We asked Luciana Scalacci to recall memories with us of Chiara Lubich, woman of dialogue on this March 14, 2020, her death anniversary. Luciana and her husband Nicola were among the pioneers of the experience of dialogue between people of various convictions, even non-religious ones, born with and in the Focolare Movement.
It’s the early ’90s. Luciana and Nicola live in Abbadia San Salvatore, on Mount Amiata, the southern region of Tuscany. They are two people who are very committed to the political and trade union field, in a left-wing militancy focused on the values of justice, dialogue, and freedom. They got to know about the Focolare. “One day,” says Luciana, “I heard about a group that promoted the “dialogue between people of different convictions. Moreover, I heard there were no proselytizing intentions but the will to unite, through real respect and confrontation, people of goodwill, to go through the difficult and long journey towards a “more united world”. Although I was skeptical, I decided to join them. Perhaps, the movement was a place where one could commit oneself socially without any prejudices…”. And so this is how it began, for her and her husband Nicola, it was a path not at all taken for granted. “It is not taken for granted even today, but at that time it was not common for a Christian movement which adhered to the Catholic Church, to open its doors to people who were not affiliated with any religious faith, to establish relations of dialogue and active collaboration with them” recalls Luciana. In short, like all unknown things, this adventure did not fail to generate fear, on both sides. “The only one who had no worries whatsoever, in my opinion, was Chiara. With courage and a sense of responsibility, and being strong in what she believed to be true, she had understood that the long road to universal brotherhood can only pass through the paths of respectful confrontation with everyone,” Luciana confided to us, “She understood from the first moment that unity is done with others, not against others and could not leave out part of the world that – like me – do not have any religious faith. These were the first steps on a new path, and Luciana sometimes had the opportunity to share the journey with Chiara Lubich herself… “I was particularly lucky and privileged: I had the opportunity to have a direct relationship with her on several occasions. I assure you that from the very first time I met her, she showed me, a nobody, all her affection, all her esteem, she poured all her attention on me as if I were an important person. I remember in Florence in 2000, when she was conferred an honorary citizenship, in Palazzo Vecchio, she invited me to go up with her in the elevator, with the focolarini and the focolarine who accompanied her to Salone dei Cinquecento, where the ceremony would take place…”. Among the most beautiful memories, is a letter, which she rereads often. “Dearest Luciana,” Chiara writes, “Thank you for sending me your best wishes for my trip to Argentina and Brazil which I appreciated very much. […] We have already taken many steps together and we have mutually enriched each other, now, as you say, we must make this journey more and more visible so that many others can try it. We know the secret: Let’s keep on loving! I take you with me on my trip where I will meet others who share our Ideals. Ciao Luciana, Chiara”. “Of course I can speak only for myself, but here is what I think I have learned – Luciana resumes with decision – Chiara, with her way of dialoguing, has been able to create “bridges of unity”; she has succeeded in making emerge from each one, from every civil and religious culture, everything that unites and not what can divide… She made me understand that the “structures” that are in trouble, or in error, or not exhaustive, but in which one believes, should not be abandoned: we must remain within them because only from within can we contribute to improve them, to make them grow, to help them identify the best and fairest way to pursue the best and fairest objectives”. And then, again, on the importance of dialogue: “I have learned that dialogue is the only useful tool to solve the problems that afflict humanity; that dialogue is not optional but a necessity: it is the weapon that must be used, otherwise we will continue to walk towards self-destruction; that to relate with others it is necessary first of all to know oneself and, be strong, in believing in one’s truth, to offer it to others with love and personal disinterest, ready to accept the truths of the other, considering it as important as one’s own; that dialogue is participation in the life of the other and has nothing to do with tolerance (even though Chiara rightly told us that people who do not know how to dialogue, and to avoid conflict, it is good that at least they can tolerate it); that it is impossible to achieve these goals without values such as solidarity, peace, unity if we are not actively committed to human rights, justice, freedom, and a dignified life for all. Otherwise, solidarity, peace, unity remain only theoretical statements. Love is not a word that is an end in itself; lived dialogue helps to make the conscience more attentive to see the collective and individual suffering”. Some might wonder… and now that Chiara’s gone, what about all this? “Yes, Chiara is no longer with us, but we still believe in that hope of fraternity today, and I feel that we must continue to believe in it and commit ourselves to it if we want to get out of the “black hole” into which human egoism has thrown us. It is our young people to whom we must humbly apologize and ask forgiveness, that we can count on for the construction of a better world”.