Assisi 2011: An Interview with Maria Voce
The president of the Focolare Movement was present beside Benedict XVI, with representatives of the Christian Churches, the Jewish world, the faithful of other religions and those without a particular faith. We ask her two questions regarding her opinion on the event.
What are you impressions following the events in Assisi and Rome?
I have a very positive impression. It especially makes me think of John Paul II and Chiara Lubich and their long sightedness in the field of openness and dialogue. They had understood that it was worthwhile to invest in people and infrastructures to develop the topic of dialogue. I refer particularly to organisms that work specifically for this: the various Pontifical Councils (for the Unity of Christians, for Interreligious Dialogue, for Culture, for Justice and Peace, within the Church) and the Centers that are occupied with the various dialogues within the heart of the Movement.
It highlighted how many relationships that have been constructed over the years. To me this seems like a novelty compared to encounters of other years. Each one of us did a lot over the years, even though it could have seemed little compared to the results that have been obtained.
In summary, I think we have reached a point in which there are true relationships of mutual love. There are a few significant facts that everyone noticed. When Patriarch Bartholomew’s book fell to the floor, Rowan Williams, the Primate of the Church of England, reached down to get it; the Pope was often smiling as he glanced first at one then at another. They seem to be small things, but they are gestures that everyone notices, and they give a testimony.
Then there was the presence of people with no religious convictions. This was truly a substantial and important novelty, especially because of the way the Pope presented them as in search of the common truth. He underscored that the truth transcends everyone and no one can claim to possess it completely. It was beautiful the way he presented it.
This was clearly a novelty. Assisi 2011 was not only an encounter in the spirit of fraternity and peace, it was also a moment to elevate our spirits in the search of something that went beyond this.
You were invited together with Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio and Father Julian Carrón, who is guiding the Communion and Liberation Movement. It is quite a noteworthy sign of recognition for the new ecclesial Movements and Communities. How do you see the role of the movements and especially the laity in the field of dialogue?
Many cardinals and bishops have come to thank me for the delicate and discreet relationships that we build with people of different religions. This was, therefore, an acknowledgement of what our movement and the other movements in general do in the field of dialogue. I found much appreciation also for the way in which lay people are able to understand the diverse contexts and concrete situations and traditions of the religions and of the believers. The laity more easily have daily contact with those of other faiths and, therefore, they are acquainted with vital aspects and traditions of these religions. This can also help the institutional Church to move in its relations with the faithful of the other religions. No one can know everything and everyone.
One example: I was having lunch with the Sikh delegation, who were not afraid to tell everyone that they knew the focolare and attended all the events that we promote. And with many others it was the same. The relationships that the movements have established with these religious leaders came out in a very spontaneous way. It seems to me that the hierarchy of the Church is quite happy and grateful.
(November 2, 2011)