Vatican News staff reporter
Over the course of their General Assembly this week, members of the Focolare Movement discussed a number of key issues and chosen new leaders.
At the conclusion of their meeting, Pope Francis on Saturday had words of thanks to the outgoing President, Maria Voce, and the newly elected President, Margaret Karram.
He also offered the Movement some reflections, to “encourage them on their journey.”
He divided these reflections into three points: the post-Foundress era; the importance of crises and living spirituality with coherence and realism.
Openness and dialogue
Speaking about the post-Foundress period, the Pope noted that twelve years after the passing of Chiara Lubich, the Movement is called to overcome this “natural loss and even the decrease in numbers in order to continue to be a living expression of the founding charism.”
This, he said, required “a dynamic fidelity, capable of interpreting the signs and needs of the times and of responding to the new demands of humanity.” Pope Francis added, it is also a matter of “remaining faithful to the original source, striving to rethink it and express it in dialogue with new social and cultural situations.”
This work of renewal, he said, “is all the more fruitful the more it is carried out by harmonizing creativity, wisdom, sensitivity to all and fidelity to the Church.”
The Pope went on to say that “openness to others, whoever they may be, must always be cultivated: the Gospel is meant for everyone, it is a leaven of new humanity in every place and time.”
However, the Pope also had words of warning, advising against withdrawing into oneself, which, he said, “always leads to defending the institution to the detriment of individuals, and which can also lead to justifying or covering up forms of abuse.”
Instead, Pope Francis continued, “it is better to be courageous and face problems with parity and truth, always following the indications of the Church.”
A call to new maturity
Focusing his attention on the second theme, “the importance of crises,” the Pope pointed out that “every crisis is a call to new maturity; it is a time of the Spirit, which arouses the need to update, without becoming discouraged by human complexity and its contradictions.”
“It is the duty of those in government, at all levels, to work to address community and organizational crises in the best, most constructive way, he said.
Addressing in particular, the spiritual crises of individuals, which involve the intimacy of the individual and the sphere of conscience, Pope Francis noted that they “must be faced prudently by those who do not hold positions of government, at every level, within the Movement.”
“This is a good rule that applies not only to moments of crisis in individuals, but applies in general to their accompaniment on their spiritual journey," the Pope said.
Outside and inside
Reflecting on his third point, “live your spirituality with coherence and realism,” Pope Francis told those gathered, “the ultimate goal of your charism coincides with the intention that Jesus presented to the Father in his last, great prayer: that ‘all may be one’, knowing full well that it is the work of the grace of the One and Triune God.” This intention, he explained, “requires a commitment in a twofold perspective: outside the Movement and within it.”
As far as acting externally is concerned, said the Pope, “I encourage you to be…witnesses of closeness with fraternal love that overcomes every barrier and reaches every human condition.”
With regard to the commitment within the Movement, he continued, “I urge you to promote more and more synodality, so that all members, as depositaries of the same charism, may be co-responsible for and participate in the life of the Work of Mary and its specific goals.”
Transforming pain into hope
In conclusion, the Pope invited those present to imitate their founder Chiara Lubich, by always listening to “the cry of abandonment of Christ on the cross, which manifests the highest measure of love.”
The grace that comes from it, he added, “is capable of arousing in us, who are weak and sinners, generous and sometimes heroic responses; it is capable of transforming suffering and even tragedy into a source of light and hope for humanity. In this passage from death to life lies the heart of Christianity and also of your charism.”