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Universal brotherhood has never been more vital

By Susan Gately - 30 June, 2017

“The movement towards universal brotherhood has been challenged but not diminished by recent events,” says one of the organisers of the Focolare summer gathering which takes place next week.

The charism of Focolare, one of the ecclesial movements in the Church, is said to be unity or universal brotherhood.

Garret Hayes said that the recent outpourings that have been seen following the various disasters in the UK, and the protests in the US reaffirming the right of all people regardless of nationality, colour or religion to live side by side, “show that people are looking for unity within their diversity”.

This year’s summer gathering of Focolare takes place in Dungarvan from 5 to 9 July and is entitled ‘That’s How the Light Gets in’.

“‘That’s how the Light Gets in’ is the second half of a phrase well known to some, from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’: ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’,” explains Co-Director of Focolare David Hickey from Dublin.

Rev. Ken Newell

“Our gathering this year will focus in particular on facing the harsh challenges we all meet in our lives today and how to transform them, our shortcomings, worries and pains – the cracks, into something positive – into light.”

Presbyterian minister Rev. Ken Newell will address the gathering on Friday morning.

Rev. Newell’s bridge-building and friendship with Catholic priest Fr Gerry Reynolds triggered a ground-breaking initiative during the Troubles which contributed to the IRA and Loyalist ceasefires of 1994.

For their work, Rev. Newell and Fr Reynolds were awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Prize, and in 2004 Rev Newell received an OBE for his work towards peace.

Saturday’s programme will focus on the family and in particular the World Meeting of Families 2018.

Against the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks and anti-immigrant sentiment, Catherine Burke from Dungarvan, Co-Director of Focolare, believes Jesus’ prayer, “Father may they all be one”, is more important than ever.

“Universal brotherhood has never been more vital,” she says. “At our gathering we want to bear witness that unity really is possible. We’ll be sharing some of our own first-hand experiences in regard to welcoming refugees and our discovery that God is waiting for us in every encounter, no matter how difficult.”

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan from Waterford will celebrate the opening Mass for the gathering, which is expected to attract up to 400 people, at 9.30 am at St Mary’s Church on Thursday 6 July.

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy will also be present at the event and will address the young people on the topic ‘The wonder of thinking’ on Friday afternoon.

The gathering will have its hub at the Fusion Hall, Dungarvan in the mornings and the Gold Coast Hotel in the afternoons. There will be parallel programs for children and young people during the morning sessions. For further information see www.focolare.org/ireland.

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