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Chiara Lubich

Chiara Lubich
Born Silvia Lubich
(1920-01-22)22 January 1920
Trento, Italy
Died 14 March 2008(2008-03-14) (aged 88)
Rocca di Papa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Occupation Activist
Successor Maria Emmaus Voce
Religion Roman Catholic

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


  • Early life 1
  • 1990s 2
  • 2000s 3
  • Honorary degrees/Awards 4
  • Death 5
  • Writings 6
  • References 7

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.[2]

During World War II, while bombs were destroying Trent, Lubich had a powerful religious experience, 'stronger than the bombs that were falling on Trent'[3] which Lubich immediately communicated to her closest friends. After convincing her friends they declared that, should they be killed, they wished to have only one inscription carved on their tomb: "And we have believed in love".[3]

Her experience led her on 7 December 1943 to change her name to Chiara, in honour of Clare of Assisi. This date is considered the beginning of the Focolare movement.[3]

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. Today amongst its members are many people who profess no particular religion.[4]

In her life the day of 13 May 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.[5] He was the co-founder, with Lubich, of the movement, they also gave rise to the New Families Movement and the New Humanity Movement.[1]

1949 marked the first encounter between Lubich and Pasquale Foresi.[5] He was the first Focolarino to become a priest.[5] He helped to progress the Movement's theological studies, and started the Città Nuova Publishing House and also helped to build the small town of Loppiano.[1] Throughout the Movement's development, he has given a contribution to its ecclesiastical and lay expressions. Along with Lubich and Igino Giordani, he is considered a co-founder of the Movement.[5]

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

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.

Chiara Lubich founded the Gen Movement as a youth based movement. (Gen standing for New Generation) which animates the wider "Young People for a United World".[1]

In 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. The third generation (Gen 3) of the Movement, those who guide the "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 Freedom". This quickly developed in various countries involving hundreds of businesses, giving rise to a new economic theory and praxis.[6]

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".

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." [7]

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 Muslim Americans of African descent at the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem New York City (May 1997),[8] and to the Jewish community in Buenos Aires (April 1998).


In November 2000 she met with 5000 Christians and Muslims in Washington, D.C. At this meeting, the leader of the American Society of Muslims, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed responded to Chiara’s address, giving an inkling of the depths of this communion: “I read in the Bible when Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, invited his followers to wash each other’s feet, and I think that’s just what we are doing. We are washing each other’s feet.” [9]

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.

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". 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".

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".[10]


She died in Rocca di Papa in her native Italy, aged 88, on 14 March 2008.[11]


  • Essential Writings: Spirituality Dialogue Culture - New City (16 Feb 2007) - ISBN 1-905039-01-8, ISBN 978-1-905039-01-2


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chiara Lubich - biography 
  2. ^ Jim Galagher, A Woman's Work: Chiara Lubich: A Biography of the Focolare Movement and Its Founder New City Press, 1997
  3. ^ a b c Focolare Movement - EN 
  4. ^ Memo to a divided church: Meet the Focolare 
  5. ^ a b c d Work of Mary (Focolare Movement), retrieved 2008-07-23 
  6. ^ Economy of Communion website
  7. ^ Laureates of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education 
  8. ^ Muslim Journal, June 1997
  9. ^ Quoted by Amelia J. Uelmen, Chiara Lubich: a life for unity
  10. ^ Liverpool Hope University site
  11. ^ "RTÉ News: US Election 2008". 
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