Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has joined worldwide tributes paid to Chiara Lubich, founder of the religious and humanitarian Focolare Movement, whose death was announced on Friday 14 March 2008.
Focolare is an international organization promoting human unity through engaged spirituality. Founded 1943 in Trento, northern Italy, by Ms Lubich, the primarily Catholic movement has strong links to the major Christian denominations, other faiths and the non-religious too. It has 5 million members in 182 nations. The name comes from the Italian word for “hearth” or “family fireside".
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Dr Williams said that she had affected the lives of many Christians: "Chiara Lubich was one of the great figures of the modern Church, she set a new tone and a new agenda for the community life of many Christians. Her writings and teachings gave inspiration to hundreds of thousands and we lament her passing with very deep feeling."
Dr Williams added: "She was someone I had the privilege of meeting and I've had very fruitful contact over many years with the Focolare Movement who have been kind and supportive and inspirational to me in my own ministry. My heart goes out to them as they mourn Chiara's passing. I think we have seen in her one of the great lights of the present Christian generation."
The Rev Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the WCC said: "The many friends of Chiara Lubich in the World Council of Churches received with deep sorrow the news of her death at her home in Rocca di Papa. Only a few weeks ago, I met her there, once again impressed by her tremendous spiritual strength despite her physical weakness."
He continued: "A flame of love that began to shine in the midst of the ashes and destruction of the war in 1943 in Trento, Chiara Lubich's charisma gave birth to the Focolare movement that spread within her life-time to all regions of the world. Focusing on the spirituality of unity, Chiara Lubich had a profound impact on the ecumenical movement and helped significantly to foster viable relationships between churches of different Christian traditions."
Concluded the WCC chief: "She challenged the Focolare movement and all of us to give credible witness to the presence of Christ also in the spheres of economy and politics. She also became more and more convinced that inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in full respect for the religious convictions of the other are necessary expressions of Christian love."