Thousands pack Rome Basilica, pay last respects to Focolare founder

26 Mar 2008

By The Record

ROME (CNS) – Thousands of people from dozens of nations, a variety of Christian denominations and several other religious traditions packed into Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to pay their final respects to Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement.

Chiara Lubich with John Paul II

In a message read at her March 18 funeral, Pope Benedict XVI told the mourners: “Many are the reasons for giving thanks to the Lord for the gift he gave the Church in this woman of fearless faith.”
The congregation’s thanks was expressed with loud, sustained applause that accompanied the measured pace of the six men carrying her coffin on their shoulders from the basilica’s entrance to a carpet at the foot of the altar.
Lubich, 88, died on March 14. The Focolare movement, which she founded in the 1940s, now involves more than 2 million people in 182 countries.
Pope Benedict called her “a messenger of hope and peace, founder of a vast spiritual family that embraces multiple fields of evangelisation,” from spirituality for families to a project that encourages business owners to embrace an “economy of communion” or sharing.
The Pope said he wanted to thank God “especially for the service Chiara gave to the church: a silent and incisive service, always in harmony with the magisterium of the Church.”
She always was guided by the thinking of the popes, he said. “In fact, looking at the initiatives she undertook, one even could say that she almost had the prophetic ability to intuit and put it into action ahead of time,” he added.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, presided over the funeral Mass, which was preceded by statements of thanks and praise from Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran representatives as well as from the Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim communities with whom Lubich was in dialogue.
In his homily, Cardinal Bertone said that with her death “Chiara will meet the one whom she loved without seeing and, full of joy, can exclaim, ‘Yes, my Redeemer lives’.”
“The life of Chiara Lubich is a love song to God, to the God who is love,” he said.
Rather than creating institutions, he said, “she dedicated herself to lighting the fire of the love of God in hearts,” helping people find ways to share God’s love with others through a spirituality focused on unity.