A few weeks ago after receiving the news of my next appointment at Istituto Universitario Sophia I had the idea of writing a letter to all people of different religions I met in the last 12 years. Of course, I could not remember all of them, but I had many addresses and contacts especially of those with whom we entertained program, conferences, different initiatives of dialogue. Many were constant companions in the pilgrimage of dialogue, others came along the way now and then. But I truly felt a deep sense of gratitude for each and every one of them, including many Christians involved in the same adventure of dialogue.
Here a few lines of my letter.
“Dear sisters and brothers, dear friends,
our family is too large to be able to name each and every one, but I see your faces and hear your voices because of the long journey that God has brought us on in these years. As you probably know, with the holding of the General Assembly of the Focolare Movement, held from 24 January to 7 February, I concluded my experience as co-director of the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Focolare Movement. Those twelve years were full of experiences, new friendships, relationships of true fraternity and sorority and, at the same time, there was never a lack of challenges, difficulties and unforeseen events. Not least was the pandemic that prevented us from concluding the year of Chiara’s centenary with an interreligious meeting that many had long expected. I cannot deny that I feel profoundly different, enriched and transformed, by the relationships built up with many Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikhs, Zoroastrian and Christian brothers and sisters who believe in and live dialogue in their daily lives, in a hidden yet true, and real, way. I am grateful to each and every one of you for what you have been, are and continue to be for me and for the stretch of road we have travelled together in dialogue, the common pilgrimage towards the Truth, as Benedict XVI called it. I will continue, however, to live this experience […]
As we well know, after years of living in the great and boundless network of deeply enriching relationships that dialogue brings, the experience can never grow dim. I will work from our Sophia University, in Loppiano (Incisa V.no – Florence) where I have been teaching Theology and Praxis of Dialogue for years and where I have now started a newly inaugurated course, Theor-Ethics of Dialogue. […]
Of course, I remain available for consultancy, to carry out training programmes in dialogue, to participate in conferences and whatever else is needed, alongside the Centre for Dialogue, with whom I will continue to collaborate at Sophia.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I ask you to accompany me in prayer, in the sensitivity and tradition of each tradition, certain that the Spirit of God will make what we have built together bear fruit With a fraternal embrace full of gratitude and affection”.
In the coming days I received about one hundred replies, which touched me deeply as they confirmed the great bond of friendship, brotherhood, sisterhood we were able to establish with many. I would say with all!
I just quote some of them here below as they a common patrimony of all those, like you, with whom we have walked together and will continue on the same path.
“Thanks, Roberto, for your update. All my unity for the next stages. God has always new surprises ahead and Sophia will certainly benefit from your great experience, knowledge and, above all, your being a a spiritual son of Chiara. ( a bishop)
“For many years we have walked together on the path of interreligious dialogue and we have shared many events, many wonderful moments. We have often been able to touch firsthand how God was and is at work! Your passion for Dialogue has pushed and inspired us and we feel the same passion in ourselves a little. Because dialogue is one of the paths to peace, to a united humanity. It was a joy to have been able to live this adventure with you, which will continue in a different way. We just have to say one word: Thank you from the heart. You have been a gift to us and we are sure you are and will be for everyone around you”. (a group from Germany)
“Thank you for the letter explaining leadership changes in the Center for Interreligious Dialogue. Your leadership has meant a great deal to me and I hope that your next challenge will be as fulfilling and enriching for you as your leadership has been for me. May this Easter bring you blessings and joy”. (an American Jewish sister)
“Un grand merci pour cette lettre où tu nous fais part de cet important tournant dans ta vie. Avec un regard de reconnaissance sur le chemin parcouru et de nouvelles perspectives qui s’ouvrent devant toi. Avec toi je rends grâces Dieu pour ce chemin en le remerciant aussi de tout ce qu’il t’a donné de vivre et de partager. Merci pour l’enrichissement que tu as apporté en incarnant le charisme de l’unité dans le dialogue. J’ai bien peur que tu ne guériras jamais du virus du dialogue et j’ai suis heureux!!!” (a Swiss Reformed Pastor)
“Many thanks to you, not only for your friendship and the guidance you have offered me in various ways on various occasions with the passion, intelligence, tenderness, wisdom, that is, light and warmth, but also for your constant commitment with which you have built a further bridge with us, bearing witness to the immense love of Jesus.” (A Japanese Buddhist brother)
“An infinite thanks to you for your talent in serving this great cause of Interreligious Dialogue. You remain an expert we could certainly draw on! Thank you for your love and support in so many moments”. (a French Catholic sister)
“Thank you for your good wishes, which I reciprocate with joy, and above all for what you show in the attached letter. Your big heart and your splendid openness to the ends of the world and to universal brotherhood.
I am happy with your new adventure at Sophia, where you will continue to train people like you, capable to see God’s work in action among all men and women of the world. Warmest wishes! As you may know, I too finish with this academic year for having reached the age limit. I hug you and thank you for what you have communicated to me about your passion too. It was a gift from God to meet you!” (a former Rector of a Pontifical University in Rome)
“At the same time, all my recognition and thanks for what I experienced with Roberto, my teacher of dialogue and life. A life dedicated to meeting and love. Thanks and let’s continue together!” (a sister rabbi from Argentina)
“I have received your email and I congratulate you on the results you have achieved in all of these years of dialogue with Muslim communities and beyond. Starting a business from almost zero and building and shaping it with respect for cultures and trends is not an easy job. But with perseverance, patience, knowledge, good will, group solidarity and the divine support we have achieved a results. I offer you my most sincere wishes for a good continuation in both your academic activities that dialogue and I hope to meet you as soon as time permits”. (an Algerian brother imam living in Italy)