Pontiff Mourns Death of Focolare Founder

Chiara Lubich Dies at Age 88

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed his condolences at the death of the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich, who died today at age 88.

The Pope sent a telegram to Father Oreste Basso, co-president of the movement, saying that it was "with deep emotion" that he learned of the news of the "pious death" of Lubich, "which came at the end of a long and fruitful life marked by her tireless love for the abandoned Jesus."

"At this moment of painful separation I remain affectionately and spiritually close to her relatives and to the entire Work of Mary -- the Focolare Movement that began with her -- and to those who appreciated her constant commitment for communion in the Church, for ecumenical dialogue and for fraternity among all peoples," the Holy Father added.

"I thank the Lord for the witness of her life, spent in listening to the needs of modern man in complete faithfulness to the Church and to the Pope," he said. "And, as I commend her soul to divine goodness that she may be welcomed in the bosom of the Father, I hope that those who knew and met her, admiring the wonders that God achieved through her missionary ardor, may follow her footsteps and keep her charism alive.

"With such sentiments, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary and willingly impart my apostolic blessing to everyone."

According to the Focolare Web site, the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will preside over a funeral Mass on Tuesday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Lubich founded the Focolare Movement in the 1940s, discovering her call to foster unity amid the horrors of World War II. The group is now present in some 180 countries and includes members of various creeds, all dedicated to the spirituality of unity.