ISTANBUL, Turkey, MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement, was not only a gift for the Catholic Church, but also for Orthodox Christians, affirmed Bartholomew I.
The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople said this Sunday in an address on the first anniversary of the death of the founder, with whom he had a friendship for many years.
The patriarch delivered his address after presiding over vespers in the Church of the Panaghia in Belgrad Kapi, Istanbul, with the participation of a delegation from Rome representing Maria Voce, president of Focolare.
“Today we are not mourning but joyful,” said Bartholomew I. He recalled Lubich by “the disarming and persuasive force of her smile.”
He affirmed that the founder was “a gift given not only to the Roman Church, of which she was a faithful and active daughter, but also to our Church of Constantinople.”
The patriarch continued: “As humble Clare of Assisi, her patroness since her youthful virginal consecration, our sister did not set out to carry out ambitious projects founded on human points of view. Day after day, Chiara journeyed with incessant faith on the path always marked out for her by divine grace as a gift.”
Bartholomew I underlined the legacy left by Lubich through the movement she founded, stating, “In mid century, the small group that met in Trento around Chiara to help so many victims of World War II and the poor of the city, has enlarged the realms of charity to the point of not knowing either geographic or even confessional limits.”
The patriarch recalled the years in which he studied in Rome during which he personally met Lubich and her movement, which were “characterized by the joy of sharing love for one’s neighbor.”
The Orthodox leader also visited the founder shortly before her death when she was in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.
He concluded: “In her luminous smile, we could perceive her anxious expectation, the happy vision of the common table, the achievement of the unity of our sister Churches. This vision should guide all of us to fulfill the will of the Lord, illuminating the world through good works.”