Focolare Elects New President

Succeeds Late Founder, Chiara Lubich

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic lay Focolare movement elected a new president, the first after the death of its founder in March.



Maria Voce, 70, was elected Monday at the movement's general assembly. She succeeds the founder, Chiara Lubich, with whom she was a close collaborator. Voce has lived within the Focolare community for 44 years and she has recently been involved in updating the movement's statutes.

The Italian brings years of experience in the charism's work toward unity, most notably 10 years living in Turkey, where she worked closely with the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople between 1978 and 1988, as well as with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, and with leaders of other Christian communities and with the Muslim world.

The statutes of Focolare stipulate that the president of the movement be a lay woman, to guarantee the group's Marian profile and the movement’s predominantly lay nature.

A co-president -- a Focolare priest -- is also stipulated by the statues. Father Giancarlo Faletti was elected to the position today.

"After Chiara Lubich’s demise last March14th, the election of Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti, marks a new milestone of the movement’s story, because it heralds in a period of transition from Chiara and the first Focolarini, who started the movement and who have always been at its helm up to now," a statement from the movement's Web site explained. "The new president’s first words were first and foremost of thanks to them, for the trust with which this transition has been accompanied. She said that she ‘is sure to find them as her first collaborators.’"

Focolare informed that the results of the election were immediately communicated to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In giving the official confirmation of those elected, he expressed the wish that Voce and Father Faletti “may carry out in a fruitful manner their tasks in absolute fidelity to the charism received from Chiara Lubich […] in following the ideal of unity, which is the ardent desire expressed by Jesus, and the primary goal of the movement."