Chiara Lubich passes away at 88

Posted by on March 14, 2008 at 3:58 pm.

Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare movement, died last night in her home at age 88.  The official Focolare website article reads:

Today, 14 March 2008, at 2 o’clock, Chiara Lubich at 88 years of age, has concluded her earthly journey in a serene and sacred atmosphere. She passed away in her home at Rocca di Papa (Rome), where she had returned after having been discharged from the Gemelli hospital the night before. This had been her desire during the last days of hospitalization.

All day long, in the concluding hours of her life, hundreds of people – relatives, close collaborators and her spiritual sons and daughters – paid their last farewell in her room, and then stopped for a moment of meditation in the adjacent chapel. It was a constant and spontaneous prayerful procession. Afterwards, they lingered on around her house in recollection. Some of these people Chiara was able to recognize despite her extreme weakness.

There is now an incoming flow of messages from all over the world expressing participation and sharing on behalf of religious, political, academic and civil leaders. These messages of love and unity are coming especially from her many spiritual children present in all continents.

It seems like the Focolare website is probably getting hammered with visits right now so traffic might be hit and miss, but the Catholic news agencies have been reporting on this and have included a message from the Pope:

With deep emotion I learned the news of the pious death of Ms Chiara Lubich, which came at the end of a long and fruitful life marked by her tireless love for the abandoned Jesus. At this moment of painful separation I remain affectionately and spiritually close to her relatives and to the entire Work of Mary – the Focolari Movement which began with her – and to those who appreciated her constant commitment for communion in the Church, for ecumenical dialogue and for fraternity among all peoples. I thank the Lord for the witness of her life, spent in listening to the needs of modern man in complete faithfulness to the Church and to the Pope. And, as I commend her soul to divine goodness that she may be welcomed in the bosom of the Father, I hope that those who knew and met her, admiring the wonders that God achieved through her missionary ardour, may follow her footsteps and keep her charism alive. With such sentiments, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary and willingly impart my apostolic blessing to everyone

This Catholic World News article says:

Suffering from declining health for the past year, Lubich was hospitalized this past weekend when she had difficulty breathing. When she did not respond to medical treatment she chose to return home for her final hours of life.

The funeral for Chiara Lubich will be held at the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls on March 18. The Focolare movement will now face the choice of a new leader– who, according to the movement’s charter, must be a woman.

Additionally, this Lenten meditation from Chiara a couple years ago is quite appropriate.

I had the blessing of meeting many of the members of the Focolare, having been asked to present at last year’s Mariapolis in San Diego with my wife Tiana on alternative economic practices.  I had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people who are passionate about the unity of the Church. Chiara’s witness to Christ was a clear inspiration for the people I met in their own witness to Christ and Christ’s prayer for the unity of his people in John 17Open Link in New Window.  Moreover, a very good friend of ours named Ester has been in the movement for a while now and has been profoundly affected by Chiara’s life.  Ester is a constant saintly presence in our lives for whom we are extremely thankful.

[Also, perhaps not everybody knows this, but the official Focolare publishing house is New City Press, which in addition to publishing Chiara’s writings, also publishes the definitive English translations of Augustine’s works]

Chiara will be missed, but the spirit of her Focolare and her witness will definitely live on.  R.I.P., Chiara.