update: july 29th, 2008
Welcome to the alternative Focolare website.
This is the place on the web for people who are past members of the Focolare
and also for people who want to know more about the inside of the Focolare
that is mostly hidden behind a very different outside facade. We try to give
independent information in order to help people to understand the Focolare
better and we also provide a forum for the opinions of visitors to the site.
On July 7th a new president of the
Focolare Movement has been elected, Maria Voce, 70 years old and a lawyer by
profession. As such she has been involved in the design of the statutes of
the movement. We hope that she will find the wisdom and the courage to
develop and implement the changes in the structures that are necessary in
order to comfort de suffering of many people inside and outside the
movement. We also hope that her involvement in the making of the statutes
will not prevent or impede her ability and her desire to changes what is not
working to the benefit of the people involved in the movement. This website
will continue to monitor the development of the movement and we are open for
a transparent dialogue.
In light of the recent new developments in different zones of the movement,
the web team has decided to close the forum for the time being. Also it was
necessary modify our guestbook. We will soon give you more information and
we hope to re-open the forum again soon. You can always mail to email@example.com.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
A brand new article by Gordon
Note: This is not a official Focolare website. The information on our
website reflects the personal views and opinions of the webmasters and the
visitors of this website. We thank everybody for the many encouraging
reactions. Please feel free to write to us; we have taken every possible
precaution to guarantee your privacy and confidentiality.
Why did we start
Several years ago I had
the opportunity to meet Mother Theresa of Calcutta. With some pride in my
voice I told her that I was a gen. She looked at me with much love in her
eyes and said: "There is much more to life than Focolare..."
At that time I was
astonished because I believed that there was not anything bigger than the
Ideal. Only now I have come to understand the meaning of her words. It is
the joy of loving Jesus, without structures, organization or dogmas that I
like to keep in my heart, and forget about the rules and limitations that I
found in the focolare. This website wants to show that there is more than
Focolare, and that there is freedom of loving after you leave the movement.
The only freedom I know is that of a free mind. Unfortunately, there is no
freedom of mind, nor of speech in the movement. As somebody told me, "I had
to leave the movement in order to live my life in a free Christian spirit."
A new startling story from one of our visitors:
This site is such a surprise. I was introduced to the movement in 1976, and
I thought I had found "the answer" to all the pains of my childhood as well
as to the unhappy circumstances of a bad marriage. The love of "Jesus
Forsaken" as a means to accept imperfect life and still be able to love and
contribute to God's work, was a revelation I needed. The following 19 years
with the movement was filled with ups and downs of joy and confusion and
guilt. I believed with all my heart I was "living the Ideal" and yet, with
my husband and with the members of the movement, I was never quite "good
enough". When I could not commit to an offering of money (the RED), because
my controlling husband never gave me my own money, I was invited to talk to
a Cappa Focolarina and it was "suggested" that I really did not have what it
took to live the "difficult and demanding" life of a true married Focolarina.
I was crushed. I attempted to live out the "Ideal" as a Volunteer, but never
had a grappola, as I lived far from any Focolare community. I was pushed to
get "members" to form one. Another Focolarina told me my "downfall" to
living a vocation was to be my attachment to my husband and my analytical
mind. I had always thought these would be good things to have. I began to
doubt myself and my marriage.
The erosion of my life was not caused by the Focolare, but this treatment
certainly played a part in the confusion I was trapped in. When I found that
my "attachment" to my husband was broken by the realization that my ability
to function was compromised by the horrors in the marriage, I chose to leave
my marriage to be able to live for my children, I explained this as well as
I could to the people have been "estranged" from the movement since my
divorce in 1995. In spite of efforts to keep in touch, I also found that, I
was no longer of interest when I couldn't take the initiative to attend
meetings, make calls, etc. I finally realized that it was fair to be
"exiled", although no one ever said it officially, since I was after all
"living in sin." A good friend of mine, who I actually introduced to the
movement in 1983, has kept in touch, sporadically, at best. Even with her, I
believed I had become "unclean" and 'untouchable." But, then I haven't made
an effort either. The years during and following my divorce and separation
from the Catholic church were so painful and lonely, that I suffered
clinical depression. Those who helped me with my children, my finances, and
putting my life together, were NOT the Focolare family, and NOT the Catholic
church , but those whom I least expected. "Belonging" to the movement when I
was no longer capable of active participation, proved to be meaningless. I
consoled myself with the thought that surely they would pray for me, and
accepted my fate as my own fault for not continueing to "embrace Jesus
Forsaken" through a painful, broken, damaging marriage.
So, my story is long,I have followed the movement at a distance, and once in
awhile, when invited, participated in the few local activities. I have had
13 years to reflect upon it and to learn about myself, others, and God. I
believe that Chiara is authentic and the writings of the early movement are
solid. Someone here wrote that there is nothing “new” in Focolare, so why
the New this and the New that. Well, it is about becoming “new” in Christ
actually, and yeah…that is just basic Christianity. My trips to Rome, the
many many gatherings, including Mariapolis’s and visits to see Pope John
Paul, building of Luminosa, taking my children to international gatherings,
spending what money I had to fight my husband for to participate in things.
And so much more has brought me much insight into faith and was definitely
an instrument in my faith and spiritual development. So, I could only blame
me. What has haunted me, what I don’t understand to this day , is how it is
Christian and/or Holy to abandon a “family member” when they are most in
need. I realize that in my personal life, I became the face of Jesus
Forsaken. Yet, I was not embraced, “always, immediately, and with joy.” In
fact, I believe I was easily forgotten. I am not angry…..I am just hurting
and don’t know how to heal from this.
The main goal of this website is not to criticise the Focolare but to help
people. We try to do this in 3 ways:
1. Information and counselling for people who are part of the Focolare or
the Gen movement
2.Understanding and friendship for people who have left the Focolare
3. Information for new members or people who are thinking about joining the
This website does not repeat the information given on the official Focolare
website. We give our own thoughts and impressions and are independent of the
We are working hard to translate our website to other languages like Italian
, Spanish, German and Dutch. We would also like to improve the visual
appearance of our website. Because we are still a small group, we could use
some help. Please if anybody has some time, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every offer will be seriously considered.
Quotes from people who wrote to us
My name is René and I came into contact with the Focolare in 1979 in
Australia. I was then 17 years of age and living with my family. My father
was searching at that time for some form of meaningful Christian community
to belong to. I met a handful of focolarini and attended a few mini-Mariapoli
days. Some of the gen 2 boys were renting a house (the "Gen House") and I
used to travel up on some weekends to visit and stay overnight.
After completing secondary school in 1980 I visited my relatives in Ireland,
and also stayed for some weeks in Loppiano. When I returned to Australia, I
lived for 2 years in Brisbane and did not have any contact with Focolare. I
became involved with and lived in a "Catholic Worker" community (inspired by
the lives of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York).
In 1983 I lived in a "Gen House" until August 1986. During those years I
also attended some Mariapoli in Manila. I then stayed for a few months in
Rome at the international Gen House near Grottaferrata within the domain of
the focolarino "Opus". I proceeded to live in the Gen School at Loppiano for
a further 6 months and on my way home, I stopped off to experience life with
the Gen and focolarini of Manila and Tagaytay for 3 months in mid 1987.
Within a year of returning from these intense experiences, I expressed a
desire to become a focolarino. I lived together in a rented house together
with a few other "esterni" for a few years. In late 1990 I moved into a
focolarini household for a few months before returning to Loppiano again in
Together with other prospective focolarini who were not able to speak
Italian, I spent 12 months learning the language before entering the first
year of "The School" of focolarini in 1991/2. I completed the second year in
Montet in 1992/3 but was experiencing depressive symptoms and was asked to
stay another year. Over the course 1993/4 I was offered the opportunity of
talking with psychiatrist Dr Paul Schmidt, a focolarino in Zurich. I found
the life at Montet so stifling that in September 1994 I asked for a ticket
to return to Australia.
I stayed in focolare for a month until I found myself an apartment and
employment. I lived alone. I was estranged from both my family and the
focolare community. After about a year I suffered a major depressive episode
and stopped working for a year.
Ten years ago, in August 1996, at the age of 35, I began to go out with a
woman, who I married in December 2000. I now have 4 step-children. Last
year, the two boys (25 and 21 years old) and the eldest girl (23 y.o.) moved
out of home. Our youngest girl is 16 years old.
I am finding life "on the outside" to be challenging and rewarding as I
struggle with mental illness. After a few years of marriage and some limited
capacity in a role as step-parent, stress at work contributed to further
episodes of major depressive disorder and over another year out of work.
I have just started to return to work a few months ago in the field of
"Personal Support" (a program of assistance to people experiencing long-term
unemployment). For 10 years, up until a few months ago, I had avoided any
kind of work directly associated with caring for others.
Having read Gordon's book, I am also eager to find and talk with others who
have undergone such intense experiences and to put together some of the
pieces of the puzzle which remains in my mind, heart, spirit and body.
May these lines bring a blessing to your reading of them in some way
All people to whom young people turn in their quest, should feel their deep
responsibility to offer their best life experience, but *never* make the
young ones dependent on themselves or on any ideology - instead youngsters
should be encouraged to think by themselves and look for their own
conclusions and deductions, even somehow "pushed" to walk by themselves.
It has been a few weeks ago that I came across this wonderful website.
Really, you guys are doing an great job. You show another side of the
focolare that has not been revealed by other sources, only by Gordon
Urquhart’s excellent book.
When I mailed my thoughts to the webmaster (Lionello) I got very good
response and now I have contact with other people who have been involved in
the movement. This is a great help. I’d like to thank everybody who has made
this possible. If anybody is out there not knowing what to think of this
website, I can only say, don’t hesitate but contact the webmaster. Share
your ideas and you will see how life after focolare can also be good.
We all have the love of God in our hearts, nothing can change that. But we
are not made to be alone. For me, it has been good to find new friends here
who respect me, trust me, without trying to influence or manipulate me.
Special thanks to a unique person in the web team who went through a great
deal of trouble to make me understand things better.
A few of my best friends are living in a focolare, some of them even because
at one time I have introduced them to the movement. Now I feel very sorry
for them because they have lost all their privacy in order to live their
Ideal of God-Love. I know it is their own free choice to do so, but I cannot
understand why everybody has to pay such a high price for wanting to live
the Word of God.
Chiara took the Gospel very literally, which was a great strength, but not
everyone is as strong as she was. Many people break down under the pressure
of living in a glass cage. I appeal to all the leaders of the Focolare to
ease down a little, be more open minded and allow some privacy to the
members of the Focolari.
In the end this openness will help to keep the Ideal alive. Think about it
and you will see it is the decent thing to do.
The alternative site about Focolare has a great value and it is a duty to
tell people that to come in contact with Movement means :
(1) to do a strong experience of God but also
(2) to accept a lot of rules that many sects use to obtain trust.
You can't close your eyes in front of the techniques used by Focolare in
order to keep you
in and convince you not to express the reasonable doubts that could arise.
You should recognize them and then you could tell me that the Truth of
justifies those techniques. I don't think so, but I could understand such a
point of view. What's your
Moreover, the value of this site is also the fact that it provides to many
ex-members a VERY important place in which they can share their (often
painful, like mine) experiences lived in Focolare.
Is there a happy life after focolare?
It certainly is but you have to find some solutions. If you know somebody
from your region who has left try to spend time together and try to talk
talk talk; you will be so amazed at what the other says, that he struggled
with exactly the same things as you did.
I did the same I went for a walk with somebody I had know for a very long
time; now for the first time I met her as she was; she had struggled with
the same things but never ever we would have talked about that in our
focolare period because then you would be out of the supernatural.
My dear friends we consist of a natural and supernatural part and should
take care of both. As you will have lost all of your former focolare friends
why not go on holiday together. Try to remember what you liked as a hobby
before you entered focolare and take it up again. If you hurt too much go
and seek help with a psychiater you don't have money ask focolare if you
have given your superfluous and insist on it that you need it. Be patient
with yourself, in time you will find new friends, hobbies and a new aim in
life. Take courage!
A group of people in France have successfully objected to a Focolare centre
coming to their town. Now the focolare is trying to find another place to
build a enter in France. In Holland the focolare received a huge donation
that enables them to start a centre near the town of Heusden
('s-Hertogenbosch). They will however need even more money because the
buildings are not good enough to live in. Soon they will start building
dwellings on the premises of a beautiful old monastery.
Recently we received many e-mails, both from people who encourage us and
also from people that are very angry with this website. Now it is possible
to write your opinion in the guestbook, but we also like to put some more
questions on this site. We like to hear a reaction from the official
Focolare movement, but also from people who are members or ex-members of
this organization. The official Focolare leadership is especially invited to
clarify their point of view. All reactions will be published.
1. Why is there no democratic leadership in the focolare movement?
2. Why does the Focolare organization keep all their financial dealings a
3. Why do some Focolare people have expensive cars and beautiful houses?
4. Is it true that Focolare recruits from people in vulnerable situations
like young children and people who are having a difficult period in life?
In a recent verdict the Dutch High Court has prevented a focolarino to
receive a tax-reduction. The Court ruled that a member of the Focolare is
bound to give all his belongings and money to the Movement. This makes it
impossible for him to use the same money claiming it is a free gift and
receive a tax-deduction.
In our opinion this case proves once again that money is a most important
issue for the Focolare people. Fortunately there are some officials yet who
can see clearly what is right and what is just too much. For those of you
who want to know every detail we put in the link:
In our last count it turned out the international Focolare website has 800
web-pages now. They are overwhelming the net as well as the real world, with
more drive than any international commercial company. It seems that those
who run the organization these days have gone a long way from the humble
beginning without a clear goal, like Chiara had at the start of the
movement, some 60 years ago.
Question of Lionello from Florence, Italy:
Could you tell me the difference between the focolare and opus dei?
Answer: Opus Dei only wants to take charge of the Catholic Church while the
people of the Focolare would also like to take charge of the rest of the
world. As Chiara always reminded her followers of the Scripture: Blessed are
the meek, for they shell inherit the earth. Focolare is working to put
people in responsible positions within the Catholic Church like Cardinal Vik
but also in the Italian political arena, in the economic field, at the
United Nations through the cover of New Humanity.
Please visit the Focolare network Guestbook
A recommended book about Focolare, just click on the image
For nine years, Urquhart belonged to Focolare, whose 80,000 core members
live in 1,500
dioceses around the world. He left in 1976 and has since devoted himself to
exposing what he now calls the "sinister characteristics" of the focolare.
Urquhart summarizes their features this way: "the personality cult of the
leader; a hidden but rigid hierarchy; a highly efficient internal
communications system; secret teachings revealed in stages; a vast
recruitment operation using sect-like techniques; indoctrination of members;
and boundless ambitions for influence in church and society." Of greatest
concern to Urquhart is another goal of the focolare: "ego-destruction,
causing depression and mental breakdown on an alarming scale."