By Robin Gomes
Wednesday marked the 10 anniversary of the death of Chiara Lubich, the charismatic Italian Catholic lay woman who founded the worldwide Focolare Movement for spiritual and social renewal, in order to build a more united world based on respect and esteem for diversity.
Chiara Lubich passed away on 14 March, 2008, at the movement’s headquarters at Rocca di Papa, near Rome, following a long illness.
Consecrated to God
She was born Silvia Lubich in Trent, northern Italy, on 22 January, 1920. During World War II, while bombs were raining down on her home town, the 23-year old Lubich had a powerful religious experience, which led her to consecrate herself to God.
On 7 December 1943, she changed her name to Chiara, after St.Clare of Assisi. This date is considered the beginning of the Focolare movement.
Through the Focolare (small communities of lay volunteers) she helped contribute to strengthening communion within the Catholic Church and initiated important work for Christian unity, interfaith dialogue and dialogue with contemporary culture. Today amongst its members are also many who profess no particular religion.
Pope Benedict XVI had sent a message for Lubich’s funeral held in the Roman Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, describing her as a “woman of intrepid faith, a meek messenger of hope and peace”.
Speaking on the occasion of her 10th death anniversary, Vatican Secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin recalled Lubich and her movement’s obedience and docility to the Church, even in very difficult times. He particularly highlighted her two contributions. While deepening and enlivening the Marian and apostolic character of the Church, she also made a strong call to unity, so that “they all be one,” that the world may believe. This, Cardinal Parolin said, she accomplished through love for one another just as Jesus taught us.
Today, the Focolare Movement is present in 194 countries, and there are about 120,000 people who are part of its structures (members) and one and a half million people who adhere to it or sympathize with it.