Chiara Lubich's Official Biography Presented
Timeliness of Her Message Recalled
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Intervening in the presentation of the Italian-language book "PortarTi il Mondo fra le Braccia" [To Take the World in Your Arms], were Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, and Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The speakers included Eli Folonari, one of Lubich's first companions, and Armando Torno, journalist and author of the book. The presentation was moderated by Italian journalist Piero Damosso.
Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) was the founder of the Focolare Movement, present today in 182 countries. She received several international prizes and honorary citizenships and wrote 59 works, which were translated into more than 20 languages.
Lubich proposed dialogue "as the privileged way to promote the unity of the Church among religions, with the non-religious, without syncretism and faithful to one's own identity."
Riccardi affirmed that "the book bears Chiara's authentic seal."
He added that "at a time like ours, of grey men who do not want to be disturbed by great personalities" there is the risk that Chiara's figure might "be forgotten or minimized" although she generated a movement that "is alive and that is a history of collective sanctity."
Hence, Riccardi said, "to remember her means to evoke her vision full of hope."
"Beyond affection," he added, "we must be committed to her historical memory, to recount it, to understand it in the context of her time and of the history of the 20th century, because she belongs to the history of all contemporaries."
Riccardi said that he was impressed by "the fragility of this young woman and her monolithic certainty."
"Small but [someone] who did great things, she dreamed and thirsted for unity, with a capacity for friendship even outside her movement, and always very concrete," he noted.
Riccardi continued: "This current of unity went beyond the Iron Curtain. The Czechs, the Poles, and Karol Wojtyla understood what this current of unity meant.
"Let us say, hers was a hand stretched out over the holes of the present and the future of Eastern Europe."
He stated that "with her creative genius she succeeded in putting bridges over the abysses and passages over walls, always with gentleness, with a smile but with great firmness."
Riccardi indicated that "Chiara is a unitive figure; she has a role in the contemporary history of the Church, because she is a Christian but also humanist figure, with her own thought."
"Moreover," he noted, "she had a political function without engaging in politics, a function for non-Christians and non-believers."
Recalling Athenagoras, the previous patriarch of Constantinople, Riccardi asserted, "If they had listened to Chiara we would be much, but very much ahead."
She "understood the role of ecumenism, because she succeeded in entering the heart of the patriarch," he observed.
Riccardi added that when the Berlin Wall fell, she believed in the possibility of a "united world, almost one family" penetrated by the thought that "whoever works for the Gospel works for humanity."
"At this time when we are frightened," he continued, "we have the invasions of those who are different, thirsty for security and borders, Chiara returns telling us that she is not afraid of a big world, that the key to not be afraid is to love."
"And she teaches us that love is the true defense, and as Dom Santoro said who was murdered in Turkey, love generates love," Riccardi said.
He noted that there is another aspect of the mystic Chiara, and she revealed it to her own: "Work hard if you want to be saints. If you don't go to bed tired your day was in vain."
"Today we see the fruit of these currents of unity sown by Chiara and her movement," concluded Riccardi. "Her message and her presence seem more timely than yesterday. Because this world of globalization does not attain unity."
"Chiara: even those who knew her well have yet to discover her," he stated.
Armando Torno, author of the book, said: "This volume was written by someone who never knew Chiara; in reality I'm not the author, but I gathered many stories and testimonies."
"It's not easy to enclose them in a biography," he added.
The method, the author explained, "was very simple: a recollection of sure testimonies of persons who lived with Chiara."
The journalist noted, "Chiara unblocks love, puts in crisis the economic theories, the ecumenical speeches, politicians; she gives answers to the problems of today, which society does not succeed in resolving."
He pointed out that Chiara's was a revolution of love, of the "love of a mystic lived with great normality," who created an organization with great simplicity, which does not have a pre-established plan other than the Gospel.
Torno added that she "is a figure that bewilders, flees, embraces, returns, whispers, prays and helps."
"I am a mathematician and a mathematician wants accounts to close," he said. "Everything coincided but at the same time everything was up for discussion," except "the point of departure: the Gospel."
Torno noted that this book is only a portion of what will eventually emerge, expressing certainty that there are other documents and testimonies to be discovered, making this biography only a point of departure.
He affirmed that Chiara "is not teaching but giving witness of a conquering Christianity" and while "others open their arms in a sign of patience, she opened her arms to receive."
Torno concluded: "I cannot say that Chiara is a saint, a mystic or anything else. It is not up to me to say it although I have a suspicion: that she was all of these."