Pope Francis meets with the Focolare Movement Feb. 6, 2021. Credit: Vatican Media.
Pope Francis today encouraged the Focolare Movement to have “dynamic fidelity” as the third president of the international Catholic organization begins her term.
Margaret Karram, an Arab Catholic originally from the Holy Land, was elected president of the Focolare Movement 31 January.
The Catholic organization, which is focused on the principles of unity and fraternity, was founded by the laywoman and Servant of God Chiara Lubich in northern Italy in 1943. Lubich died in 2008.
“Twelve years after Chiara Lubich left for Heaven, you are called to overcome the natural bewilderment and also the numerical decline, to continue to be a living expression of the founding charism,” Pope Francis told participants in the organization’s general assembly.
“It requires — we know — a dynamic fidelity, capable of interpreting the signs and needs of the times and responding to the new demands that humanity poses,” he said.
The Focolare Movement is holding its general assembly in an online format from 24 January to 7 February. The participants met Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI Hall 6 February.
The new Focolare president, Karram, told the pope she has accepted her new role with the “fiat” of the Virgin Mary. She said she does not like the title of president but thinks of herself more as “a daughter of the Church.”
Francis gave advice to those in organizational governance, saying they are called “to favour and implement transparent consultation not only within the governing bodies but at all levels, by virtue of that logic of communion according to which everyone can place at the service of others their gifts, their opinions in truth and with freedom.”
“Regarding the commitment within the Movement, I urge you to promote synodality more and more, so that all members, as custodians of the same charism, are co-responsible and share in the life of the Work of Mary and its specific purposes,” he said.
Pope Francis also spoke about crisis and conflict, noting that “conflict is bad, it can get ugly, it can divide, but crisis is an opportunity to grow.”
“Each crisis is a call to new maturity,” he explained, “it is a time of the Spirit, which arouses the need to update, without being discouraged by human complexity and its contradictions.”
He encouraged the movement’s members to have resilience in the face of difficulties and to face them positively as a source of opportunity.
The pope closed the audience by praising the Focolare members’ joyful testimony and recalling a joke he once heard about their smiles.
“They told me: ‘But do you know that God is ignorant? There are four things that God cannot know,’” Francis repeated. “‘What the Jesuits think, how much money the Salesians have, how many congregations of sisters there are, and what the Focolarini smile at.’”