The Focolare Movement began in 1943 in Italy as “a current of spiritual and social renewal” within the Catholic Church. Focolare (Italian for “hearth”) was started by a woman named Chiara Lubich with a focus on the universal brotherhood of man and ecumenical unity. Lubich had her idea of Focolare after meditating after Mass on John 17:21: “That all of them may be one.”
Early on, the Focolare Movement was comprised of a group of women who lived together in Trent, Italy. When World War II ended, many of these women moved to various other cities to spread the movement, largely within the Roman Catholic Church. Focolare currently claims to have approximately 120,000 adherents in 194 nations. Most of the members are Catholic, but the organization also claims members of other faiths, including Anglicans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs. Further, the movement includes a section of its work dedicated to “persons of no religious affiliation,” such as agnostics and atheists.
The Focolare Movement promotes Marian theology. Chiara Lubich sometimes referred to her organization as “the Work of Mary” with the idea that the Focolarini were bringing Jesus to the world, just as Mary did. Focolare sees Mary as the agent of unification: “In the likeness of Mary, this Movement is like her mantle, that gathers in all the different expressions of the Church and of humanity, because it has received from God the gift of making them into family. This gift, this charism, makes the Movement resemble, precisely, Mary in her maternal and unifying role” (Chiara Lubich, from www.focolare.org/en/movimento-dei-focolari/un-popolo/, accessed 7/19/2017).
The goal of the Focolare Movement is to “live out the gospel” in order to overcome all divisions and see the world live in peace. This is a noble goal, and all Christians should seek to live by the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Focolare is not about evangelizing the world or seeking converts to Jesus Christ; it is about bringing together everyone who believes in “God,” whether or not they accept Jesus (see John 14:1). But faith in a generically defined “God” is no virtue (see James 2:19).
Focolare is about seeking peace not on the basis of shared faith in Christ but on the basis of common humanity (see Jeremiah 6:14). It is about exalting Mary as the universal mother. It is about promoting Catholicism even as it dialogues with other world religions; it has been unofficially affiliated with Catholicism since its start, and officially since 1990.
True Christian unity is built upon the truths of the Bible, including salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Jesus made the exclusive claim to be the way, the truth, and the life and said that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The apostles taught there is no other name under heaven by which people must be saved (Acts 4:12). Because the Focolare Movement embraces religions that hold to different gods and different ways of salvation, it cannot be considered a biblical Christian movement.
Paul describes true Christian unity in Ephesians 4:3–6: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” World peace is a laudable goal, but not at the expense of truth. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is also the Truth.