Trento, Chiara Lubich’s birthplace, will soon host a conference dedicated to the value of the Focolare founder’s texts, both spoken and written, from a linguistic and literary point of view. The event, which takes place in the Centenary of Lubich’s birth, is coordinated by an international study and research group and can be followed via web.

Not only words, but treasure chests capable of offering new understandings of Chiara Lubich’s charism. The analysis of the language of the founder of the Focolare Movement, in her spoken and written texts, has for some years now been at the centre of the work of an international study and research group on Linguistics, Philology and Literature which is part of the Abbá School of the Focolare Movement. The Group, together with the Chiara Lubich Centre, is one of the promoters of the conference to be held in Trento from September 24th – 27th 2020 entitled “Chiara Lubich in dialogue with the world. A linguistic, philological and literary approach to her writings“. We talk about it with the coordinator, Anna Maria Rossi, linguist, teacher, collaborator of the Chiara Lubich Centre, one of the curators of the exhibition “Chiara Lubich City World” at the Gallerie of Trento (Italy).

Why choose for this conference a title that emphasises Lubich’s being “in dialogue with the world”?

It is a choice born spontaneously from the experience of dialogue between the scholars of the research group that is promoting the conference. They express very different disciplines, ages, cultural, geographical and social backgrounds. Drawing on Chiara Lubich’s message and witness in our life and work, we experience the richness and fruitfulness of dialogue, openness to others and the appreciation of diversity. In this regard, Chiara’s talks and writings are a very precious source that deserves careful study. It also seems to us that in the context in which we live today, in a world that is increasingly connected but sometimes struggles to find words that are able to build a fabric of true relationships, the theme of all-round dialogue is particularly topical.

The themes that will be addressed in the conference are varied, touching on different areas and will be explored in depth by scholars from various parts of the world.  What do you think are the most original and innovative contributions that this conference will bring to the understanding of Chiara Lubich’s thought and charism?

The writings of authors that we can consider masters of the spirit, such as the mystics, especially contemporary ones, are often seen only as texts of spiritual edification. In reality they are works of great literary value, testimonies of a living, creative, courageous language. They are writings that deserve to be studied and made accessible to a varied public, not necessarily religious, but one that lets itself be touched by beauty and values. Chiara’s words, spoken or written, her texts and talks are the expression of a very strong ability to relate to the other and to give her thoughts and inspirations in a simple, comprehensible and at the same time effective literary way.

Furthermore, the most recent studies in the linguistic field highlight how not only reality constructs   language, but also language, the words we use, constructs reality. It is not difficult to see this also in everyday life: hateful, exclusionary, offensive words are able to create a closed, violent, aggressive society. Chiara has always used a language capable of building bridges, of opening new understandings, of reaching every person, every people. It is not for nothing that her writings are translated into the most varied languages, this also a sign of thought and word capable of embracing the whole world.

Is this the first time you have held a conference of this kind?

No, this event is intended to be a follow on from a conference held in Castel Gandolfo (Italy) in 2015, whose title, inspired by an expression by Chiara Lubich, was: “saying is giving”. The word understood as ‘gift’ and the main builder of relationships stimulated the reflections of researchers from various fields in the humanities, which are now collected in the publication edited by Città Nuova “Il dire è dare. La parola come dono e relazione nel pensiero di Chiara Lubich”. (Saying is giving. The word as gift and relationship in the thought of Chiara Lubich)

Five years on, we have decided to follow up this initiative, to present further studies in the linguistic and literary field, based on her texts, her thought and her charism.

This meeting was to be held in April 2020 as part of the events for the Centenary of Chiara Lubich’s birth, but was cancelled due to the lockdown. Can you tell us how it will take place now?

In the aftermath of the pandemic, we have suspended all our public activities, without losing hope of carrying out the event in the year of Chiara’s Centenary, albeit in a different way. In fact, now – thanks to the new methods of communication – we find ourselves in a situation which, paradoxically, favours a wider participation. In agreement with the Fondazione del Museo Storico del Trentino, which is hosting the event at the Gallerie di Trento, we can safely welcome around fifty people there. However, it will be possible to follow the conference through a zoom link, requesting the link to the Organizing Secretariat (studi_linguistici@centrochiaralubich.org) In this way people from various parts of the world will participate: we have already received registrations from Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Taiwan. The presentations will be translated simultaneously in Portuguese and English. We hope that it will be truly an opportunity for a “dialogue with the world”.

Compiled by Anna Lisa Innocenti