Chiara Lubich, the 88-year-old founder of the Focolare movement, died March 14 in her room at the Focolare headquarters in Rocca di Papa, about 30 km south of Rome in the hills near Castel Gondolfo.
From an CNS story by Cindy Wooden:
The Focolare movement...began in the 1940s with Lubich and a small group of female friends...As World War II raged around them, they began asking themselves, "Is there an ideal that does not die, that no bomb can destroy, an ideal we can give our whole selves to? Yes, there is. It is God," she wrote.
"We tried to put into practice the sentences of the Gospel, one at a time," Lubich said.
Gradually, the women decided to form a community and share everything they had with each other and with the poor. They sought a sense of family gathered around a hearth -- "focolare" in Italian.
Many of the early Gospel readings and discussions were held in bomb shelters. More and more, the group began to focus on Christ's commandment to love one's neighbor and his prayer that all would be one. The community grew, men became involved, other houses were formed and families started joining, too
The movement now counts more than 2 million adherents in 182 countries. it opened an ecumenical chapter in 1961 and began forging ties with Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others in the 1970s.
Lubich was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1977 and the UNESCO Peace Education Prize in 1996.
Today we traveled to Rocca di Papa and joined the thousands of people who were gathering to pay their last respects. Vincenzo was part of Focolare when he lived in Sicily, and some of his friends drove ten hours each way to be present and honor the life of this great woman. One of his friends said that he had to come from Sicily because Chiara Lubich was like his mother. Tomorrow, our good friend Maria, from Catania, is flying in to attend the funeral with Vincenzo on Tuesday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. (Vincenzo and Maria meet each other through Focolare 20 years ago.)
Everyone was able to be in front of the open casket and say goodbye. As we were leaving the room, I noticed that we were right behind Romano Prodi, the former Prime Minister of Italy.