A conference on the charismatic figure of Chiara Lubich, who knew how to look to the new millennium with all its epoch-making changes, proposing the ideal of universal fraternity.

An international conference “Beyond the 20th Century. Chiara Lubich in dialogue with our time” marked the official closure of the wide-ranging series of events dedicated to the centenary of the birth of the Focolare Movement’s founder. As the title suggests, the conference studied the charismatic figure of Chiara Lubich from a dynamic perspective on one of the protagonists of the 20th Century who knew how to look to the new millennium with all its momentous changes by proposing the ideal of universal fraternity, never losing the conviction that “unity is a sign of the times”.

The 2-day symposium on 18-19 February at the National Central Library of Rome, Italy, considered the figure of the Focolare Movement’s founder from different points of view. Jointly promoted by the Chiara Lubich Center at Rocca di Papa, Italy and the Central National Library of Rome, the event welcomed the collaboration of Sophia University Institute, the international New Humanity NGO and the Trentino Historic Museum Foundation. The Municipal Council of Rome and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development offered their patronage.

The President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella conferred the prestigious Medaglia di Rappresentanza on the event, in recognition of its cultural value.

The program had four sections: historical, literary, socio-political and the fourth dedicated to other major 20th Century figures in order to analyze possible similarities and convergence with Chiara Lubich’s thought.

Such a variety of perspectives, with contributions from academics of various disciplines, each with their own cultural approach, has permitted a deeper, more mature reflection and understanding of the historic experience itself and of Chiara Lubich’s thought, as well as a greater appreciation of her intellectual, spiritual and existential legacy.

A comparison with other leading figures of the 20th century proved equally illuminating, covering contemporary protogonists such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, Mahatma Gandhi, Giorgio La Pira, Martin Luther King, Michail Gorbaciov. Chiara Lubich may not have met them directly, but she engaged with their writings and thought at a distance, with a shared passion for humanity and its future, revealing ideals and intuitions with evident features in common.

The academic papers prepared by academics from around the world, were introduced by keynote speeches from Michel Angel Moratinos (High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations) and historian Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio. Theologian and spiritual disciple of Chiara Lubich, Piero Coda brought the convention to a close.

Donato Falmi, member of the event’s scientific committee, described their motivations. “The biography of Chiara Lubich in its temporal, spiritual and intellectual dimensions, is notably characterized by some themes which belong at the heart of contemporary life, beyond any ethnic, social or religious difference. Among the most relevant we identify are: a constant attention and openness to what is new, the capacity and disposition to dwell in situations of conflict, searching for what unites, an attitude of measuring events with the metre of the unity of opposites. Such profoundly human dimensions, which can be considered essential parts of the new era we are entering, open up possibilities of referring to others, of encounter and dialogue, which animate the whole project”.

The convention, streamed live online in four languages and now available on Youtube, was also the stage for the launch of the first critical edition of Chiara Lubich’s book Meditazioni, edited by Maria Caterina Atzori. This book was first published in 1959, translated into 28 languages, with over a million copies printed. It indicates to contemporary readers the way of unity towards fulfilling the last testament of Jesus on earth “That all may be one”.

As a fitting finale to the convention, on Monday 22 February the closing ceremony took place of a national educational event “One city is not enough. Chiara Lubich citizen of the world”, dedicated to the world of education, involving many secondary schools across Italy. (The winning schools).

Maurizio Gentilini

Photos by Thomas Klann