Joan Patricia Back reviews a new book about Chiara Lubich’s ecumenical journey.
[New City magazine – July 2020, page 17]
‘Unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in journeying; the Holy Spirit does this on the journey’(1). These words of Pope Francis cast light on Chiara Lubich’s ecumenical journey. The charism of unity she received from the Holy Spirit led herself and many other Christians along a path whose road map is the Testament of Jesus ‘That all may be one’ (Jn 17).
In this collection of Chiara’s talks and replies to questions – spanning nearly 50 years of the ecumenical movement – we can relive her journey, guided by Christians of different Churches, belonging to the Focolare Movement who knew her personally. The recurring themes of the Word lived, mutual love, the presence of Jesus in our midst, Jesus forsaken as the key to unity, are all offered alongside their convincing testimonies. Their presentations highlight the ecumenical dimension of Focolare’s spirituality whose fulcrum, as Card Koch underlined in his presentation, is unity.
Chiara’s ecumenical journey was global. Her encounters with Christians and dialogue with leaders of many different Churches took her to the five continents.
There is a wealth of material emerging in this centenary year, offering ecumenical theologians many insights. This book indeed fills a gap with unpublished talks and conversations, and hopefully is a harbinger of many volumes to come! In the meantime, in this book we can continue to discover Chiara’s ecumenical thought through five keynote speeches.
It is a versatile book, which lends itself to meditation, study, besides being a vademecum for ecumenical dialogue. Therefore, we too can join in this journey along the path towards unity, together with the many others who have walked with Chiara. Among these is Olaf Fykse Tveit now a Lutheran Bishop in Norway, former secretary general of the World Council of Churches. In his epilogue we read ‘It might well be that it was under influence of Chiara and her charism for Christian unity that the World Council of Churches was inspired to choose as the theme for the eleventh WCC assembly in 2021 in Karlsruhe: “Christ’s love moves us to reconciliation and unity.”’
Hopefully this book will inspire us to reflect and write our own ecumenical journey along the Emmaus road to unity!
I remember when I was in London, I had 1200 people in front of me belonging to many different Churches, but we all lived in this way: God-Love, loving him, loving one another, having Christ in our midst, overcoming difficulties and traumas with love for him crucified and forsaken. And we felt that we were one people. An Anglican was sitting beside me, and I said: ‘Who will ever separate us from charity with this person who lives the same way of life I am living?’ No one will ever be able to take away from us Christ in our midst. So it will be the living out of another dialogue in addition to the other ones, a dialogue that is more than ever urgent and opportune given that, as history shows, little can be achieved in the ecumenical field without involving the people themselves. (pp.92-93)
(1) Pope Francis Homily at the Celebration of Vespers, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, 25 January 2014