Rome (Fides Service) – Over 1,500 members of the Focolare Movement from all over Europe with representatives from communities on all five of the world’s continents gathered with their foundress Chiara Lubich and the general Council at Centro Mariapoli in Castelgandolfo for celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Movement (7 December 1943 – 2003).
On December 7th Pope John Paul II made a personal phone call to congratulate and encourage Chiara Lubich. He also wrote a special message for the anniversary which was read out by the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko in the great hall at Mariapoli Centro in Castelgandolfo. “In particular I wish to greet the foundress” the Pope said in his message. “The Work of Mary (the Focolare Movement’s official name) was born with the special self-consecration to God which she made in Trent at the end of 1943, and since then it has grown, oriented entirely towards love of God and service to unity in the Church and in the world”. The Holy Father referred to its members as “apostles of dialogue, the privileged path for promoting unity: within the Church, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and dialogue with non believers”. “In these sixty years – the Pope said – how many rapid and startling social changes have affected the life of the world and humanity!”. He lamented “the loss of values of moral reference” and the danger “of finding oneself almost without a soul”. The Pope’s thoughts returned to the “continent of Europe and its bi-millennial Christian tradition”. He underlined once again the urgency of new evangelisation. “In this regard an important role has been entrusted to Movements among which the Focolare Movement has a special place”. John Paul II added: “Faithful to the vivifying working of the Holy Spirit, new Church Movements are a precious gift for the Church” and he joined the Focolare members “in giving thanks to God for the great things he has worked in these 60 years ”.
At the gathering in Castelgandolfo 102 young people (46 of them married) from 29 different countries made promises of poverty, chastity and obedience in keeping with their state of life, and the 1,500 members of the Focolare Movement renewed their act of consecration. Another 63 will join Focolare members working for unity and peace in various parts of the world even trouble spots such as Ivory Coast, Burundi, Colombia, and countries where dialogue among religions and cultures is urgent such as India, Pakistan, Middle East and the United States. There will be another Meeting Mariapoli at the end of December.
To mark the 60th anniversary of its foundation the Movement will open a Centre for Spirituality and Study in Jerusalem near the stone steps where it is said that on Holy Thursday Jesus prayed to the Father for unity. This passage of the Gospel read in an air-raid refuge during World War II, revealed to Chiara Lubich and her first group of companions the aim of their life. As a gift from the members of the Movement Chiara received a first contribution for the Centre which has been one of her dreams since 1956 when the visited the Holy Land for the first time. In November this year the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem signed an agreement granting the Movement perpetual use of a peace of land situated near the famous stone steps. The Focolare Movement has centres in Jerusalem and Haifa opened 25 years ago. (S.L.) (Fides Service 11/12/2003 lines 43; words 628)