Spirituality of Unity
Dr Chiara Lubich, the founder and president of the Focolare movement for spiritual and social renewal, visited the World Council of Churches (WCC) on October 28 for worship and discussions on the "spirituality for unity" in all areas of life and humanity. After a rich exchange, Dr Lubich and Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary, issued a joint reflection on the theme to emphasize the "renewed hope for our common ecumenical journey".
The full text of the joint message issued on 28 October 2002 follows:
We write with deep gratitude for the new confidence that has sprung up in our hearts today at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, whose task it is to work towards Christian unity.
Our meetings and conversations here have opened new horizons for us, and allow us to look to the future with greater serenity.
The conference at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, the worship service at St Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva, and today’s meeting together constitute an important event in which the participants - bishops of various churches attending an ecumenical meeting near Geneva, representatives of the Focolare movement and staff of the World Council of Churches - shared prayers, thoughts and experiences that inspire us and our churches to live more deeply our common calling and goal.
We are very aware of how, for decades, WCC member churches have untiringly dedicated themselves to a strenuous search for unity, and we value their achievements. We are also conscious of recent difficulties which have led people to speak of stagnation, or a winter period, in ecumenism.
Both of these realities were present in our hearts throughout the day. We believe that, with the Lord’s help and through a spirituality to be lived that we can call a "spirituality of unity" leading to conversion of the heart, we have found renewed hope for our common ecumenical journey.
As churches come together to manifest a sincerely sought unity, attitudes towards God and to each other must be changed. They are called to metanoia and kenosis as the way to practise genuine penitence and to live authentic humility.
The importance of prayer should not be underestimated.
As we strip ourselves of false securities, finding in God our true and only identity, daring to be open and vulnerable to each other, we will begin to live as pilgrims on a journey. We will discover the God of surprises, who leads us along roads that are new to us. In one another, we will find true companions on the way. This spirituality requires us to empty ourselves as Christ did (Philippians ch 2:7). It leads to the conversion of the heart of individual Christians so that they stand alongside, learn from and are influenced by the spirituality, theology and traditions of others who seek to be faithful to Christ. It is He who helps us to love each others' church as our own - a requisite for visible unity.
It is this spirituality that must pervade our churches as they seek to manifest the prayer of our Lord "that all may be one". Such a spirituality is possible through the Holy Spirit who, in our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, empowers us to live beyond ourselves into the reality of the other.
With these thoughts, hopes and proposals, and through the presence of the Risen One among us, we - lay people, pastors, priests, bishops, church leaders - have experienced in some small measure what it means to be a single Christian People ("Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst" Matt. 18:20). We have lived a "new dialogue" - a dialogue of life, of the people - that needs to be widely promoted. It is a dialogue that complements the theological one and the traditional dialogue of individual churches, and thus contributes to and accelerates the complete fulfilment of Christ’s last testament: "that they all may be one so that the world may believe" (see John 17:21).
With the desire to continue this journey with you, we assure you of our prayers and trust in yours, to the One who can do all things.