Chiara Lubich dies; founded Catholic group

March 16, 2008 at 7:01 AM
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ROME, March 16 (UPI) -- Chiara Lubich, who founded Focolare, a Roman Catholic group active in 182 countries, has died in Italy at the age of 88.

As a sign of Lubich's importance to the church, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, will be the celebrant at her funeral Tuesday, The New York Times reported.

Lubich died Friday morning. She had been discharged the day before from a Rome hospital so she could die at her home near the city.

An elementary school teacher, Lubich founded Focolare or "Hearth" during World War II. Some of the first meetings were held in air-raid shelters.

Focolare began as a group of women who wanted to serve the poor. As it grew, men were allowed to join and the group's major purpose became working with other religious groups.

The group now has 140,000 members and 2 million associates.

When he learned of Lubich's death, Pope Benedict XVI sent Focolare a telegram praising her "constant commitment for communion in the church, for ecumenical dialogue and for brotherhood among people."

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