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Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement

Tribute by WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia

14 March 2008

God is love.
(1 John 4:8)

The many friends of Chiara Lubich in the World Council of Churches received with deep sorrow the news of her death at her home in Rocca di Papa. Only a few weeks ago, I met her there, once again impressed by her tremendous spiritual strength despite her physical weakness.

A flame of love that began to shine in the midst of the ashes and destruction of the war in 1943 in Trento, Chiara Lubich's charisma gave birth to the Focolare movement that spread within her life-time to all regions of the world. Focusing on the spirituality of unity, Chiara Lubich had a profound impact on the ecumenical movement and helped significantly to foster viable relationships between churches of different Christian traditions.

She challenged the Focolare movement and all of us to give credible witness to the presence of Christ also in the spheres of economy and politics. She also became more and more convinced that inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in full respect for the religious convictions of the other are necessary expressions of Christian love. These impulses found their response in a growing cooperation between the Focolare movement and different programmes of the World Council Churches.

"We can bear witness to the fact that love for Jesus forsaken has won every battle in and outside of ourselves, even the most terrible. But certainly, we had to be totally his, we had to give ourselves to him completely. And it was only love for him that enabled us to build a Work so rich, so variegated, so vast, aimed at the one goal we all know at this point: unity, with all the meanings this divine word implies."

We will always remember these concluding words of a speech, in which Chiara Lubich addressed herself to staff members working in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and to church leaders who were present during her visit to Geneva in October 2002. Chiara Lubich kept a close relationship with the World Council of Churches since her first visit to Geneva in 1967.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom. 8:38)

Nothing has the power to separate Chiara Lubich from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and as much as our sisters and brothers of the Focolare movement will continue to centre on the presence of Jesus Christ in their midst, they will experience the energy of the charisma that Chiara endowed to them.

Our love for Chiara and immense gratitude for the gift of God she has been to the ecumenical movement, will continue to motivate and inspire us in our work for the visible unity of the church.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
WCC general secretary