The International Patriarch Athenagoras-Chiara Lubich Ecumenical Chair began its work at Sophia University Institute today with a two-day conference titled Pope Paul VI, Patriarch Athenagoras, Chiara Lubich, a prophecy of unity between sister churches.
«Perhaps not everyone knows that this Chair is one of the few that is shared by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and it is privileged to be part of a synergy between the Institute and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople,» explained rector of Sophia University Institute, Giuseppe Argiolas. The Chair was established in 2017, fifty years after the first meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras and the foundress of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich, which took place on June 13, 1967 and is rooted in a long journey of dialogue, friendship and collaboration between the Phanar and the Focolare Movement.”
Although it will only be partially live because of Covid restrictions and live streamed on YouTube, the two-day study is dedicated to the memory of the meeting and the path of reconciliation and peace undertaken by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, thanks also to the mediation that was initiated by Chiara Lubich, their “unofficial ambassador of unity” as Patriarch Bartholomew defined her in his introductory greeting. “For all of us,” he added, “the only way to honor the memory, the sacred enthusiasm and the contribution of these three visionaries of unity is the continuation of the dialogue of love in truth and truth in love between the two sister Churches, the “dialogue of life” of the faithful, of collaboration and common initiatives in the face of great contemporary challenges.”
Margaret Karram, Vice-Chancellor of the Institute and president of the Focolare Movement said that it was a timely event, part of the Chair’s mission because of the horizons of dialogue that it can open beyond the logic of confrontation and violence that re-emerge and endanger the process of sharing and peace that has already begun: «Chiara Lubich, a woman – a laywoman – was called by God to act as an ecumenical bridge between two giants of prophecy and unity, Athenagoras and Paul VI. My hope is that the Ecumenical Chair may continue with the entire Work of Mary, to act as a bridge, with love, through mutual knowledge and further study between our sister Churches, walking together in the Light of Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).»
One of the first commitments of the Chair, explained Piero Coda, will be to «develop a map of dynamic principles for the reception and development of the ecumenical dialogue between the sister Churches at the theological level.»
Participating in the conference are Orthodox and Catholic academics: His Eminence Metropolitan Polycarp, Orthodox Archbishop of Italy and Exarch of Southern Europe, His Eminence the Metropolitan Maximos of Selvyria, Co-Chair with Prof. Mons. Piero Coda, theologian, the Prof. Giuseppe Argiolas, Rector of IUS, Fr. Giuliano Savina Director of the National Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the CEI, Prof. Augustinos Bairactaris, professor of Ecumenical Dialogue and Orthodox Theology at the Patriarchal University Ecclesiastical Academy of Crete, Prof. Dimitrios Keramidas, professor at the Faculty of Missiology of the Gregorian University, Dr. Sandra Ferreira, co-director of the Uno Center for Christian Unity of the Focolare Movement.