As the Focolare Movement gathered for its international meeting, speakers reflected on how important Christian unity has become in helping to heal the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gathering, being held 28-29 May under the theme “Love one another as I have loved you,” is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Centro “Uno” for Christian Unity, founded by Chiara Lubich on 26 May 1961.
Margaret Karram, president of the Focolare Movement, shared her own story on the path of Christian unity. “I encountered the Focolare Movement when I was 14 years of age through a group of young people,” she recalled, and she then began coming into contact with the faiths of many churches.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into harsh light what humans truly value, reflected Karram. “The rediscovery of God becomes urgent,” she said, adding that unity is first and foremost a gift from God.
“Our portion is in living out this mutual love,” she said. “This is a love which has no measure.”
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, shared cordial greetings from Pope Francis, and spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic, in some ways, places the concept of unity in jeopardy for humankind.
“The search for unity is no longer at the center of attention as it was in tradition,” Koch said. “Rather, pluralism has become the fundamental concept.”
The physical distance people were forced to adopt during COVID-19 has shown that the search for unity is more important than ever, Koch said.
“The social distance required for healthcare reasons once again highlights in collective awareness the value of interpersonal relationships,” he said. When direct relationships cannot happen, he said, the world experiences “suffering and pain when they cannot be lived out.”
World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca reflected on Christians together in times of pandemic. “Many of our communities are experiencing death, fear, isolation, and anxiety concerning the future,” he said. “Yet, we remain strong if we stay together in our fellowship of prayer and fraternal solidarity with a never-wavering commitment to Christian unity.”
Many Christians and churches are mutually supporting each other, comforting those who have lost loved ones, accompanying the sick and helping those in need, Sauca reflected. “Together on the way in the context of the pandemic, our ecumenical pilgrimage of justice and peace becomes a pilgrimage of hope and love for the fellowship of churches and the world,” he said. “There is God’s promise of the healing of this broken world and reconciliation and unity with God in Christ.”
Our way into the future must be a way of justice and peace for all that we share with all other people of good will, Sauca added. “We have to take responsibility for life and survival of all or we will perish together.”