Summary of chronology
The following is a summarized chronological account of Chiara Lubich’s life. A more detailed historical profile is available on the Focolare Movement’s web site.
(by clicking the cursor of your mouse on the box with the year, a photo from that period will open up.)
22 January 1920 - Chiara Lubich was born in Trent (Northern Italy) and was baptized with the name Silvia.
Her mother was a fervent Christian woman.
Her father was a printer and socialist in his beliefs.
Her brother Gino would later join the Italian partisans and become a journalist for the “L’Unità” newspaper.
Si diploma maestra elementare. She graduated as an elementary school teacher and taught at Castello and in Livo, towns in the Val di Sole, in the region of Trent, and then in Trent itself.
She enrolled at the University of Venice and began studies in philosophy, but World War II impeded her from continuing on.
While participating in a program for youth of Catholic Action, she visited the Marian Sanctuary of Loreto and there discovered her calling.
She foresaw that a new reality would come to life in the Church. It would be the “focolare”: a community of people – consecrated and married, all totally committed, even though in different ways, to God.
7 December 1943 - she committed her whole life to God forever with a vow of chastity: a date that would later be considered as the birth date of the Focolare Movement.
13 May 1944 - Trent was bombed. Her house was destroyed and her family had to flee. Chiara Lubich decided to remain in the city to follow what was coming to life around her.
She was offered a small apartment in Piazza Cappuccini which she would call “la casetta” (the little house) in memory of Loreto.
There she would live with four of her first companions: Natalia, Giosi, Graziella, Aletta. And so the “Focolare” was born.
The first men’s focolare was opened in Trent.
He would become the first married focolarino.
Due to the particular contribution that he gave to incarnating the spirituality of unity in society and to the ecumenical developments within the Movement, she later considered him as a co-founder.
In 2004 the cause for his beatification began.
1949-1959 - Beginning in 1949, every summer she would go up to the mountains of Trent together with her first companions.
An increasing number of people began to join them, to the point of forming a temporary microcosm of a new society founded on the Gospel: the Mariapolis (city of Mary).
In 1959 more than 10,000 people went up to Fiera di Primiero (TN), from 27 different nations, among which Taiwan and Brazil.
She formed the branch of the diocesan priests and that of the religious men and consecrated women who adhere to the spirituality of the Movement.
Pasquale Foresi was ordained a priest by the archbishop of Trent.
He is the first focolarino priest.
She considered him as another co-founder for the contribution he gave in the Movement: to the development of theological studies, to the writing of its statutes, to the birth of the first publishing house, of the first Mariapolis Center and the little town of Loppiano.
The first issue of Città Nuova magazine was printed with a cyclostyle.
In the year that Hungary was invaded by the Soviet Union, she brought to life the “volunteers of God,” lay men and women committed to bringing God, source of freedom and unity, back into the most diverse sectors of society.
In Darmstadt, Germany, she met a few Lutheran pastors who wanted to know about her Gospel-based spirituality. An ecumenical journey thus began.
The first pontifical approval by John XXIII of the men’s part of the Focolare Movement under the name of Work of Mary.
In Incisa Val d’Arno, close to Florence, she began the first small town of witness in the locality of Loppiano.
In London, she was received in audience by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, Primate of the Church of England, who encouraged the spreading of the spirituality of the Focolare in his own Church.
Later, she would meet with his successors: Dr. Donald Coggan , Robert Runcie, George Carey and Rowan Williams.
In Fontem, Cameroon, she laid the first stone for a hospital to fight the high infant mortality among the Bangwa tribe. A little town of witness, of collaboration between the Focolare Movement and the Bangwa people, would come to life where, in 2000, she launched a vast operation of evangelization that now involves other nearby peoples.
While in Istanbul, she met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.
From ’67 – ’72, she would make 8 trips to Istanbul and have 23 audiences with the Patriarch.
She would later meet also his successors: Dimitrios I and Bartholomew I.
She founded the New Families Movement.
She founded the Gens Branch (New Generation of future priests).
In a historical audience with Pope Paul VI, he blessed the consecrated women who adhere to the Focolare Movement.
The series of international gatherings for “Bishops friends of the Focolare Movement” began, promoted by Bishop Klaus Hemmerle, Bishop of Aachen, Germany, to deepen the spirituality of unity and live an “effective and affective” collegial experience.
Bishop Hemmerle was considered a co-founder by Chiara Lubich, for his doctrinal contribution as well as the birth of the branch of the bishops spiritually connected with the Movement.
This branch would be recognized with pontifical approval in 1998.
The first annual international meeting was held for “Bishops friends of the Focolare Movement” of different Churches, on the encouragement of John Paul II.
Chiara Lubich was nominated consultant for the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
She participated in the extraordinary Synod for the 20th anniversary of Vatican II.
She would later be invited to the Synod on Vocation and Mission of the Laity in 1987, and also to the Synod for Europe in 1990.
In Brazil, while at Mariapolis Ginetta (San Paolo), in response to the wide gap between rich and poor, she launched the project for an Economy of Communion that would then spread in the whole world.
She was named one of the Honorary Presidents of the WCRP (World Conference on Religion and Peace).
With a group of politicians in Naples, she gave life to the Movement for Unity in Politics, proposing to them, despite their different political parties, to have fraternity as the basis of their life and political commitment.
She was conferred an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences from the University of Lublin, Poland, for the innovative impact made by the spirituality of unity.
This was followed by 15 other honorary doctorates:
Theology (Philippines ’97 , Taiwan ’97 , Slovak Republic ’03 , Liverpool ’08 ),
Social Communications (Thailand ’97 ),
Humane Letters (USA ’97 ),
Philosophy (Mexico ’97 ),
Interdisciplinary Sciences (Argentine ‘98 ),
Religious Sciences (Brazil ’98 ),
Economy (Brazil ’98 , Italy ’99 ),
Letters and Psychology (Malta ’99 ),
Education (USA 2000 ),
Theology of Consecrated Life (Rome ’04),
Art (Venezuela ’03).
In Chiang Mai, she addressed numerous men and women monks, as well as lay Buddhists, and shared her spiritual journey with them.
In Manila, she presented the Focolare Movement at the General Assembly of the Philippine Episcopal Conference. Following this, she also addressed the Episcopal Conferences of Taiwan, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, India and Ireland.
In New York, at the UN headquarters, she spoke on the unity of peoples in a conference sponsored by the WCRP.
At Castel Gandolfo, Italy, the first international ecumenical congress promoted by the Movement: 1,200 participants from 70 Churches, representing 56 nations.
In Graz, Austria, she proposed the spirituality of unity as an “ecumenical spirituality” at the opening of the Second Ecumenical European Assembly sponsored by the CCEE (the Council for the European Episcopal Conferences) and the KEK (Conference of European Churches which includes the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church and those from the Reform). .
In 2002, she would also propose this “ecumenical spirituality” to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland.
At Castel Gandolfo, in a conference on “Dialogue with People of Non-religious Convictions,” she addressed the 200 participants, many of whom were non-believers, long drawn by the spirit of the Movement, especially by the universal principles it promotes. She proposed that they collaborate to bring about the fulfillment of this universal brotherhood.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, she met members of the Jewish Community with whom she sealed a pact of fraternity.
The President of Brazil conferred on her the honor of the Cruzeiro do Sul for “her work on behalf the least advantaged classes and for promoting the project for an ‘Economy of Communion.’”
In Rome, in Saint Peter’s Square, she was among the 4 founders who spoke at the first international gathering of ecclesial Movements and new Communities (with more than 35,000 people present), taking the commitment before the Pope to launch a journey of communion among the Movements.
Following this, 282 day-events were held at local and national Church levels, involving more than 325 Movements and over half a million people.
In Strasburg, France, she received with others the ’98 Human Rights Award from the Council of Europe.
In Bern, Switzerland, she gave a talk during the official celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Constitution.
In Strasburg, France, she spoke at the Conference for the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe on “A Society for a Market Economy, Democracy and Solidarity,” presenting the experience of the Economy of Communion with proposals for a new economic framework
In Speyer, Germany, she met with founders and leaders of 41 ecclesial Movements and new Communities, sponsored together with the Saint Egidio Community and the Italian Charismatic Renewal, with an encouraging message from John Paul II.
She received an honorary citizenship from Rome and Florence. .
Seventeen in total were the citizenships conferred on her in these last years, among which that from
Palermo , Genoa, Turin , Milan , and Buenos Aires, Argentine. .
She was conferred the “Great Cross of Merit” from the Federal Republic of Germany.
In Rothenburg, Germany, she met with the representatives of 50 Evangelical-Lutheran Movements and in 2001, she would speak in Munich, Bavaria, in a meeting with over 5,000 adherents of these Movements.
In Washington, D.C., she addressed a convention of over 5,000 Christians and African American Muslims from the American Society of Muslims.
A fraternal dialogue was established that would continue in different cities of the USA, a particularly significant development after the terrorist attempt on September 11, 2001.
There are 40 mosques that are in current dialogue with the Movement.
In Rome, at the Palazzo San Macuto of the Parliament, in front of a group of politicians, she presented the aspirations of the Movement for Unity in Politics.
Following this, she would meet with groups of deputies and mayors in Bratislava (Slovak Republic), Barcelona and Madrid (Spain), Dublin (Ireland), London (Great Britain), Bern (Switzerland).
In India, she received in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), the “Defender of Peace” Award from the “Shanti Ashram” and the “Sarvodaya Movement,” two Gandhian Institutions. She also presented her spiritual journey at Mumbai/Bombay, at the Somaiya University.
It would mark the beginning of a deep dialogue with Hindus.
In Zurich, Switzerland, she spoke on the spirituality of unity at the Grossmünster, the church that served as cradle for the Reform of the German Swiss Church. In 2002, she did so in the Cathedral of Saint Pierre in Geneva, cradle of the Reform guided by Farel and Calvin.
In Innsbruck, Austria, she participated in the convention “1000 Cities for Europe,” together with the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, the Austrian President, Thomas Klestil, and over 700 mayors and town supervisors from 35 West and East European nations.
She proposed fraternity as a political category.
In Assisi, with Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Saint Egidio Community, she spoke in representation of the Catholic Church at the interreligious day for peace, promoted by John Paul II, with religious leaders participating from 12 major world religions.
At Castel Gandolfo, Rome, she promoted the first symposium for interreligious dialogue among members of the Abbà School and qualified scholars and professors from the Hindu faith. Symposiums would follow with representatives of Buddhism (2004), Judaism (2005) and Islam (2005).
In India, Mumbai/Bombay, she went deeper into the dialogue with Hinduism, begun during her first trip in 2001, with the Somaiya College, one of the main Hindu universities engaged in interreligious dialogue, the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a center born to rediscover the roots of Hindu culture, and the Swadhyaya Family, a Movement widely spread in India with over 8 million followers.
At the same time, always at Mumbai, on the invitation of Cardinal Dias, and in Delhi, on the invitation of Archbishop Conceçao, the spirituality of unity was presented to priests, religious men and women and lay movements.
In response to the mandate John Paul II gave to the Focolare Movement, to give importance to initiatives for the Year of the Rosary to promote world peace, she organized an international Marian Congress at Castel Gandolfo, Rome, followed by 157 congresses worldwide, at national and regional levels.
She received the medal of the Cavalier of the Great Cross from the President of Italy.
In Stuttgart, Germany, concomitantly with the enlargement of the European Union to 25 countries, the day-event “Together for Europe” was held, fruit of the journey of communion among more than 150 Movements and new Communities from different Churches (Lutheran, Orthodox, Anglican, free Churches…). There were 9,000 persons present and numerous politicians, aired via satellite and followed live by 100,000 persons in 163 simultaneous gatherings, held in different European cities.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity asked her to say a few words on behalf of all the ecclesial Movements and new Communities during the Pentecost vigil, on occasion of their meeting with Benedict XVI in Saint Peter’s Square.
The inauguration of the industrial park for the Economy of Communion, close to the small town of Loppiano, a point of encounter for 200 Italian businesses that adhere to the project – 15 years after the launching of the Economy of Communion in Brazil.
On December 7th, by Pontifical Decree, the Sophia University Institute was established, with its site in the small town of Loppiano. It was born as a development of the Abbà School.
The letter to Chiara underscored the novelty of the Institute coming from the roots of the spirituality of unity and the rich experience of the Movement. December 1, 2008 was its official inauguration.
On March 10, during another hospitalization at the Gemelli Hospital of Rome due to serious respiratory problems, she received a personal letter from Benedict XVI and a visit from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
On March 13, she was allowed to be transferred to her home in Rocca di Papa, from where, on the next day, she reached our Father’s house.
Thousands of people were present on March 18th, at the funeral Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, Rome. There were politicians, and representatives of other faiths. Pope Benedict XVI sent a message in which he stated that Chiara was a woman “in full unity with the thoughts of the Popes,” that many times she would even intuit in advance. Cardinal Bertone, in his homily, described her as one of the “bright stars of the 20th century.”