Among the many honorary citizenships bestowed on Chiara Lubich is that awarded in 1997 by the city of Rimini, the capital of the province in Emilia Romagna, bearing the same name. It is a city that Chiara visited four times, for varying occasions. Rimini knows the wounds of the Second World War with its invasions and the devastation of the social fabric which led to 80% of the city being destroyed. But the project of reconstruction went beyond the rebuilding of houses and material goods; there was a rebuilding of values which make this city a place of welcome and a symbol of fraternity. In fact, it has been described as “European Capital of Volunteering” due to the vast number of voluntary associations and groups that operate in the territory.
However, Chiara is considered all round as a true citizen of Rimini. On 8 March 2019, the Catholic Diocesan communication channels brought to the attention of the territory five very noteworthy women who were citizens of Rimini, and Chiara Lubich was nominated among them. The event was celebrated with a conference entitled: “Rimini: A Gift, A Challenge”. It gave the opportunity for speakers to address the theme of solidarity and hospitality within the current historical context. In addition to the municipality, the Focolare Movement and La Ginestra cultural association, other agencies also wanted to be promoters of the event, namely the Chamber of Commerce of Romagna Forlì-Cesena and Rimini, and other local bodies such as the Figli del Mondo social promotion association, the Local Government’s Strategic Planning Unit and the Diocesan Institute of Religious Sciences.
The program of the event was divided into three parts: artistic performances, experiences highlighting solidarity initiatives currently being carried out across the city and a round table discussion, all with the aim of demonstrating the incidence of solidarity, examined not just as a value in itself, but as a global model of political development in relation to the world of tourism, the environment, the economy and the quality of social life.
Messages were conveyed for the occasion by Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement, who focussed on the significance of initiatives with respect to social life in Rimini and its territory, and by Salvatore Martinez of Catholic Charismatic Renewal who spoke of his deep respect and that of his organisation for Chiara Lubich and recalled their joint collaboration particularly in Rimini. His message illustrated the close unity between the two movements which was reinforced by the same faith and by their adherence to the same values, mutually supported in the pursuit of the same objectives.
The speech was given by Martin Nkafu, a professor of philosophy and theology from Cameroon, and Mayors Giuseppe Chicchi and Alberto Ravaioli. The former had granted the Honorary Citizenship to Chiara and he outlined the reasons in his speech: “Rimini, being always open to those on the other side of the Adriatic Coast, felt obliged to respond to the war that had just begun in former Yugoslavia; Chiara Lubich, through her presence gave vigour and universality to this desire for peace deeply felt by the municipality.” Alberto Ravaioli is the mayor who, in order to give continuity to the action of peace and human development to the city begun by his predecessor, welcomed Chiara in 2002.
Present at the round table conference were Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi (Bishop of Rimini), Gabriella Baldarelli (Professor of Civil Economy at the University of Bologna in Rimini), Sara Donati (President of the Rimini City Council), Dr Sergio Brasini (President of the University Campus of Rimini), Alessandro Giovanardi (writer, teacher of iconography and iconology, historian and art critic), Patrizio Bianchi (regional school and training counsellor), and Liliana Cosi (prima ballerina and founder of a classical ballet company together with dancer Marinel Stefanescu) who spoke of “beauty” discovered through Chiara Lubich’s spirituality and her commitment to promote the value of social art. “The artist is the person closest to the saint,” Chiara Lubich once wrote, “because they understand the human soul better than others”.