Lubich’s Life a Song of Love, Says Cardinal Bertone

Celebrates Funeral Mass at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls

By Roberta Sciamplicotti

ROME, MARCH 19, 2008 ( Benedict XVI’s secretary of state called the life of the founder of the Focolare Movement a “song to the love of God.”

That’s how Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone defined the life of Chiara Lubich at her funeral Tuesday at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. She died Friday in her home near Rome at age 88.

Thousands of people participated in the Mass, including many Christians of other confessions, and people of other creeds or no faith at all. The Focolare Movement is dedicated to the spirituality of unity.

There were three carnations on Lubich’s coffin, alluding to the day she decided to consecrate herself to God in the chapel of the Capuchin college of Trent, her hometown. That day was Dec. 7, 1943, and Chiara bought three carnations on her way to class, to leave them at the foot of the crucifix.

Cardinal Bertone recalled in the homily “the ardent desire for an encounter with Christ,” which characterized the entire life of the founder. “And even more intensely in the last months and days, when her illness worsened, stripping her of all physical energy, and taking her on a gradual ascent up Calvary, culminating in the sweet return to the bosom of the Father.

“Now all has truly been finished: the dream of the beginnings has been made a reality, the passionate yearning has been fulfilled. Chiara encounters the one whom she loved without seeing him and, full of joy, can exclaim, ‘Yes, my redeemer lives!'”

“The life of Chiara Lubich is a song to the love of God, to God who is love,” the cardinal said. “There is no other path to know God and to give meaning and value to existence. Only love, divine love, makes us capable of ‘engendering’ love, of loving even our enemies. This is the novelty of Christianity. The whole of the Gospel consists in this.”

Silent and humble

Cardinal Bertone noted the way that Lubich served the Church.

At the Last Supper, he said, Jesus prays that they all may be one, “the prayer of Christ, therefore, sustains the path of his friends of all times. His spirit raises up in the Church witnesses of the living Gospel; it is him, the living God, who guides us in the hours of sadness and doubt, of difficulty and sorrow. One who entrusts himself to him fears nothing, neither the fear of crossing raging waters, nor the obstacles of whatever kind of adversity. He who builds his house on Christ builds on the rock of love that bears everything, that triumphs over everything.”

The founder of the Focolare Movement, “with a silent and humble style” did not create “institutions of aid and human promotion.” Rather she dedicated herself “to lighting the fire of the love of God in hearts.”

“Persons who are themselves love rise up, who live the charism of unity and communion with God and with neighbor, people who spread love-unity, making of themselves, of their houses, of their work a ‘hearth’ [focolare in Italian], in which love burns and spreads and ignites all those who are at their sides,” the Vatican official said.

This mission, he observed, is possible for everyone, since the Gospel “is within everyone’s reach.”

“The precious key for entering into the Gospel,” for Chiara Lubich, “was the Virgin,” the cardinal added, “and she decided to entrust her work precisely to Mary, calling it precisely the Work of Mary. ‘It will be on earth like another Mary,’ she affirmed. ‘All Gospel, nothing more than the Gospel, and since it is Gospel, it will not die.'”

Cardinal Bertone concluded his homily giving thanks to the Lord for her testimony, “for her prophetic intentions that have preceded and prepared the great changes of history and the extraordinary events that the Church lived in the 20th century.”

In this sense, he noted the “courageous ecumenical openness and the search for dialogue with religions,” promoted by the members of Focolare, defined by Pope John Paul II in one of his letters as “apostles of dialogue.”

The movement’s work for unity was manifested in the basilica by the representatives of non-Catholic Christians, including Orthodox leaders and Protestant pastors. Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as Buddhist representatives also attended the funeral. In addition, leaders of other Catholic movements were there to pay their respects.

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