“The picture shows Chiara Lubich in a familiar pose. She is speaking into a microphone to a listening and attentive audience … as in thousands of other shots, her sober and well-groomed attire, her lively and penetrating gaze and her open smile illustrate how the face is always the portrait of the soul, and the eyes its interpreter …” These are a few lines from the introduction to a biography written about Chiara Lubich who became one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century. The author, Maurizio Gentilini, is a historian who hails from Trent, Northern Italy. The book documents the historic and cultural context that gave rise to this prophetic voice of unity, so deeply relevant to our times as we grapple with global relationships and interconnectedness, in our effort to overcome a worldwide health crisis which has revealed that we have to rethink the way we have related to one another up to now.
“I dream of a united world, in the variety of all peoples.” These words from Chiara Lubich’s diary sum up her life message. Born on 22 January 1920, her extraordinary adventure spanning 88 years continues to touch the lives of millions of people of all faiths and cultures all over the world.
Chiara Lubich had visited India twice, and had deep connections with our country for which she had great love and admiration. On her birth centenary an exhibition was to take place in Mumbai to celebrate this bond, but due to Covid-19 plans changed. The exhibition became virtual, and can still be viewed online directly from Chiara’s birthplace in Italy (available until March 2021 on https://mostre.legallerietrento.it/chiaralubich/intro-en). On 10 December 2020, Dr Maurizio Gentilini, who is also curator of this exhibition, was present through a live connection at a webinar hosted on the YouTube channel of the Italian Cultural Centre in Mumbai for the book launch of the English translation of the biography he authored, Chiara Lubich – Prophet of Unity, printed at St Pauls Press, Mumbai.
The Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, Ms Stefania Costanza, interviewed him as well as Dr Kezevino Aram, president of the Gandhian Shanti Ashram of Coimbatore, who was a personal friend of Chiara Lubich and the members of the Focolare Movement which she founded and is now present in over 182 countries.
This webinar showed how the determination of one woman who chose to follow her inner inspiration and call for universal brotherhood keeps transforming the lives of countless people today. The Teenager Today had featured some articles about the beginnings of the Focolare during and after the Second World War, and its subsequent growth in numerous cultural, economic and social fields worldwide.
As a renowned historian, Dr Gentilini managed to give a vivid and comprehensive introduction to the general context of the birth of this unique experience, helping his readers to understand some of the influences and challenges that formed Chiara Lubich’s thinking and direction. “The book shows how Chiara has spoken directly and prophetically to a world facing new and immense challenges. “Her charism was capable of penetrating cultural and religious dimensions which were different from her own, of relating to spiritual and political leaders on equal terms, of authoritatively presenting her convictions in international assemblies and of cultivating relationships within all environments,” he said.
From Prophet of Unity, a female figure emerges who perceived the signs of the times and expressed them through her thoughts, actions, publications and works, giving rise in a relatively short time to a Movement spread throughout the world. With moderation and simplicity, the book illustrates the captivating succession of light and shadows in Chiara Lubich’s life as she faced numerous challenges, called as she was to mark an era and to leave an imprint on all humanity. The book also tells the story of a nineteen-year-old girl who took Infinite love as a bearing for her life and action, opening unimaginable new ways in dialogue among people of different faiths, nations and cultures. The book shows that Chiara Lubich’s life was about dialogue based on practical things, sharing what different people have in common, without masking the differences. It is based on the desire to listen, to enrich each other and to accept unity in diversity, and which expressed itself in mutual trust, esteem, understanding and acceptance.
The Consul of Italy, Ms Costanza said that she is very inspired by Chiara Lubich’s works, as the author uses words which show action: walking together, working, talking, helping, active listening, etc. She said this shows that even today Chiara Lubich tells us that we actually have to do something: hers is a call for action.
Dr Kezevino Aram shared many insights into the charismatic figure of Chiara, describing her as a visionary who was ahead of her time. She said that her message is of great relevance today, as it invites all to be of service to society through a spirituality or an inner conviction, without excluding those without faith. She related many of Ms Lubich’s connections with India, and how she admired the peaceful coexistence of so many diverse beliefs in our land. Dr Aram said she was inspired by the way Chiara felt deep within the call to interiority but also saw the needs of the people around her and acted to assist them. She also said that Chiara’s gift is a shared gift for people all over the world, of all times, as she told everyone with her own life that unity is possible, and that like Chiara Lubich we have to search for what we have in common with others, and to sustain our efforts to build bridges. Whether we live in a time of crisis or in time of peace, we still have to speak of the prophetic call for unity, to see the other in oneself.
Urged deeply within to communicate her new discoveries to as many people as possible, Chiara Lubich’s message reached the ends of the earth, and even now leads many to recognize the common good as the guiding principle for their action, an antidote against the populism that is raging today. It is a way of thinking that sets people internally free, capable of overcoming every division, bringing true joy when one lives as a gift of selfless love to others, knowing that those around are in turn a gift for you.