“It’s good for Bishops too always to go back to the school of the Holy Spirit”. This encouragement from Pope Francis on 8 February opened the international conference “A Charism at the service of the Church and humanity” in Trento. 5 Cardinals and 123 Catholic bishops, friends of the Focolare Movement, took part, representing 50 countries. In this centenary year of Chiara Lubich’s birth, the meeting explored the significance and contribution of the Focolare charism of unity at the service of the Church and of humanity.
The Pope’s full message to the conference was read by Cardinal Francis X. Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Archbishop of Bangkok; who was also part of the delegation of conference participants that had an audience with Pope Francis on 6th February.
Also Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement, sent a video message in which she underlined the fact that in an era in which “we know that there are challenges for the Church all over the world, we are called to a new inculturation of the Gospel of Jesus. An inculturation which treasures the experience of the past but knows how to express it anew, prophetically, in our times. For this reason we must also open up and discover the power for renewal inherent in many of the new charisms present in the Church today.”
The program continued with an afternoon visit to the “Chiara Lubich city world” exhibition in the Galleria Bianca of Piedicastello, in Trento. The bishops then attended a performance of “From the Tridentine Council to Tridentine Chiara”, a special artistic event at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
On Sunday 9 February they were welcomed by the Archbishop of Trento most rev Lauro Tisi to the city’s Cathedral to celebrate the 10am Mass, presided by Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij. "Our community welcomes you with joy, while remembering this daughter of ours, Chiara Lubich - said most rev. Lauro Tisi -. The Holy Spirit entrusted her with the charism of unity, inspiring her with the extraordinary adventure of taking it to the very ends of the Earth. The archbishop of Trento, Carlo De Ferrari, was an inspired father to Chiara in this admirable mission, and acknowledge "the finger of God" in her intuition". "This Cathedral - he continued - guards the large crucifix, with a deep and moving look, which watched over the Fathers of the tridentine Council. I like to think that this image, so dear to the trentine people, contributed to give rise to the encounter with Jesus Abandoned in Chiara".
In his homily, the Cardinal urged everybody to be "the salt of the Earth and the light of the world". "A little salt is enough to give flavour to our food - he said. - This salt, which gives flavour to our lives and protects human coexistence against many evils, is the Gospel lived Sine glossa, in its simplicity and radicality".
"This city of Trento - he continued - is a privileged testimony of this: when Chiara and her companions, under the bombs of the Second World War, started reading the Gospel and putting it into practice, their life took a different flavour, and so did that of countless other people afterwards. So did mine, in far Thailand".
The Cardonal also recalled Chiara Lubich's visit in Thailand in 1997 and her meeting with the buddhist monks, when the Great Master presented her as a person who was there "to give us the light she has found".
Afetr the mass, the bishops moved to the Palace of the Province and met the local authorities - the president of the Provincial Council, Walter Kaswalder; the vice president of the Provincial Government, Mario Tonina; and the mayor of Trento, Alessandro Andreatta. They all recalled the importance and relevance of Chiara Lubich's charism for the present times, and how it is deeply rooted in Trentino; and underlined how the presence of such a large number of bishops in Trento, which was the seat of the Council, contributes to fulfil its vocation of "city of encounter" of peoples and culters, as stated in its statute.
Cardinal Kovithavanij noted that Trentino is a land which "Chiara taught us to love all over the world"; and, speaking about how the commitment to foster dialogue which the bishops have taken up is crucial also in politics, ensured to the local authorities "our memories and our prayers so that this land, which is historically and geographically located between two cultures, can contribute to its vocation of a border which works towards unity".
From 10-12 February, the conference moves to Loppiano, near Florence, Italy, the little town of the Focolare Movement.