Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) and the Focolare Movement

To understand the “Focolare Movement,” one must follow the path of its founder, Chiara Lubich.  She received her vocation at Loreto (Shrine-Relic of the house of Nazareth, in Italy), lived an extraordinary charisma of unity and founded the “Focolare,” a movement of global reach.

Dawn of a vocation

Chiara Lubich was born Silvia Lubich, in Trent in 1920 to a modest Christian and socialist family.

In 1939, she became a teacher in a primary school of her hometown and enrolled at the University of Venice in philosophy studies.

In 1939, while visiting the Marian shrine of Loreto with other young people of the Catholic Action, she discovered her unique, unprecedented kind of vocation.

On December 7, 1943, she joined the Secular Franciscan Order, making a vow of chastity and taking the name of Chiara.  This date is considered the foundation date of the Focolare Movement.

During the night of May 13, 1944, her house was destroyed by the bombing of the town of Trent.  While her family took refuge in the mountains nearby, she stayed in Trent and, with her companions, she tried to follow the Gospel “to the letter.”

Growing of the movement

In 1948, at the Italian Parliament, she met Igino Giordani for the first time. A member of Parliament, writer, journalist and father of four sons, he became a co-founder of the movement and greatly contributed to its social and spiritual development.

In 1949, she met Father Pasquale Foresi, who became the first Focolare priest.  He is also considered to be a co-founder thanks to his contribution to theological studies, the statutes of the Movement, the first Mariapoli center (“City of Mary”) and to the community town of Loppiano.

The “Focolare” Movement grew rapidly with different branches: for consecrated women, men, young people (GEN, generazione nuove), priests (GENS), children, families (famiglie nuove).

The movement has a magazine (in English, “New City Press”) and a publishing company (Citta Nuova) founded in 1959.

In 1962, Pope Saint John XXIII gave his approval to the masculine part of the movement under the name of Opera di Maria (Works of Mary).

Secular awards

As founder of the Focolare movement, Chiara Lubich has been granted many secular awards:

-       Templeton Prize, 1977, London,

-       UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1996, Paris,

-       European Human Rights Prize, 1998, by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

She also received many honorary doctorates (in theology, philosophy, psychology etc…) from various European, South American and Asian universities.

With people of all religions

Chiara Lubich was invited to speak to Christians of other denominations, to people other religions and of no religious affiliation.  Everywhere, she made people think with her message of Love and Unity.

“More than a dialogue, it is living together that is concretely expressed by acts of solidarity and respect of our diversities.”

The Genfest is an international and interfaith festival organized by the Focolare Movement for young people between 18-30 (conferences, concerts, personal testimonies, encounters, dancing, flashmob, etc.).

In the Church

In 1982, Pope Saint John Paul II called for the first international annual meeting with the “Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement” to help them live a spirituality of communion in an effective and affectionate way.

In 1990, the Pontifical Council for the Laity approved the general statutes of the “Work of Mary” or “Focolare Movement.” The statutes specify that it is a woman who will lead the Focolare (Marian dimension).

In 1991, Chiara Lubich launched the “Economy of Communion”

The first international Assembly of the Economy of Communion took place during the Mariapolis of Ginetta (Sao Paulo, Brazil), in 1991. The goal is to replace consumer society by an “Economy of Giving” because man is made in God’s image and God is Love.

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On march 13, 2008, Chiara Lubich asked for and obtained leave to return to her home in Rocca di Papa, where she died peacefully the next day, at the age of 88.  She was buried by Cardinal Bertone.

Sources:

 

[1] Focolari

[2]Chiara Lubich at Rocca di Papa, on november 10, 1991