its foundation, ZENIT spoke with Giancarlo Faletti, Focolare co-president.
ZENIT: Last December 7, the Focolares celebrated the 70thanniversary of their foundation. What aspects would you highlight in these decades?
Faletti: The Focolare Movement was born as a “revolution” of life based on the Gospel rediscovered as word that illumines life and can be translated into life. The novelty of those times was that this possibility is not reserved for a few, but is open to everyone, of any condition, profession or culture. The result is a “people” that feel called to offer the “light” of the Gospel to the whole of humanity, making it as the most authentic foundation in the reconstruction of all relations, not only personal but also the social, political and economic.
Today, Mary’s Work (the Movement’s official name) wishes above all to keep that “revolution” alive, stressing or renewing in any case one aspect: to feel that, more than ever, humanity needs that light, that is, God exactly as Jesus presented Him to us.
ZENIT: Can you draw a brief portrait of the Focolares today?
Faletti: Among the many possible images I would choose that of a tree that is born from a small seed in the earth prepared by the Church, which has developed in many branches (it has, in itself 23, between branches and lay and ecclesial movements) and which is leading the top of the tree to a new flowering.
ZENIT: On the occasion of the anniversary it was announced that in a few days the formal request would be handed to the Bishop to initiate the cause of canonization of Chiara Lubich. What is her model of holiness being offered to the Church and the world?
Faletti: The call to live unity and the spirituality of communion contains in itself the call to sanctity, not only to individual sanctity but to a sanctity lived together by a community in the reciprocity of love, loving the sanctity of the other as if it were one’s own – if we are willing to love one another “as” Jesus loved us, to the point of giving one’s life for one another – then Jesus assures us of his presence (Matthew 18-20). If Jesus, the holy One, is there, even if the community is small, it is holy.
Consequently, Chiara Lubich’s possible beatification would highlight a dimension of the vocation to sanctity that, up to now, perhaps, has not been very developed in the history of the Church: “to become saints together,” “the holiness of the People of God” to which Lumen Gentium refers with these terms (Lumen Gentium, n. 40).
ZENIT: There are causes of canonization that are open for persons belonging to the Focolare Movement. Are they going forward?
Faletti: In fact the only request presented directly by Mary’s Work for the opening of a cause is, in fact, that of Chiara Lubich, signed last December 7 and handed to the Bishop of Frascati a few days later. However, by the initiative of bishops, dioceses and associations formed by persons of the Movement together with others, 18 causes are underway of members of the Work, among them: cardinals, bishops, men and women Focolares, priests, laymen, adults and young people, married or not, a bit of everything.
More than half have already reached the Roman phase – the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Chiara Luce Badano has already been recognized Blessed by the Church, and the decision on her canonization is close. Others are still in the diocesan phase, which for some is almost about to be concluded to go on later to the Roman phase.
ZENIT: You had the occasion to meet with Pope Francis. What does the Holy Father think of the Movement?
Faletti: In a recent audience granted to the president, Maria Voce, and to me, the Pope listened with great interest to a report on the life of the Movement in the different areas of the world, making some comments, stressing also as they were explained to him, the different fronts (family, young people, priests, culture, etc.) according to their specific contribution. The conversation was held in a familiar tone. The Pope was grateful for the work the Movement is doing throughout the world, encouraging us to go “forward with courage and joy.”
ZENIT: The Argentine Pontiff recently referred to fraternity as the foundation and path to peace. Is the construction of a just society possible, or should one rather think of it as an utopia?
Faletti: The building of a just and peaceful society not only is possible or desirable, but it is a continuous march of the whole of humanity if we are able to look at things in the light of the Gospel. A march initiated by Jesus who, on giving us His life, gathered all the sorrows and evils of men, his brothers. He invited them to do as He did, and thus gave them the key to assume all division and enmity: “He pulled down the wall of divisions, demolishing enmity in Himself.
Might it not be, perhaps, that on speaking of “globalization,” even with all the uncertainties that persist, humanity glimpses itself already as “one” reality, where the good and evil of the whole human community has repercussions on the whole of humanity?
Moreover, the word “fraternity” is no more than the translation in human terms of that ”unity” for which Jesus asked the Father before dying.
ZENIT: How have the Focolares received the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium? Does it challenge you also in some way?
Faletti: If you allow me to use the same word of the Pope, his exhortation has been received with profound “joy”! Earlier I spoke of “revolution” based on the Gospel. Well, it seems to me that the focal point of the Exhortation is precisely that we not allow ourselves to be robbed of the “revolutionary force” of the Gospel. Therefore, it addresses us in a vital way and stimulates us to keep that radicalism that gave origin to the Movement. Moreover, every charism in the Church has meaning in itself only if it is according to the Church and, with it, is at the service of the whole of humanity.
We are also struck by his highlighting of the missionary vocation of the whole “People of God” in its different components: every Christian is, by nature, an evangelizer and he urges us to give to the proclamation of the Gospel that note of “joy, stimulation, vitality,” that “harmonious integrity” that precedes and gives meaning to doctrinal and moral preaching.
ZENIT: What is the Movement’s specific contribution to the challenge of evangelization?
Faletti: The Movement was born of an encounter: that of Chiara Lubich with the God of Love, which later stimulated this young woman of Trento to talk of its discovery to her companions and friends. Hence, as Evangelii gaudium states, the proclamation is born of an experience and an encounter with a Person. This was repeated and continues to be repeated in each one of us. Our evangelization is born precisely there. The question is to renew this encounter in daily life, so that this experience overflows from the heart and is shared with others. Another key aspect for us is the commitment to give witness, both individual as well as communal – hence, word and witness. We are conscious that we must constantly renew our commitment to maintain the vigor of the early times of our call.
ZENIT: How do you answer the ever new questioning of history and of humanity?
Faletti: We want, increasingly, for mutual love to become, as our founder said, our new “garment,” in our way of life, so that Jesus can really say still today to the world: “I am with you always …”
In keeping with this way of life, the Holy Spirit has led us to undertake and follow the path of “dialogue” as a path that leads to the encounter of every person, of every social or cultural or religious condition, to share and build together the path of humanity to the “design” of love of the Father — the path of dialogue, which is opening in all possible fields (within the Church, with Christians of other denominations, with believers of non-Christian religions, with persons of non-religious convictions), seems to us a privileged path to evangelize today.
ZENIT: In your opinion, what are the main needs of the Church at this time?
Faletti: The underlying urgency, on which I think all the others depend, is exactly the one pointed out by Pope Francis in his Exhortation Evangelii gaudium: a Church that thinks, not of herself, but which is made for humanity. Rather than being a hierarchical structure, the Church appears as “body,” “people,” exactly as highlighted in the Constitution Lumen Gentium: she can be “light” to the peoples, not so much if she presents the structures, but the network of relations in which each one finds his function in favor of others, and in this way find his own fulfilment.
However, there can only be a “body” if there is vital sap that nourishes it, there can be a “people” if there is a common basis on which to identify oneself. Hence the urgency, launched forcefully and passionately by Pope Francis, to rediscover the Gospel as vital lymph, as the only foundation that stimulates the decisions and actions of Christians.[Translation by ZENIT]