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The Focolare Movement is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Founded in 1943 in Trento, northern Italy by Chiara Lubich as a religious movement, the Focolare Movement, though primarily Roman Catholic, now has strong links to the major Christian denominations and other religions, or in some cases, with the non-religious. It is also called the "Opera di Maria," or "Work of Mary". The Focolare Movement operates in 182 nations and has over 100,000 adherents. The Movement's name comes from the Italian word for "hearth" or "family fireside".
In 1943 in Trent, Italy, Chiara Lubich founded the movement during the Second World War. Chiara and her companions, started off working with people in the poorest neighborhoods of the city and bomb shelters. This first group soon became a movement, dedicated to living out the precepts of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and spread initially in Europe and then worldwide.
The current president of the focolare movement is Maria Voce, who was elected in 2008. Today the movement, which is now international, considers the following issues as part of its mandate: to cooperate in the consolidation of unity in the Catholic world, with individuals and groups, movements and associations; to contribute to full communion with Christians of different churches; to move towards universal brotherhood with followers of various religions and people of other persuasions, including atheists. The whole movement is divided in 25 branches. Gradually, several projects have sprung up within the movement: the school 'Abba', the 'Economy of Communion' (which is linked more than 800 companies), evangelism within small cities, social work, and publishing magazines. The Focolare Movement is recognized by the Pope and is present in over 182 countries.
Every year the Movement holds local retreats termed Mariapolises, where members and newcomers come together to discuss the Movement and its spirituality. The first Mariapolis was held in 1949 in Fiera di Primiero, in the heart of Italy's Dolomite mountains. Each year, over 200,000 persons attend a Mariapolis. At a Mariapolis, it is common for there to be an ecumenic prayer room, or a panel discussion with leaders from multiple faiths. These short retreats are related to the Permanent Mariapolises, 33 settlements that serve as Focolare centers.
New City Press, established in 1964, is an official publishing house for the Focolare movement. Among their publications is the Spirituality of Unity series, featuring the works of founder Chiara Lubich, and Understanding the Scriptures, Bible commentaries by scholars such as Daniel Harrington, Dianne Bergant, Robert Karris, and Ronald Witherup.
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