Focolare movement still working for goal of a united world, leader says

Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement. Credit: Massimo Finizio via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Ecclesial movements’ work to promote peace should be “an effort to witness” that it is possible, according to Maria Voce, president of the Focolare movement.

Voce spoke with CNA May 14, at the end of her trip around the world to visit Focolare communities and to preparing for the movement’s assembly, which will take place Sept. 1-28. The assembly will lead to the election of a new president and board, six years after the death of their founder, Chiara Lubich.

While Voce was in the Middle East, Pope Francis called for the Sept. 7 day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

“The meeting was strong because the moment made it strong,” she said. “The Pope told me that he had really been inspired by the Holy Spirit in promoting and announcing that evening of prayer, and that he strongly felt the need to do it. It seemed to us that our trip had helped the Pope’s effort for peace.”

Maria Voce told Pope Francis Sept. 13 about her trip to Jordan, when he received her in audience along with Giancarlo Faletti, co-president of the movement.

She had been invited to speak at the Royal Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, met the king of Jordan, and spoke to nearly 600 members of the movement from across the Middle East.

Voce told the Pope of Focolare’s work for families and young people in Syria; its cultural activities in China; its dialogue with Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews; its evangelization in the Amazon; and its promotion of forgiveness and reconciliation in Africa.

Such projects’ broad reach have led some to speak of the Focolare movement as a “parallel diplomacy.”

Voce says such a characterization is mistaken: “I don’t like the term ‘parallel diplomacy’, because I do not like the movement to be considered parallel to something. The movement is in the Church, and so it takes part in the Church’s efforts for peace.”

Michele Zanzucchi, editor of the movement’s Italian-language magazine, has called the movement’s efforts a “diplomacy of life.”

The movement’s commitment for peace comes from testimony, according to Voce.

“Pope Francis speaks a lot about encounter,” she said. “We want to show that we meet all together, that we love each other, that we are not taken by the temptation to violence. Our presence is a witness of unity: I think this is what we can give for peace.”


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