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EducationOne human family. New paths for dialogue

One human family. New paths for dialogue

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By Martin Hoegger. www.hoegger.org

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais gathered in the heights of Rome, for a week of intense dialogue in the spirit of the spirituality of the Focolare movement, from May 30 to June 4. In a “time of divisions, dialogue counts”, this has been the maxim of these days

The common thread of this meeting was peace between us and with creation. How to design a peace policy? How to engage in an economy of peace? And, how to live peace with creation. The group of 450 people from 40 countries and all continents also had an audience with Pope Francis and went to Assisi to listen to the wisdom of another Francis, the “ Poverello ” of Assisi.

Finding new paths through dialogue

“Dialogue means deep listening, sharing, mutual trust, to bring hope and build bridges ,” explains Rita Moussalem , head of the Focolare Center for Interreligious Dialogue. For Antonio Salimbeni , co-responsible, “these days were a laboratory of fraternity”.

During this conference, I discovered the fruitfulness of the spirituality of the Focolare, also experienced, to varying degrees, by people from very diverse backgrounds. The new – and surprising – thing is that people of other religions have started to join it.

Margaret Karram, the current president of Focolare, expresses her gratitude to Chiara Lubich, the founder of this movement: “She taught us how to dialogue and enter into relationships with others with the greatest respect, with passion and determination. At each encounter, she came back strengthened in her own faith and edified by that of others .”

A Christian Arab, citizen of Israel, M. Karram herself lived this experience intensely. She is convinced that it is possible to find new paths through dialogue. It is even an urgent duty to which God calls us. “We are here together to live a unique human family, in its great diversity. May this congress give us the opportunity to share our experiences and deepen our friendship !

 Meeting with Pope Francis

The purpose of the visit to Pope Francis on June 3, in the Clementine Room, was to present to him the experience we had just had. He expressed gratitude for the journey started by C. Lubich with people of other religions who share the spirituality of unity, “a revolutionary journey that did much good for the Church “, and ” an experience animated by the Holy Spirit, rooted, we can say, in the heart of Christ, in his thirst for love, communion and fraternity”.

He recognizes that it is the Spirit which opens “paths of dialogue and encounter, sometimes surprising”, as in Algeria, where an entirely Muslim community adhering to the Movement was born.

The Pope sees the basis of this experience in “the love of God which is expressed through reciprocal love, listening, trust, hospitality and mutual knowledge, with respect for the identity of each person.

With non-Christians who share and live certain traits of Focolare spirituality, “we go beyond dialogue, we feel brothers and sisters, sharing the dream of a more united world, in the harmony of diversity ,” he said. This testimony is a source of joy and consolation, especially in these times of conflict, where religion is often misused to fuel division. (See the full speech here: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2024/june/documents/20240603-interreligioso-focolari.html )

After his speech, the Pope generously gave his time to personally greet each participant. I was able to tell him that I’m pastor in the Reformed Church and a volunteer in the Focolare movement, active in ecumenical and interreligious dialogues. When I also told him that I’m collaborating on the JC2033 initiative, he gave me a big smile and said “ Avanti!” “.

“The Gate of the Spoliation”

The Focolare movement wants to combine dialogue announce of the Gospel. After the audience, a visit to significant places in Rome made it possible to discover the Christian witness of the city, in particular Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum, site of the martyrdom of the first Christians.

This same process was experienced the next day in Assisi. After a round table in the morning on the theme of peace and creation, the afternoon began with a visit to the “Gate of the Spoliation” with Mgr. Domenico Sorrentino, bishop of Assisi. This is the place where Saint-Francis stripped himself of his clothes in front of his father and the notables of the city and where he he has been stripped of his inheritance by his father.

The bishop explains to us that renunciation is an important concept for Christians. It makes us understand what love is, which does not put itself first. “To welcome the other, I must renounce myself; it is also the condition for a real dialogue,” he says.

He then suggests a little silent pilgrimage where everyone asks themselves what renunciation God is calling them to make so that they can be even more in the service of God and their brothers and sisters. I experienced this moment intensely, and this prayer continued to haunt me throughout the rest of that day.

In the “Garden of François”.

After visiting the Basilica of Saint Francis, the group goes to the “Garden of Francis”, at the foot of an “interreligious” bell tower, with the symbols of the various religions: the cross, the star of David, the crescent, the wheel of Dharma.

The “Canticle of Creatures” by Francis of Assisi – “Praise be to you, Lord ” – is then read in three stages: Praise for inanimate beings, for animate beings and for human beings. After this prayer, a “pact of fraternity” is proposed, and we are invited to turn to the person next to us. To a Jewish friend, I then said the words of Psalm 133: “ Hine mah tov or mah nahim ” …and he answers me ” shevet achim gam yachad ” (“ Behold, it is good and pleasant… for brothers to dwell together ”)!

During these days, seeds were sown! May they grow within us and between us and may the brotherhood that we have experienced extend to many others!

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