Ecumenism And The 'Week of Prayer' for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere, on January 18 – 25, offers an opportunity to highlight not only many events that are taking place around the world, but also the daily dialogue of life among ordinary Christians, aroused by Chiara Lubich's charism.

“The theme chosen for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is: “Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor 5:14).  The Week was called for and organized by up to the most important organizations involved in ecumenism, including the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity: It was a propitious choice, especially after the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reform when many leading representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and Pope Francis gathered around the same altar in prayer at the Cathedral of Lund in Sweden.

Alongside such highly significant ecumenical gestures another ecumenism has been spreading that could be called the ecumenism of the people.  It is comprised of initiatives by the faithful of different confessions who want to recognize one another more and more as brothers and sisters. It is made up of small gestures that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, are already spreading in many places of the world.  They show how far the irresistible journey of unity has come. We present a few examples from Latin America.

The Focolare community in Brazil reports:

“We have relationships with Anglicans, Methodists,  Presbyterians and Seventh Day Adventists that are truly significant.  Sometimes we meet to dialogue about specific topics as we did at a conference held last August at Mariapolis Ginetta in san Paolo where we discussed the topic of peace.”

So what is Focolare?  If Seventh-day Adventists in Brazil are involved in ecumenical relationship with it, we ought to know a little about it.

Focolare originated in 1939 when Chiara Lubich, during a trip to the shrine of Loreto, felt her first call to her future vocation, when she heard God telling her "she would be followed by many."  In 1943, when Chiara was 23, as she was on her way to fetch some milk, Chiara heard the call from God: “Give yourself totally to me.”  Following a deep conversation with a priest she obtained permission.  On 7 December 1943 she consecrated her life to God forever.  On that day Chiara didn’t have the slightest intention of founding anything: she was simply ‘marrying God.’  And this was everything for her.  Only later did this day come to be identified as the symbolic beginning of the Focolare Movement.

Chiara Lubich was a pioneer for her time. In the Church – a lay woman – she proposed themes and openings that were only later taken up by Vatican II.  In a global society she pointed the way to universal brotherhood when no one was speaking of civilizations drawing closer to each other.  She respected life and searched for the meaning of suffering.  She traced out a way of religious and civil holiness that can be practiced by anyone and not reserved for only a chosen few.  She was a force for multi-culturalism.

Taken from the Focolare page:

The Focolare is an international movement that seeks to bring about a united world through putting the words of the Gospel into practice in daily life.  The movement is officially called ‘The Work of Mary’ but commonly known as ‘The Focolare’, a nick-name which means ‘fireplace’ in Italian, because it is a source of warmth and light.
The ecumenism of the Focolare Movement was fostered by regular journeys to Rome, and to Loppiano, the Focolare’s ‘little town’ near Florence.  It has been described as an ‘ecumenism of life’ complemented by the study of joint statements (like those of ARCIC) agreed by theologians of the different churches.  The Movement works for the various Ecumenical initiatives of the Churches, and bodies like CTS in England, CYTUN in Wales, and ACTS in Scotland.

Focolare sponsors an annual event for spiritual unity for people of all faiths, called Mariapolis.  The three-day event begins with a Roman Catholic Mass (with the monks of Ampleforth).  They also sponsor a youth meeting around the world called ReGENeration.  

Our advice?  Avoid these things.  Seventh-day Adventists have more important things to do.

Stay faithful, dear ones!