erroneous convictions are at the basis of the Focolari
Man must, above all, establish peace on earth (in contrast,
the First Commandment of the Christian aims at the love of God).
Religions are responsible for wars and conflicts (the
Church teaches that wars and conflicts come from sin).
The unity of religions can bring peace on earth (Our
Lord said, on the contrary: “My peace I give you, not as the
world gives it”).
From Le Sel
de la Terre, No.25
Cry of Jesus on the cross: an appeal to overcome divisions and
to re-unite by dialogue.
These reflections (see part I, July-August, 1998) lead
us to the third pillar of the foundation upon which rests the
spirituality of the Focolari: the cross, more exactly,
the cry of dereliction of Jesus on the cross.
The cry which Our Lord did utter in His agony is interpreted by
Chiara Lubich as a cry of anguish because of existing divisions
and therefore, as an urgent appeal for reconciliation:
“By Him, by His cry, we are capable to engage ourselves beyond
all wounds, of all separations and divisions, to reconstitute
the unity of the Church. Thanks to Him, we have acquainted ourselves
with numerous churches and confessions, we have grasped their
particularities and we have learned to esteem them; we feel like
brothers and sisters, united by baptism and reciprocal love.”
In other words, the schisms and separations are due to prejudices,
to diversity of mentalities and of cultures. The means which
must logically permit to surmount these differences and these
separations so sorrowfully felt, is dialogue.
For Chiara Lubich, the remedy to divisions is not therefore in
the apostolic mission which obeys to the order of Christ; “Going
therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them (...) teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”
(Mt xxviii, 19-20), that is: announce to them the revealed truth,
free them from errors that enchain them. For her, unity does
not come from truth: the doctrinal intolerance constitutes on
the contrary a seed of insupportable ruptures.
To make unity, the only way then is a dialogue.
The inter-confessional dialogue among Christians, but also – since
the movement is much wider than the borders of Christianity –
the interreligious dialogue.
Lubich, worthy winner of the Templeton prize
organizations and societies of thought that encourage this religious
dialogue, Chiara Lubich has been occupying for a long time, an
imminent place. To be convinced of this, it suffices to consider
the abundant international rewards she has received in her life.
prizes that she has received are numerous and reveal the
esteem which is given
her in world religious circles:
1977: Templeton Prize
1988: the Prize “Feast of Peace” of Augsbourg
1996: doctor honoris causa of the Catholic
University of Dublin
1997: prize of Education for Peace of UNESCO;
doctor honoris causa of the
Catholic Universities of Manila, Taipei and of Bangkok.
Focolari movement has evidently benefitted of the reputation
of its founder: its growth, its international recognition and
its introduction in organizations which pursue the same ends have
been greatly facilitated by it.
Firstly, we must present the Templeton prize instituted
in 1972 by Sir John Templeton and awarded each year since 1973.
It is the largest prize of the world (more than a million dollars).
Among the beneficiaries, we find Mother Teresa, Roger Schutz,
Cardinal Suenens, C-F.V. Weizsacker, a Buddhist, a rabbi, a Hindu,
and ... Chiara Lubich.
Sir John Templeton instituted his prize to be the religious counterpart
of the Nobel prize. The latter has for aim to honor the
progress in the natural sciences. Similarly, the Templeton
prize encourages the “progress in religion”.
The presentation brochure of the Templeton foundation define
clearly the meaning of “progress in religion”: since we
note that there exists a progress in all that which pertains to
human experience and effort, the same thing must happen in religious
matter. Moreover, since in other domains, we witness an always
more accelerated progress, it is necessary to expect the same
phenomenon in the field of religion: a universe which does not
cease to broaden requires a broadening religious conscience, new
cultural horizons and new spiritual liberties.
Therefore, the intention for which this prize is given, is clear:
it is to reward the work accomplished for the conquest of the
liberty of conscience in religious matters and to stimulate the
initiatives of the pioneers in this domain. Thus, are judged
worthy of interest, no matter from what religion they proceed,
all efforts made in order to arrive at a deeper spiritual conscience
or at a better understanding of what is the meaning of life, as
well as all enterprises inspiring dedication and love or orienting
man’s life towards God so that he finds there new creative energies.
The brochure emphasizes that syncretism – the attempt of fusion
and reconciliation of diverse religious convictions – must be
avoided. The Templeton prize is on the contrary destined
to highlight the diversity of religious beliefs and of their expressions.
Consequently, tolerance occupies there a very important place.
There is no question of truth or error. On the contrary, it is
simply a matter to help man to recognize “the infinity of the
universal spirit”, the multiplicity of roads by which the
Creator reveals Himself to man.
In vain do we look for the mention of a personal God, as the Christian
faith requires. On the other hand, a few lines below, the text
of the brochure speaks of “the Divine”. This equivocal reference
truly appears to be an allusion to the Great Architect of the
prize well awarded?
Why was Chiara Lubich judged worthy to receive this Templeton
prize? What motivated the jury to make this choice?
The brochure of the Templeton Foundation consecrated to
Chiara Lubich gives several reasons.
Firstly, the Focolari movement has shown the world that
it no longer suffices today to adhere to an instituted church.
The theologians of the 1950’s – states this document – were considering
the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. At present,
theology has made a double progress: we now speak of the “people
of God” and we insist on the experience of a personal conversion
to Christ. Now, these are the characteristic traits of the Focolari
Another sign of progress (equally present in the Focolari)
– continues the brochure – is the new tone given to spirituality:
traditionally, it was impersonal and abstract; from now on it
nourishes itself from the lived experience of the individual.
Our reader, quite surprised, will ask how could a multitude of
saints nevertheless grow on such dry ground of the Church of old
up to 1950!
– pursues the publication – the new commandment “love one another”
extends indistinctly to all men, and it is what the Focolari
practices in opening itself to persons of all convictions. (The
word of Pius XII proclaiming the XXth Century, “the
Century of the Mystical Body of Christ”, is even quoted at this
place as if it designated mutual love between all men of all religions.)
If then we practice this commandment in this spirit, our comportment
will give birth to a mutual respect among states and peoples,
will provoke a diminution of fear among men and the abolition
of all their frontiers.
the text notes that Chiara Lubich and all her works are efficiently
militant in the church at the service of ecumenism.
‘qualities’ underlined in these lines are for the least
ambiguous. In fact, they are those claimed by the tendencies
and the changes which brought the revolution in the Church. Consequently,
we must ask ourselves: does Chiara Lubich truly possess these
‘qualities’; did she merit this strange prize or have we
misunderstood and misinterpreted her person and her intentions?
To answer, let us bring ourselves back directly to the statements
pronounced by the person concerned on ecumenism and on the new
Lubich and Ecumenism
her speech after the presentation of the Templeton prize,
Chiara Lubich treated at length of the expansion of her work beyond
the limits of Christianity.
she mentions the Jews to whom in a certain sense, are united to
us Revelation. On the subject of the Muslims, she emphasizes
full admiration, to what point they are faithful to their religion.
She is in ecstacy before the Hindus who give, she says, the first
place to love:
love them just as they are and it is together that we look for
these truths which unite us most narrowly to live them together,
to share our experiences in our commitment for God and our brothers.”
to the Gen movement which we have described above (see
part I), she explains that the followers of other religions can
be received in the Focolari, and then, call themselves
according to their religion of origin: Gen-Muslim, Gen-Buddhists,
etc. As to the fact that these members of other religions have
a conception of God totally different from that of Christianity,
it matters a little, it seems. Only love counts and the effort
which we do to construct a world of love.
Chiara Lubich wants is “to live the Gospel”. But having
seen what precedes, we have the right to ask: of what Gospel is
it about? What becomes of certain words of Christ like these
ones: “I did not come to bring peace but the sword...”
“I came into the world to bear witness to the truth”?
What does she do about the warning against false prophets, of
the condemnation of idolatry, of the affirmation that Christ is
the key which must bring the fall and rise of a great number,
and of many similar other works?
we have seen, the end sought by the Focolari movement is
unity, Chiara Lubich believes she is accomplishing the will of
God, since she says:
“Jesus took the human nature in order that all may be one.
On the Cross, in his dereliction, it is for that that He gave
His life. Now, it is up to us to fulfil this end: above all,
the Opus Mariae has made as its own the task to unite the entire
the ecumenical effort accomplished by the Focolari, if
it concentrates firstly on “the instruction and sensibilization
of Catholics in view of the unity of Christians and in view to
obtain a fraternal community with the members of other Christian
churches” cannot logically stay there; it aspires to embrace
members of other religions.
Lubich and the New Ecclesiology
the Church, the statements of Chiara Lubich also go in the same
sense as that of the Templeton Foundation. She is convinced
that, thanks to Vatican II, the Church has done a great leap forward
in the right direction. She gives as signs: collegiality and
the priority given to love.
during the ecumenical assembly of Graz, she seemed to profess
without ambiguity the faith in the one Church founded by Jesus
Christ, she nevertheless adds: “in this context arises the
fundamental importance of ecclesiology”. Of which ecclesiology
is it about? Making allusion to Cardinal Willebrands who had
spoken to her when the Templeton prize was awarded to her,
she explains that it is necessary to deepen the ecclesiology of
the “communio” that in this resides the great chance of
future ecumenism and that the efforts to reach the unity of the
Church must take that ecclesiology as a starting point.
it is in this sense that the Ecumenical Council of Churches
and other similar institutions do operate, she says, when they
seek to put to work an “ecumenical spirituality”. For
the divisions which have shaken the foundations of the Church
in the course of the past two thousand years, have been caused
by the diversities of opinions due to a defect of love among Christians.
deplores these divisions of Christians which are contrary to the
Divine Will expressed in the words of Christ “ut unum sint”.
And since the lack of love is responsible for these divisions,
an increase of love will be able to bring us to the lost unity.
the course of centuries, because of a growing indifference, a
lack of comprehension, or even a certain hatred for the other
churches, each church hardened itself, in a way. In each of them,
then, a great love is necessary; a common love must seize all
Christianity, a love which pushes us to have all in common, to
be each a gift for the others.”
note it again: the question of truth or error is not even mentioned.
The church which she wants to build is not then the Una, Sancta,
Catholica et Apostolica Ecclesia, which, one in Herself, in
her doctrine and in her rites, is living until our days. What
is this new church, then?
could thus figure out the future Church: that there is a unique
truth, but that it expresses itself in different ways, that it
is composed of different points of view and that it offers us
its richness in a multiplicity of interpretations”.
goes without comments.
point: how to achieve this new conception of the Church? We said
it already: in instituting a universal dialogue which will include
all the people of God.
to this dialogue, we are more apt to discover, appreciate and
live consciously this great heritage which is the common bond
of all Christians. We desire to see this unique people who is
already visible everywhere where there is a church”.
Focolari Movement prototype of the future Church
Focolari find themselves at the heart of this building
of the Church of the future. Already, Chiara Lubich tells us,
hundreds of thousands of persons, members of about three hundred
churches, live the charism of unity which is at the bosom of the
Focolari. These persons are the models of that which,
at the universal scale of the world, still remains to be accomplished.
During the speech she delivered in Manila for the presentation
of her title of Doctor honoris causa, the foundress of
the Focolari spoke of our theologians and of our
doctrine, in referring to the Opus Mariae. What did she
mean? She saw herself in a situation similar to that of St. Francis
of Assisi, who by his own experience of poverty, was at the origin
of a new universal doctrine; or even of St. Thomas Aquinas, who
before being recognized as Doctor Communis, was the theologian
of his particular Order. Similarly, Chiara Lubich esteems that
her theology and her particular experience at the bosom of the
Focolari must prepare the integration of the charism on
unity in the entire Church.
of unity furnishes us with the conditions required to create a
great theology of Jesus [which, evidently, did not exist up to
this day! Ed], not a theology of Jesus of a thousand years ago
but of this Jesus living today in His Church.
presence of the little word “today” is always very revealing
and disturbing, in this kind of discourse. For, Christus heri,
hodie et in saecula, Christ is always the same. To put a
contrast between the historical Jesus and the one who lives today
in the Church is illegitimate. The famous words of G. K. Chesterton
come to mind: “The Church alone preserves us from the humiliating
slavery to be a child of our time.”
in an exemplary and living manner, the Focolari movement
pretends to demonstrate to us that unity has been made possible,
and that it incarnates the first step – but it may already be
the second! – on the way which leads to the Church of the future.