THE FOCOLARI MOVEMENT AND ITS INTERNATIONAL RAMIFICATIONS
by: Dr. Regina Hinrichs
This article was written from a conference given by the author to the congress “Theologisches”, at Fulda, in October 1997.
For many years, Dr. Hinrichs has undertaken researches regarding contemporary subversive religious movements. During her works, she was naturally led to put her attention to the powerful organization of the “Focolari” (in italian,hearths, homes) and to its “Charismatic” founder, Chiara Lubich.
The “Focolari” (whose original name is “Opus Mariae”- The Work of Mary) defines itself as a militant movement for unity, open to persons of all convictions. Today, its influence spreads to the whole world. They are very active propagators of ecumenism and inter-religious diaogues. - Le Sel de la Terre, No.25
THE VISIBLE ORGANIZATION OF THE “FOCOLARI”
To make a sound judgement concerning the Focolari Movement, to understand the personality of its founder Chiara Lubich and untangle the interdependence which unite the multiple international ramifications of this movement, it is necessary to take a look at its organization and the extent of its network.
Let us start by some figures. During the ecumenical meeting of Graz,(Austria), in the summer of 1997, Chiara Lubich boasted that there are followers of more than three hundred churches were adhering to her work founded in 1943. According to her own informations, the movement counts more than 90,000 internal members, to which is necessary to add two million symphatizers from more than one-hundred eighty countries. The “Words of Life”, commentaries of the passages of the Holy Scripture composed by Chiara Lubich, have been translated in ninety languages. Twenty-seven publishing houses belong to the “Focolari”.
There are multiple ways to adhere to the movement: in the center members are found who are tied by a formal engagement and live in little communities according to the practice of three vows (poverty, chastity, obedience); then, come the married adherents who equally make vows; finally, the voluntary collaborators who belong to one of the satellite organizations surrounding it.
Thus the movement of volunteers is born, that is the group of laymen without formal engagement, which has given birth to the “Movement for a New Society”. This one, in its turn, has promoted the “International Bureau of Economy and Work (labor) which enjoys a consultative voice at the UN.
We must also mention diverse associations Gen (from the Italian, generations): that of young adults, that of the youth and of the children, who all add to their name this formula: “For a United World”. Let us also notice the male musicians (Gen Rosso) and also the female musicians (Gen Verde), and also the Gen S (seminarians), for the Focolari disposes of their own seminaries for the formation of priests. It is then just that the foundress speaks of “our” theologians and of “our” theology. Later on, we shall come back on this point.
At regular intervals, the various Gen organize feasts. There are also summer meetings called Mariapolis and “general telephonic conferences” of each month. These reunions have for purpose to assure the cohesion at the bosom of this very widespread organism, to stimulate the spiritual life of members and to exchange news from the movement.
We must also mention the “colonies”. Nineteen exist to this day. The first ones are founded in Italy, such as that of Lo Piano installed near Florence since 1964. Others have been added with the passing of years, in Switzerland, in Germany, in Africa, in the United States, in Argentina, and in the Philippines.
Thus, let us recognize it, in almost fifty years, a considerable work has developed and widely spread in the entire world, a work which does not cease to grow and which is supported by numerous diocesan priests, religious, bishops, cardinals, and by the pope himself. As a amtter of fact, to give an idea of the approbation which Pope John Paul II grants to the Focolari: he reserved to them the exclusive use of the audience’s room of Casteldolfo.
THE FOCOLARI: A MOVEMENT FOR THE UNITY OF RELIGIONS
After having briefly described the external structure of the Work of Mary (Opus Mariae, such is the official name of the Focolari), we must examine the foundations of this truly impressing construction. What are the spiritual and religious convictions which form the basis of this organism?
Three evangelical texts - strangely interpreted- are at the origin of the intuition of Chiara Lubich : 1) the prayer of Jesus ut unum sint; 2) the promise of the Lord, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I in the midst of them”. 3) the abandonment of Jesus on the cross expressed when He cried : “My God, My God , why hast Thou forsaken me.”
These three formulas are closely tied between them by the idea of unity. For it is this experience of unity which is at the base of the work of Chiara Lubich. Here are her confidences on this regard: “In a shelter illuminated by a candle, we were reading the Gospel. We felt particularly attracted by the prayer of Jesus Ut unum sint ( St. John 17). We were surprised ourselves, for these words no longer seemed to us difficult to understand; on the contrary, we were having the impression to understand them a little. We were sure: it was the rule, the Magna Carta of our new life.”
Likewise, these explanations taken from the mouth of the foundress: “The Focolari is a little community in the world, Its members do not differ in nothing of this world, they dress and work like others. At the same, this community is something special, for it comprises of people who left the world, their country, their family, their work, in order to put their life at the service of the unity of the world.”
Of which unity does it treat? Upon which does it rest? In a “telephonic conference”, Chiara Lubich defined unity in these words. “ The unity is that which results from the common research of the same luminous truth”
The principle of the religious unity of a group of persons is not therefore the unity of faith which they profess; it is not the revealed truth to which they adhere and all believe in the same manner, but the partaking of a same quest for research.
THE ECUMENICAL EXPERIENCE OF LONDON, ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PRAYER OF JESUS UT UNUM SINT.
Chiara Lubichs own testimony describing what she felt when she received the ‘Templeton Price’, in London, can help us to grasp what she means by unity . (Let’s point out the passage that these words explain why her movement could so easily spread in the whole world.)
“After my speech in London, those who were present and who were followers of different religions seemed to me united. I asked myself, how did it happen? Perhaps the reason was that almost all were believers in God and in that moment He embraced us all? When I left, the first one to approach were the members of other religions. A Tibetan monk told me that he was going to write immediately to the Dalai-lama so that the later put himself in contact with me. Four Jews expressed their joy telling me that at the bottom , the Old testament is the trunk of the tree on which Christianity is grafted. Evidently, they meant to say that the development of our movement came from this same tree. After, came the Hindus, Sikhs and others.”
Chiara Lubich herself interpreted this event as a realization of the prayer of Jesus ut unum sint.
“Even if we adhere to different religions, we become one. Perhaps it was so because all believe in God and that, in this sense, He embraces us all in a moment?”
An amazed catholic will ask: how is it possible that Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs united in this room, all believe in God? In which God? It’s not thinkable that this is the triune God professed by the Christians.
Leaving from this experience of London, the movement of Focolari extended more and more in reversing the “narrow barriers” of diverse confessions, included there those of Christianity as it is visible in the citations which we have just read. Thus, because she had been particularly impressed by the fact that after her speech in London, Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs had approached her, the idea of unity among religions imposed itself to the mind of Chiara Lubich and became the first pillar of her work.
Then the question how to attain this unity conceived as a global unity? This unity, answers Chiara Lubich, takes body and fulfills itself in the measure when we become one with our brothers. “To be one”, “to make ourselves one” is a key expression of the Focolari movement. It signifies to listen, to be interested with the problems of the other person, to agree with, to confirm him in his preferences, to tie up a close relationship with him.
This program: “ To make ourselves one” implies more: from the persons, it extends to religions and to diverse traditions; its field of action is universal. “We must make ours also the different civilizations also so rich, the sometimes traditions, and to make the germ of the Gospel grow” explains Chiara Lubich in a discourse entitled, “The Priest Today,” in which she highlights the idea that the priest today must be, before all, a man of dialogue.
“When two or three are gathered…” Jesus is in their midst.
Unity being the will of God (since Jesus said it in his prayer ut unum sint) from then on the Focolari movement works to accomplish the unity, it does the will of God and works in the name of Jesus.
Consequently, Chiara Lubich believes that she can refer to the word of the Lord: “When two or three are gather in My name, I am present in their midst.” and apply it to her work. She draws from it the following commentary: “This word of Jesus is for the movement ( Focolari) the norm of norms, it is that which has the incontestable priority: the presence of Christ among us. Thus the divine fraternity that Jesus has brought on earth for all humanity is invested of meaning and of life.”
Jesus is in the midst of us, she explains, when we practice reciprocal love which He asks us to practice; it is this love which accomplishes unity. Jesus is then “an enormous help (!) for a very lively ecumenism. With this help, we rediscover the fraternity which facilitates mutual comprehension and which destroys the many centuries of prejudices.
Three erroneous convictions are at the basis of the Focolari movement:
1. Man must, above all, establish peace on earth (in contrast, the First Commandment of the Christian aims at the love of God).
2. Religions are responsible for wars and conflicts (the Church teaches that wars and conflicts come from sin).
3. The unity of religions can bring peace on earth (Our Lord said, on the contrary: “My peace I give you, not as the world gives it”).
From Le Sel de la Terre, No.25
The Cry of Jesus on the cross: an appeal to overcome divisions and to re-unite by dialogue.
These reflections (see part I, July-August, 1998) lead us to the third pillar of the foundation upon which rests the spirituality of the Focolari: the cross, more exactly, the cry of dereliction of Jesus on the cross.
The cry which Our Lord did utter in His agony is interpreted by Chiara Lubich as a cry of anguish because of existing divisions and therefore, as an urgent appeal for reconciliation:
“By Him, by His cry, we are capable to engage ourselves beyond all wounds, of all separations and divisions, to reconstitute the unity of the Church. Thanks to Him, we have acquainted ourselves with numerous churches and confessions, we have grasped their particularities and we have learned to esteem them; we feel like brothers and sisters, united by baptism and reciprocal love.”
In other words, the schisms and separations are due to prejudices, to diversity of mentalities and of cultures. The means which must logically permit to surmount these differences and these separations so sorrowfully felt, is dialogue.
For Chiara Lubich, the remedy to divisions is not therefore in the apostolic mission which obeys to the order of Christ; “Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them (...) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt xxviii, 19-20), that is: announce to them the revealed truth, free them from errors that enchain them. For her, unity does not come from truth: the doctrinal intolerance constitutes on the contrary a seed of insupportable ruptures.
To make unity, the only way then is a dialogue. The inter-confessional dialogue among Christians, but also – since the movement is much wider than the borders of Christianity – the interreligious dialogue.
Chiara Lubich, worthy winner of the Templeton prize
For organizations and societies of thought that encourage this religious dialogue, Chiara Lubich has been occupying for a long time, an imminent place. To be convinced of this, it suffices to consider the abundant international rewards she has received in her life.
|These prizes that she
has received are numerous and reveal the esteem which is given
to her in world religious circles:
- 1977: Templeton Prize
- 1988: the Prize “Feast of Peace” of Augsbourg
- 1996: doctor honoris causa of the Catholic University of Dublin
- 1997: prize of Education for Peace of UNESCO; doctor honoris causa of the
Catholic Universities of Manila, Taipei and of Bangkok.
The Focolari movement has evidently benefitted of the reputation of its founder: its growth, its international recognition and its introduction in organizations which pursue the same ends have been greatly facilitated by it.
The Templeton Prize
Firstly, we must present the Templeton prize instituted in 1972 by Sir John Templeton and awarded each year since 1973. It is the largest prize of the world (more than a million dollars). Among the beneficiaries, we find Mother Teresa, Roger Schutz, Cardinal Suenens, C-F.V. Weizsacker, a Buddhist, a rabbi, a Hindu, and ... Chiara Lubich.
Sir John Templeton instituted his prize to be the religious counterpart of the Nobel prize. The latter has for aim to honor the progress in the natural sciences. Similarly, the Templeton prize encourages the “progress in religion”.
The presentation brochure of the Templeton foundation define clearly the meaning of “progress in religion”: since we note that there exists a progress in all that which pertains to human experience and effort, the same thing must happen in religious matter. Moreover, since in other domains, we witness an always more accelerated progress, it is necessary to expect the same phenomenon in the field of religion: a universe which does not cease to broaden requires a broadening religious conscience, new cultural horizons and new spiritual liberties.
Therefore, the intention for which this prize is given, is clear: it is to reward the work accomplished for the conquest of the liberty of conscience in religious matters and to stimulate the initiatives of the pioneers in this domain. Thus, are judged worthy of interest, no matter from what religion they proceed, all efforts made in order to arrive at a deeper spiritual conscience or at a better understanding of what is the meaning of life, as well as all enterprises inspiring dedication and love or orienting man’s life towards God so that he finds there new creative energies.
The brochure emphasizes that syncretism – the attempt of fusion and reconciliation of diverse religious convictions – must be avoided. The Templeton prize is on the contrary destined to highlight the diversity of religious beliefs and of their expressions. Consequently, tolerance occupies there a very important place. There is no question of truth or error. On the contrary, it is simply a matter to help man to recognize “the infinity of the universal spirit”, the multiplicity of roads by which the Creator reveals Himself to man.
In vain do we look for the mention of a personal God, as the Christian faith requires. On the other hand, a few lines below, the text of the brochure speaks of “the Divine”. This equivocal reference truly appears to be an allusion to the Great Architect of the universe.
A prize well awarded?
Why was Chiara Lubich judged worthy to receive this Templeton prize? What motivated the jury to make this choice?
The brochure of the Templeton Foundation consecrated to Chiara Lubich gives several reasons.
Firstly, the Focolari movement has shown the world that it no longer suffices today to adhere to an instituted church. The theologians of the 1950’s – states this document – were considering the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. At present, theology has made a double progress: we now speak of the “people of God” and we insist on the experience of a personal conversion to Christ. Now, these are the characteristic traits of the Focolari
Another sign of progress (equally present in the Focolari) – continues the brochure – is the new tone given to spirituality: traditionally, it was impersonal and abstract; from now on it nourishes itself from the lived experience of the individual. Our reader, quite surprised, will ask how could a multitude of saints nevertheless grow on such dry ground of the Church of old up to 1950!
Moreover – pursues the publication – the new commandment “love one another” extends indistinctly to all men, and it is what the Focolari practices in opening itself to persons of all convictions. (The word of Pius XII proclaiming the XXth Century, “the Century of the Mystical Body of Christ”, is even quoted at this place as if it designated mutual love between all men of all religions.) If then we practice this commandment in this spirit, our comportment will give birth to a mutual respect among states and peoples, will provoke a diminution of fear among men and the abolition of all their frontiers.
Finally, the text notes that Chiara Lubich and all her works are efficiently militant in the church at the service of ecumenism.
The ‘qualities’ underlined in these lines are for the least ambiguous. In fact, they are those claimed by the tendencies and the changes which brought the revolution in the Church. Consequently, we must ask ourselves: does Chiara Lubich truly possess these ‘qualities’; did she merit this strange prize or have we misunderstood and misinterpreted her person and her intentions? To answer, let us bring ourselves back directly to the statements pronounced by the person concerned on ecumenism and on the new ecclesiology.
Chiara Lubich and Ecumenism
In her speech after the presentation of the Templeton prize, Chiara Lubich treated at length of the expansion of her work beyond the limits of Christianity.
There she mentions the Jews to whom in a certain sense, are united to us Revelation. On the subject of the Muslims, she emphasizes full admiration, to what point they are faithful to their religion. She is in ecstacy before the Hindus who give, she says, the first place to love:
“We love them just as they are and it is together that we look for these truths which unite us most narrowly to live them together, to share our experiences in our commitment for God and our brothers.”
Referring to the Gen movement which we have described above (see part I), she explains that the followers of other religions can be received in the Focolari, and then, call themselves according to their religion of origin: Gen-Muslim, Gen-Buddhists, etc. As to the fact that these members of other religions have a conception of God totally different from that of Christianity, it matters a little, it seems. Only love counts and the effort which we do to construct a world of love.
What Chiara Lubich wants is “to live the Gospel”. But having seen what precedes, we have the right to ask: of what Gospel is it about? What becomes of certain words of Christ like these ones: “I did not come to bring peace but the sword...” “I came into the world to bear witness to the truth”? What does she do about the warning against false prophets, of the condemnation of idolatry, of the affirmation that Christ is the key which must bring the fall and rise of a great number, and of many similar other works?
As we have seen, the end sought by the Focolari movement is unity, Chiara Lubich believes she is accomplishing the will of God, since she says:
“Jesus took the human nature in order that all may be one. On the Cross, in his dereliction, it is for that that He gave His life. Now, it is up to us to fulfil this end: above all, the Opus Mariae has made as its own the task to unite the entire humanity.”
Consequently, the ecumenical effort accomplished by the Focolari, if it concentrates firstly on “the instruction and sensibilization of Catholics in view of the unity of Christians and in view to obtain a fraternal community with the members of other Christian churches” cannot logically stay there; it aspires to embrace members of other religions.
Chiara Lubich and the New Ecclesiology
Concerning the Church, the statements of Chiara Lubich also go in the same sense as that of the Templeton Foundation. She is convinced that, thanks to Vatican II, the Church has done a great leap forward in the right direction. She gives as signs: collegiality and the priority given to love.
If, during the ecumenical assembly of Graz, she seemed to profess without ambiguity the faith in the one Church founded by Jesus Christ, she nevertheless adds: “in this context arises the fundamental importance of ecclesiology”. Of which ecclesiology is it about? Making allusion to Cardinal Willebrands who had spoken to her when the Templeton prize was awarded to her, she explains that it is necessary to deepen the ecclesiology of the “communio” that in this resides the great chance of future ecumenism and that the efforts to reach the unity of the Church must take that ecclesiology as a starting point.
Moreover, it is in this sense that the Ecumenical Council of Churches and other similar institutions do operate, she says, when they seek to put to work an “ecumenical spirituality”. For the divisions which have shaken the foundations of the Church in the course of the past two thousand years, have been caused by the diversities of opinions due to a defect of love among Christians.
She deplores these divisions of Christians which are contrary to the Divine Will expressed in the words of Christ “ut unum sint”. And since the lack of love is responsible for these divisions, an increase of love will be able to bring us to the lost unity.
“In the course of centuries, because of a growing indifference, a lack of comprehension, or even a certain hatred for the other churches, each church hardened itself, in a way. In each of them, then, a great love is necessary; a common love must seize all Christianity, a love which pushes us to have all in common, to be each a gift for the others.”
We note it again: the question of truth or error is not even mentioned. The church which she wants to build is not then the Una, Sancta, Catholica et Apostolica Ecclesia, which, one in Herself, in her doctrine and in her rites, is living until our days. What is this new church, then?
“We could thus figure out the future Church: that there is a unique truth, but that it expresses itself in different ways, that it is composed of different points of view and that it offers us its richness in a multiplicity of interpretations”.
This goes without comments.
Last point: how to achieve this new conception of the Church? We said it already: in instituting a universal dialogue which will include all the people of God.
“Thanks to this dialogue, we are more apt to discover, appreciate and live consciously this great heritage which is the common bond of all Christians. We desire to see this unique people who is already visible everywhere where there is a church”.
The Focolari Movement prototype of the future Church
The Focolari find themselves at the heart of this building of the Church of the future. Already, Chiara Lubich tells us, hundreds of thousands of persons, members of about three hundred churches, live the charism of unity which is at the bosom of the Focolari. These persons are the models of that which, at the universal scale of the world, still remains to be accomplished. During the speech she delivered in Manila for the presentation of her title of Doctor honoris causa, the foundress of the Focolari spoke of our theologians and of our doctrine, in referring to the Opus Mariae. What did she mean? She saw herself in a situation similar to that of St. Francis of Assisi, who by his own experience of poverty, was at the origin of a new universal doctrine; or even of St. Thomas Aquinas, who before being recognized as Doctor Communis, was the theologian of his particular Order. Similarly, Chiara Lubich esteems that her theology and her particular experience at the bosom of the Focolari must prepare the integration of the charism on unity in the entire Church.
“The charism of unity furnishes us with the conditions required to create a great theology of Jesus [which, evidently, did not exist up to this day! Ed], not a theology of Jesus of a thousand years ago but of this Jesus living today in His Church.
The presence of the little word “today” is always very revealing and disturbing, in this kind of discourse. For, Christus heri, hodie et in saecula, Christ is always the same. To put a contrast between the historical Jesus and the one who lives today in the Church is illegitimate. The famous words of G. K. Chesterton come to mind: “The Church alone preserves us from the humiliating slavery to be a child of our time.”
Thus, in an exemplary and living manner, the Focolari movement pretends to demonstrate to us that unity has been made possible, and that it incarnates the first step – but it may already be the second! – on the way which leads to the Church of the future.
Obviously, one may ask what are the foundation and the nature of this unity which offers to the members of the most diverse religions and most varied philosophies the means to live together – because we are already very far from the starting point of the Focolari, that is, to live the Gospel. How can a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim live this unity on a day to day basis? It is hard to imagine. What will be the basis of their community of life?
In Graz, Chiara Lubich has answered this question:
“Do nothing to another which you do not want him to do to you. This is the basis which enables us to live in a loving relation with the members of other religions.”
However, from what she has also said in this discourse in Graz, she is not content with the unity among religions; she aims further, to even envisage a more global spirituality of unity that will allow man to communicate with nature:
“To live an ecumenical spirituality signifies to give man a possibility more vast to reveal himself as sons and daughters of God, And when, in each domain, we all make an effort to preserve the nature, this one will answer mysteriously to our love as well as all that lives of God and subsists thanks to him.”
In weighing these strange statements, we ask what sense are we to give to “to reveal”, for, evidently, the word is not used in the sense which we know. We are very far from the supernatural revelation of the life of grace. The same question may be put forward concerning this mystic of the nature which “lives of God” and “answers to our love”. Hasn’t the pantheistic idea of the unity of the whole cosmos, of which the New Age publications speak so often, influenced this conception?
The end of this discourse also makes us think of the vision of the future expressed in the circles of thought apparently foreign to the Focolari – but are they really?
“Our planet is threatened by dramatic divisions, albeit destruction. This new life permits us to regress and progress simultaneously. Thus it is that humanity will find again this unity for which God created it, and the churches will realize this plenary community which Christ conferred to His Church in founding her.”
In other words, by ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, mankind reaches beyond that which divides it and tends towards the era of peace and of total regeneration which is its ultimate end. As to the “churches”, their role is to promote this wonderful ‘New Age’ of man and the world become one.
In the talks held during the collation of the Education for Peace prize (UNESCO), Chiara Lubich had already expressed similar ideas:
“It is together (that is, with the adherents of other religions) that we advance towards the fullness of the truth to which we all aspire. Thanks to the spirituality of the Focolari, men and women of almost all nations attempt today (…) to be (..) seeds of a new people, of a world of peace, (…) of a more united world.”
In summary and in the light of all these texts, we then note that, twenty years after the awarding of the Templeton prize, Chiara Lubich fully confirmed that she was truly worthy to receive this dark recompense.
The international alliances of the Focolari
In the logical sequence of the prized which Chiara Lubich was awarded, we must now take a look at some of the international organizations with which the Focolari movement is more or less connected.
Nykkyo Niwano and The World Conference of Religions for Peace
In 1979, two years after Chiara Lubich, a man with whom, she admitted herself, she carried on a profound spiritual exchange for years, was judged worthy to receive in his turn the Templeton prize. This man, well known in world religious circles, is Nykkyo Niwano. He is the founder of a lay Buddhist organization: Risso Kosai-Kai, and of The World Conference of Religions for Peace. He was the sole Buddhist invited at the Second Vatican Council as an observer.
The Templeton Foundation explained its choice of Nykkyo Niwano to honor his tireless efforts in the domain of interreligious dialogue and of world peace.
In his thanksgiving speech, the awarded developed the following point: Before everything, he says, it is important that humanity form a global community. In the process involved in this, religions play a very important role. Their ends must be: the search of happiness, spiritual deepening, and world peace. It is the task of The World Conference of Religions for Peace to take away every obstacle put in the way which leads to a world living in peace.
These clarifications are not useless and they do not keep us from our topic as Nikkyo Niwano is tied to Chiara Lubich by a close friendship, and she is herself honorary president of the World Conference he has founded. She therefore adheres perfectly to the objectives of this institution:
“We approve and fully support some Buddhist initiatives for peace in the world, such as the well appreciated World Conference of Religions for Peace has brought.”
The ‘U.N.-type’ friendship of The World Conference of Religions
This Conference was founded in 1970. Its founding act claims its origin from the ideas of three American religious leaders, one of whom is no other than Bishop Wright, the future Cardinal! It was decided to set up the international secretariat in New York, facing the U.N. building because, from the very beginning a close collaboration with the world organization was envisaged.
Besides, some facts permit to illustrate the efficacy of this collaboration. Thus, it is the Conference of Religions which proposed Chiara Lubich as awarded for the Education for Peace prize (UNESCO) which she received in 1996. On the other hand, the Conference of Religions enjoys a consultative status with the UN and UNICEF. It has also obtained to be approved as NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with UNESCO, in 1996.
There exist some close liaisons among all these international organizations, religious or lay, which form a tentacular network, acting in the same direction. It is an undeniable fact. For example, Federico Mayor, General Director of UNESCO, published an interview in a German magazine of the Focolari movement: Neue Stadt (New City). But, it is necessary to know that F. Mayor, and other functionaries who occupy high positions in the UN, collaborate very actively with the Lucis Trust (originally Lucifer Trust – Ed.) of A.A. Bailey (Foundress of the Lucifer Trust, a master-mind of the New Age – Ed.). It is clear that in associating themselves with those people, one walks on slippery grounds.
But let us continue our examination of the World Conference of Religions founded by Nikkyo Niwano.
Rodrigo Carazo figures among its honorary presidents. This former president of Costa Rica entertains the liaisons similar to those of Federico Mayor: he is also an active collaborator of the Lucis Trust.
The Conference of Religions also had as president (now retired) the former Archbishop of New Delhi, Angelo Fernandes. This man openly supports the powerful organization of the Planetary Citizens, which has become an occult group. During an assembly organized by UNESCO in Barcelona, he made a discourse having for theme: “A global spirituality of social responsibility.” He defined the spirituality in the following way:
“The conscience of our responsibility for a new organization of political and economical institutions, a responsibility which is anchored in the personal experience of the divine.”
For an Archbishop, it is truly a remarkable definition.
Other points render his speech worthy of our attention. Angelo Fernandes several times quotes Robert Muller (a functionary who occupied a directive post in the UN during forty years and who collaborated as well at the Lucis Trust where he had some responsibility). Fernandes relies too on Dag Hammarskjöld and U Thant, other great promoters of a worldwide global spirituality, indispensable, according to them, to our new planetary conscience. It is clear, and Angelo Fernandes explains profusely, the decisive element of this new “spirituality” is its worldwide dimension and its concern for the planet. We need, he says, to institute a new global and universal community, because, from now on, it is the only form of a viable community. In this logic, he finishes his discourse exhorting us all to become that which, in reality, we are already: one.
It is impossible not to see the relations which exist between these principles and those of Chiara Lubich, which we have exposed above. By the very choice of words, the objectives propagated over the years by the groups close to Aries and by the powerful groups of mondialists, can be found in the ideas of the founder of the Focolari. seri Besides, we saw it, these V.I.Ps. Of mondialism are her friends whom she does not cease to frequent.
SOME COMMON UNDERTAKINGS OF THE CONFERENCE OF RELIGIONS AND OF THE FOCOLARI
But that which precedes belongs to the order of declarations of intention and of discourses. Collaboration does not stop there. It remains to say by what concrete undertakings the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the international societies which are connected to it, apply their principles and fulfill their appeals to a mondial unity with the Focolari.
Two events of these later years are, on this regard, worthy of consideration because they gave way to great manifestations in which the Focolari were involved. We wish to clarify that the information which we are going to give on this subject come from the documentation of the World Conference itself.
l The centenary of the Parliament of Religions
First, in 1993, there took place, thanks to the hospitality of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the congress of the centenary of the Parliament of the Religions of the World – previously held in Chicago in 1893.
In the context of this anniversary, a meeting was also held in Amsterdam. It is more interesting for us because it concerns more directly our topic. For the organization and the running of this assembly was, in a great part, entrusted to the movement of the Focolari.
At the start, there was a reading from a text of Pir Vilayat Khan, in which he exhorted his listeners to pursue the interreligious dialogue. Notably – and we find there a known refrain – he asked the representatives of religions to encourage aspirations towards universality hidden in their traditions. Pir Vilayat Khan is not unknown in international circles: he is the honorary president of the Club of Budapest founded by the Club of Rome: he is also of the signatories of the Manifesto of the planetary conscience published by this club.
Many speakers were heard, among whom a member of the Reformed Church of Switzerland – also member of the Focolari – and an adept of Brahma Kumaris, a group about which we shall speak later. The speeches and discussions were accompanied by prayers, meditations taken from diverse religious traditions, and a floral ceremony which, unfortunately, is not described in the documentation
l The sixth World Conference of Religions
The second event which enlightens the activity of the World Conference and of the organizations which are connected to it is the “Sixth World Conference of Religions” held in Rome – more exactly at the Vatican and at Riva del Garda – in 1994.
The motto around which the participants were gathered was: “Save the world – Religions for peace.” Without doubt, the world and each one of us need to be saved, but, obviously, the true and only Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, was the great Forgotten of this Conference.
The principal end was to establish a deepened dialogue between religions, to come closer effectively to each other. Two kinds of activities lead to that: on one side, appeals and discourses pronounced before the assembly by diverse religious leaders: on the other side, a common participation to the ceremonies of several religions: Islam, Shintoism, Judaism and local religions (animism).
As we have already emphasized, these meetings refrain from being syncretists. They do not seek to reunite elements taken in each religion to make with this mixture something new, a supra-religion which will occupy the place of the old ones. The purpose is to form a unity among existing religions by mutual tolerance, in overcoming and in preserving the particularities of each tradition, and in respecting their own historical forms.
Nevertheless, words aside, is such an undertaking possible? In the common edifice which they construct together, the mixed traditions cease forcibly to be specific and do constitute, in fact, a picturesque enrichment destined to satisfy the disparate sensibilities of everyone. Moreover, how will elements of opposite origin formally contradicting each other be able to stay together? The ones or the others must necessarily yield. A certain form of syncretism is therefore inevitable.
But especially, how can a Catholic keep his faith intact in the midst of such confusion? How can he continue to pretend that Catholicism is the only truth, and that outside of Christ and of the True Church, there is no salvation? He might well persist in believing it interiorly, but it will be necessary that he says it no longer openly, that he reduces his faith to a religious opinion among others (which is a denial and an infidelity) and that he accepts not to trouble the universal peace.
For such is the ultimate end: the summum bonum of this undertaking of the recuperation of world’s religions: to establish peace on earth. Not the peace which God gives, but that of man. The mondialists want the religions to serve as instruments to accomplish this planetary mission which they took on themselves in the name of humanity.
The second part of the conference – the most interesting for us – took place at Riva del Garda. The Focolari movement was extremely active there, as the leaflet of information of the World Conference does not cease to emphasize. Without their disinterested commitment, especially in relation with the media, the great success of this meeting would not have been possible, as it is reported.
It is worth looking at the list of speakers of Riva del Garda, for we always find the same networks of international fraternity. On the Catholic side, we notice the presence of Cardinals Arinze, Etchegaray and Martini, as well as Archbishop Fernandes, whom we know already, and the theologian Hans Kung. The U.N. was represented by Yasushi Akashi, its delegate in former Yugoslavia. There was also, naturally, the founder of the World Conference, Nikkyo Niwano mentioned previously.
As a conclusion, “the declaration of Riva del Garda” was adapted, it was solemnly read on board of a boat moving across the water. This ceremony had a symbolic importance: the boat navigating on the lake signifies the voyage of men towards peace, guided by religions: but the shore, the end, is not yet reached.
This declaration summarizes the results and the objectives aimed at by the assembly. The central point is the intention of forming a world community and to fix on it rights and obligations. It proclaims that an enlightened religiosity contributes to the triumph of liberty and of human rights. It affirms the importance of interreligious dialogue to “heal the earth” and chase from it the destructive elements. It is not very difficult to guess what is meant by these “destructive elements”, and moreover, the declaration itself explains it: these are religious nationalism and extremism.
Such ambition demands, of course, the collaboration with the U.N. : the conference confirms its commitment in this sense. The declaration speaks further of the “healing of the world” at a local as well as at a global scale. It depicts a harmonious and peaceful universe which is the end of life and of the aspirations of man.
Unity among religions is especially encouraged. In view of the reconciliation, everyone is asked to know how to use the sacred texts coming from other religious traditions, to treat other religions with respect, to meditate together, for all that is a source of mutual enrichment.
Finally, the text draws up a vision of a unified religion, similar to a giant copula (does it not look rather like the head of a pyramid?), which integrates generously in its bosom all religions. If the diverse religions thus behave themselves, then “without violating their identity and their pretense of possessing the truth of the purely religious order, they could discover convergence and complements in the socio-ethical order”.
It is useless to show, point by point, that this declaration contains almost no principle which a Christian can accept without reservation. This is horrifying, because a great number of the representatives of the Catholic Church were present and actively participated in this meeting, and the Focolari have energetically encouraged it. In fact, it makes sense that these “Catholics” have not condemned in words that which they practiced and lived during the rest of the conference. For there were invocations and meditations of Buddhists, of Indians and of Hindus, and numerous pagan ceremonies.
Moreover, the World Conference of Religions for Peace publishes, in its brochure of information, an interreligious calendar, in which are found reunited the feasts of nine religions: Christianism, Sikhs, Islam, Buddhism, Baha’i, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Zoroastrism. The only Christian feasts named are: Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Easter, and Pentecost. They are given the same rank as the pagan feasts, as the expression of a religious tradition among others. They are tolerated, they may even show themselve Romut on the condition that they respect the others, that they do not seek to prevail on others, neither to trouble nor prevent the great unity envisaged.
THE BRAHMA KUMARIS UNIVERSITY
Among the international and religious organizations that we have named and to which the movement of the Focolari is connected, there has been mentioned of the Brahma Kumaris, a society founded in Karachi in 1936, and which describes itself as a " spiritual university the world” (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University).
This university has had foundations in the whole world, especially in Asia and in Europe ( in eighteen countries). Its primary aim is to encourage meditation and spiritual apprenticeship by the development of the “Ego –the I”. But beside these preoccupations concerning the individual, this university pursues the same ends as the organizations we have spoken of, about world peace, the advent of a harmonious world, the collaborations with the world religious organizations, with UNICEF and the U.N. (it also has a consultative voice at the economic and social council of the U.N. and it was received also as NGO).
We find then the same milieu and the same frequentations with which the Focolari movement is connected.
Moreover a publication of the Council of the Parliament of World Religions (for which the Lucis Trust makes some publicity!) explicitly mentions the links uniting all these international organizations . We find there documents published by these organizations, and numerous proofs that they all belong to same vast network linked more or less tightly. It is true that neither the Focolari movement nor Chiara Lubich appear in this publication, but all their mondialist friends with whom they collaborate are there.
Cornelia Ferreira, an expert in the domain of the New Age, solemnly expressed the danger in which we live:
“One of the aims pursued for a long time by the masonic New World Order finally seems at hand: ONE World Church, being built for the last 150 years, is taking shape. Among the collaborators working in this direction, we see certain leaders of the Catholic Church who contribute to it through the international organization named the World Conference of Religions for Peace.”
1. Man must, above all things, establish peace on earth (in contrast, the first commandment of a Christian aims at the love of God).
2. Religions are responsible for wars and conflicts (the Church teaches that wars and quarrels come from sin).
3. Unity of religions can bring peace (Our Lord says on the contrary: “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.”)
On the other hand, the only end interesting a Catholic is to root himself always more deeply in the Mystical Body of Christ. It is this deep union with Christ which – Deo juvante – will lead us one day to the “visio beatifica”, the beatific vision, and thus, to eternal peace.
- CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS -