By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged bishops who are friends of the Focolare Movement to help realize God’s “dream” of reconciling and harmonizing everything and everyone in Christ, being “always open, never exclusive”.
“This is also the ‘dream’ of fraternity, to which I dedicated the Encyclical, Fratelli tutti,” the Pope told some 15 bishop friends of the Focolare Movement.
Some 170 Bishops from 44 countries of the world, belonging to 70 Churches and ecclesial communities, gathered at the Focolare International Mariapolis Center in Castel Gandolfo, just outside Rome, for a meeting September 24-25, on the theme, “Dare to be one. The courage of unity in a divided world”.
The Focolare Movement, officially known as the Work of Mary, was founded by the charismatic Italian laywoman Chiara Lubich during the Second World War in 1943 in Trent.
Approved by the Catholic Church in 1962, the Movement aims at spreading the message of unity worldwide. Inspired by Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). Its goal is to promote fraternity and to achieve a more united world in which people respect and value diversity.
Bishops’ service to unity
Receiving the bishops in the Vatican, Pope Francis shared a reflection on the theme of their meeting – “Dare to be one. The courage of unity in a divided world”.
He pointed out that in the spirit of the charism of its foundress, Chiara Lubich, the Movement has always cultivated “unity among all believers, unity in the whole world, ‘in concentric circles’”. This, he said, echoes the definition of the Church by the Second Vatican Council: “the sacrament, that is, the sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Const. Lumen Gentium, 1) .
Amid the “lacerations and destruction” of the Second World War, the Pope said, the Holy Spirit “placed a seed of fraternity, of communion in the young heart of Chiara in Trent, which developed and grew, “attracting men and women of every language and nation with the power of God’s love, which creates unity without nullifying diversity, rather, enhancing and harmonizing them.”
Pope Francis said that there is a “kinship” between this charism and the ministry of bishops, who are called to build the people of God in the unity of faith, hope and charity.
Recalling the inspiration of the Focolare Movement, “That they may all be one”, the Holy Father said that the Pope and bishops should be at the service not of external unity or “uniformity”, but of the mystery of communion which is the Church in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, the Church as a living Body, “as a people on a journey in history and in the same time beyond history”.
God’s “dream” of harmony
Witnessing to Christ, the Light of the nations, so that He may attract everyone to Himself, the Pope said, is God’s “dream” and plan to reconcile and harmonize everything and everyone in Christ.
This is also the “dream” of fraternity to which the Pope said he dedicated his encyclical Fratelli tutti.
Amid the “shadows of a closed world”, where many dreams of unity “are shattered”, where “a project for all” is missing and globalization navigates “without a common route”, where the scourge of the pandemic risks exasperating inequalities, Pope Francis said, the Spirit calls us to “Dare to be one. The courage of unity in a divided world”.
In this regard, the Holy Father thought of the many witnesses of our times, pastors and lay people, who “dared to be one”, paying a very high price. The unity that Christ gives us, he explained, obeys a “fundamental criterion, which is respect for the person, respect for the face of the other, especially the poor, the little one, the excluded.”
The Focolare Movement is active in 182 nations and more than 2 million people share closely in its life and work. Members of the Movement include Christians of different Churches and ecclesial communities, members of the major world religions, and people with no particular religious affiliation.