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Chiara Lubich
Born Silvia Lubich
22 January 1920(1920-01-22)
Trento, Italy
Died 14 March 2008 (aged 88)
Rocca di Papa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Occupation Activist
Successor Maria Emmaus Voce
Religion Roman Catholic

Chiara Lubich (January 22, 1920 – March 14, 2008) was an Italian Catholic activist and leader and foundress of the Focolare Movement.


Early life

Chiara Lubich was born as Silvia Lubich in Trento. Her father lost his job because of the socialist ideas that he held during Italy's period of Fascism.[1] Consequently, the Lubichs lived for years in extreme poverty. To pay for her university studies in philosophy, Lubich tutored other students in Venice and during the 1940s began teaching at an elementary school in Trent.[citation needed]

During World War II, while bombs were destroying Trent, Lubich, then in her early twenties, against a background of hatred and violence, made the discovery of God who is Love, the only ideal that no bomb could destroy. It was a powerful experience, 'stronger than the bombs that were falling on Trent'[2] which Lubich immediately communicated to her closest friends. Their lives changed radically. They declared that, should they be killed, they wished to have only one inscription carved on their tomb: "And we have believed in love".[2]

Her discovery of "God is Love" (cf. 1 John 4:16), led her, on December 7, 1943, alone in a small chapel, to promise herself to God forever and to change her name to Chiara, in honour of the Saint from Assisi. This date is considered the beginning of the Focolare movement.[2]

These Focolare (small communities of lay volunteers) seek to contribute to peace and to achieve the evangelical unity of all people in every social environment. The goal became a world living in unity, and its spirituality has helped dismantle centuries-old prejudices. Today its members and adherents are Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Bahá'í, as well as thousands of people who profess no particular religion.[citation needed]

In her life the day of May 13, 1944 remains the night of one of the most violent bombings of Trent. Lubich's house was among the many buildings destroyed. She decided to stay in Trent to help the new lives being born. She encountered a woman who had lost her senses through the suffering caused by the death of her four children.[1] It was among the poor of Trent that which Lubich often calls the "divine adventure" began.[1]

In 1948 Lubich met the Italian member of Parliament Igino Giordani, writer, journalist, pioneer in the field of ecumenism.[3] He was to be co-founder, together with Lubich, of the movement because of the contribution given by him in the context of the spirituality of unity's social incarnation, which gave rise to the New Families Movement and the New Humanity Movement.[1]

1949 marked the first encounter between Lubich and Pasquale Foresi.[3] He was the first Focolarino to become a priest.[3] Always at Chiara's side, he helped give life to the Movement's theological studies, to starting the Città Nuova Publishing House and to building the little town of Loppiano.[1] Throughout the Movement's development, he has given a noteworthy contribution to concretizing its ecclesiastical and lay expressions. Along with Lubich and Igino Giordani, he is considered a co-founder of the Movement.[3]

In 1954 Lubich met, in Vigo di Fassa (near Trent), with escapees from the forced labour camps in Eastern Europe and after 1960 the spirituality of unity and the Movement began to take shape clandestinely in those countries.[1]

In Europe many of the wounds provovked by the Second World War remained. In 1959, at the Mariapolis (summer gathering of the Movement) in the Dolomite Mountains, Lubich addressed a group of politicians inviting them to go beyond the boundaries of their respective nations and to "love the nation of the other as you love your own".[1] Internationalism became a hallmark of the Movement which rapidly spread, firstly in Italy, and afterwards, since 1952, throughout Europe, and since 1959 to other continents. "Little towns" began to be born from 1965 on, with the birth of the first in Loppiano, together with international congresses, and the use of the media contribute to the formation of people who live for the ideal of a "united world".[1] Lubich founded the New Families Movement in 1967.

In the 1960s young people started protesting in large numbers throughout much of the world. From 1966 Lubich proposed to the youth to live according to the radical message of the Gospel as an answer to the profound desire for change claimed by young people everywhere. The Gen Movement was thus born (Gen standing for New Generation) which animates the wider "Young People for a United World".[1]

In the year 1966 Chiara Lubich co-founded the school Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom College, Fontem in Cameroon with the assistance of the contemporaneous native chief of Fontem, Fon Fontem Defang. She visited the school in May 2000. From the very beginning there had been younger teenagers and children who made the spirituality of unity their own. The third generation (Gen 3) of the Movement, those who animate the vaster "Youth for Unity" movement, was born in 1970.[1]


In 1991, shortly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, during a trip to Brazil, as a response to the situation of those who live in sub-human conditions in the outskirts of the metropolises there, Lubich launched a new project: the "Economy of Communion in Liberty". This quickly developed in various countries involving hundreds of businesses, giving rise to a new economic theory and praxis.[4]

In 1996 Lubich received an Honorary Degree in Social Sciences from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. Professor Adam Biela spoke of the "Copernican revolution in the Social Sciences, brought about by her having given life to a 'paradigm of unity' which shows the new psychological, social and economic dimensions which today's post-communist society has been waiting for in this new and difficult transitional phase".[citation needed]

In 1996 Lubich was awarded the UNESCO Prize for education to peace, in Paris, motivated by the fact that, “in an age when ethnic and religious differences too often lead to violent conflict, the spread of the Focolare Movement has also contributed to a constructive dialogue between persons, generations, social classes and peoples." [5]

Lubich was the first Christian, the first lay person, and the first woman to be invited to communicate her spiritual experience to a group of 800 Buddhist monks and nuns in Thailand (January 1997), to 3,000 Black Muslims in the Mosque of Harlem in New York City (May 1997), and to the Jewish community in Buenos Aires (April 1998).[citation needed]

Honorary degrees/Awards

In 1977, Lubich received the Templeton Prize for progress in religion and peace. The presence of many representatives of other religions at the ceremony brought about the beginning of the Movement's inter-religious dialogue.[citation needed]

In 1996, she was also conferred the UNESCO Peace Education Prize.

In May 1997 she visited the United Nations, where she made a speech regarding the unity of peoples in the "Glass Palace".[citation needed] In September 1998 in Strasbourg she was presented with the 1998 Prize for Human Rights by the Council of Europe, for her work "in defence of individual and social rights".[citation needed]

She received honorary degrees in various disciplines: from theology to philosophy, from economics to human and religious sciences, from social science to social communications. These were conferred not only by Catholic universities, but also by lay universities, in Poland, the Philippines, Taiwan, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

Chiara Lubich was honoured with a Doctorate of Divinity (Honoris Causa) from Liverpool Hope University. She thanked the University and provide her hopes for the future: “My most sincere thanks to all at Liverpool Hope University for this doctorate of Divinity in recognition of the Focolare Movement’s work in ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue". [6]


She died in Rocca di Papa in her native Italy, aged 88, on March 14, 2008.[7]


  • Essential Writings: Spirituality Dialogue Culture - New City (16 Feb 2007) - ISBN 1905039018, ISBN 978-1905039012




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