Pope Francis is describing the first "little town" of the Focolare movement, founded 50 years ago, as a "city-school of life to make the world hope again, to witness that the Gospel is truly the leaven and salt of the new civilization of love.

The Holy Father said this in a video message sent on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Loppiano, a town located in north-central Italy, with some 2,600 residents from 70 nations.

The Focolare "little towns" were conceived by Chiara Lubich, the movement's founder, especially in a visit to a Swiss abbey in 1962 where she experienced the first intuitions of the idea of having "little towns" inhabited by the people of the Focolare Movement. 

She wrote: “It was at Einsiedeln that I understood, from looking at the abbey church below and all that was surrounding it, that a town of the Movement should develop, which wouldn’t be made up of an abbey or hotels, but rather of simple houses, work places, schools – just like an ordinary town.” 

These developments grew and are known today as little towns or permanent Mariapolis.

The citizens live, work and study there and through their daily actions give witness to the phrase from the Bible: "Love one another as I have loved you."

Each year an average of 40,000 visitors pass through Loppiano.

Francis referred to the ordinary life in the town, saying that, drawing from the Gospel, "one must imagine and experience a new culture in all fields of social life: in the family, in politics, in the economy, that is, the culture of relations. The beginning of wisdom is the sincere desire of instruction, the care of instruction is love. It is no accident that Loppiano has had its headquarters for some years in the Sophia University Institute, erected by the Holy See. There is an urgent need, in fact, of young people, of men and women that, beyond being adequately prepared in the various disciplines, are at the same time permeated by the wisdom that flows from the love of God."

"I hope you will be able to remain faithful and be able to incarnate ever better the prophetic objective of this citadel, which blossomed from the charism of unity, in fact, 50 years ago," Pope Francis said. "To live the objective in profound harmony with the message of Vatican II, which was then being held, that is, to witness in mutual love to all the light and wisdom of the Gospel. Loppiano, therefore, is a school of life in which there is only one teacher: Jesus."

Other little towns have sprung up since the first in Loppiano. They are scattered around the world and are at various points of development. Each town has its own characteristic in harmony with its own environment.


On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text of Francis' message: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-video-message-for-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-foundation-of-the-citadel-of-loppiano

On the Net:

More information on Focolare "little towns": http://www.focolare.org/en/all-opera/cittadelle/