By Linda Bordoni
Awaiting Pope Francis in Loppiano were not only the town’s 850 inhabitants, but representatives of the Focolare family from all over Italy as well as the thousands across the world who watched the event via live streaming.
The Pope arrived in Loppiano after a visit to Nomadelfia - also in Tuscany - where he met with the community there.
The Focolare Movement is a diverse reality that prioritizes dialogue and a lifestyle that contributes towards building unity and peace in the world. Two million people across the globe share in the Movement's life and activities; many come from Christian Churches, but there are others who profess different religious creeds. There are about 1,000 social projects in different countries of the world, and 800 businesses that base their activities on the principles of the Economy of Communion.
At Loppiano, which is described as ‘a model of community life based on the principles of solidarity and fraternity”, Pope Francis was able to field questions and interact with those present after praying at the Sanctuary dedicated to Mary, Mother of God, before a painting that symbolizes inter-religious dialogue.
The importance of ‘memory’
Amongst the questions put to the Pope by some of the citizens of Loppiano were queries about how to adapt with the times without betraying one’s roots and one’s heritage to which Francis said “memory” is the frame of life: “just as the fruits of a tree are possible because the tree has roots, if you have no memory, you will be uprooted and will not be able to bear fruits”.
In Loppiano there are no peripheries
Regarding the academic reality in Loppiano where schools and a university are run according to the laws of mutual love, the Pope praised the experience of walking – and working – together at the service of all with a view that embraces all of humanity, and said that in a place like Loppiano, an “open city” where there are no barriers and no suburbs, those who are normally relegated to the peripheries of existence find themselves at the center of community life.
Pope Francis went on to elaborate on the concept of Christian closeness and proximity which, he said, is what God did when He sent us His Son.
The challenge of creative fidelity
Another question regarding the theme of “mission” in a new stage of evangelization and the need to respond to the challenges of our time, prompted Francis to exhort those present to look to the future with “trustful fidelity” and with “generous creativity” remarking on the fact that Loppiano itself was born from “a small seed sown in the furrows of history” and that continues to “bear substantial fruits, at the service of its mission to proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus in the way the Church is called to live today.”
“This calls for humility, openness, synergy and the capacity to take risks” he said.
The challenge, Pope Francis explained, is to remain faithful to the original inspiration, and at the same time be open to the breath of the Holy Spirit and courageously undertake new paths that the Spirit suggests.
Before concluding, the Pope invited those present to look to the Mother of God saying that the Shrine dedicated to her in Loppiano is an invitation to learn from her:
“Mary takes the Word and goes forward, because she is a woman of faith, a woman of creativity, a woman of courage, of parrhesia, a woman of patience and of enduring things” he said.
“Always look to her, he said, a lay person, the first disciple of Jesus, at how she behaved during all the difficult and passages of her son's life. It will help you a lot”.