Milan (AsiaNews) - The life of Chiara Lubich was without a doubt a "divine adventure". It began as the unconditional response of a young Christian woman to the infinite Love that she had seen even amid the horrors of the last Great War, in the precarious air raid shelters in Trent.
Contemplating the unmatchable model of this total donation, Jesus crucified and abandoned, Chiara had discovered that, in spite of the apparent contradictions, it is the Love of God that builds human history through our free response of love. Her dedication on behalf of the most abandoned was the logical expression of this love and response, and she had felt the need to cry it aloud to all, with her life first and then with her words. She did not have plans of her own, but instead looked to the "score" written in heaven. And God opened the world to her.
Almost 60 years have gone by since I had the privilege of encountering this exceptional experience in Rome. As a young missionary priest, I was immediately struck by the contagious enthusiasm of those who, according to the ideal of Chiara, had found the full realisation of their Christian calling. As I left for Hong Kong a short time later, Chiara assured me that this mission was also hers.
After just a few years the movement also arrived in Asia, in the Philippines and Hong Kong. And she herself personally followed the growth of these seedlings of new Christian life through a number of visits.
The developments of the Work of Mary were one of the most significant expressions of the breath of renewal brought into the Church through Vatican Council II. The power of this impulse appeared in all its splendour with the experience of the hospital centre built by the members of Focolare in Fontem, in Cameroon, which gave new life to tribes heading toward extinction. And from this experience, under the guidance of Chiara, there emerged a new wave of missionary proclamation, starting from the foundation, from contagious mutual love.
In the more than 180 countries where the movement started by Chiara Lubich is present today, there are more than two million people actively involved. These are people at work not only on behalf of the Catholic Church, because the universal vocation is also constantly alive, which Chiara drew from the Gospel from the very beginning. It is significant that there are more than 350 non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities that have welcomed and are living this evangelical experience.
And it is even more significant that Chiara was invited to share her Christian ideal in the most distinguished assemblies of the Jewish world, and also among the Muslims, the Buddhists, and the Hindus. So much so that today there are about 30,000 members of non-Christian religions who do not hesitate to identify themselves with the human and ethical ideas proposed by the Work of Mary (the official name of the Focolare movement).
My missionary vocation was strengthened by the experience of the Focolare. And there are not a few of my fellow religious, working in Asia and on other continents today, whose vocation was born from or reinforced by their contact and example.
The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, which was founded with a special vocation for evangelisation in Asia and Oceania, this year commemorates the 150th anniversary of its arrival on Chinese soil, in Hong Kong. I think that there is a good sign in the love that Chiara always expressed for China, which she referred to as the "Promised Land". She repeated to me a number of times her conviction that God has great plans for the Chinese people. May her intercession now hasten the realisation of these plans.