Welcome to Focolare.net free

        This website is renewed all the time. (2023)

         A short introduction

This humble website exists to offer you information about the Focolare movement, information that you cannot find on the official website. As long as the people who have had problems with the Focolare are not heard and do not have a voice on the official website, this website will provide a platform. Here people can share their experiences, ask questions and give their opinions freely.

September 10th, 2023

It has been more than 20 years ago when we started to ask questions about everything that is going on behind the scenes of the focolare movement. Now, finally, it seems some questions are being answered. And some things seem to start to change. However it is too early to jump to conclusions. But we like to take a look at a report about abuse in the focolare movement that has been written by the movement itself recently. Shortly we will also write our own reaction to this report. You can read the report from March 2023 if you follow this link.
To see the first report by GCPS from 2022 about abuse please follow this link.

March 10th, 2023

After sometime of quiet growth, we are glad to announce that are many new and interesting initiatives. As always, we have been looking in the mirror and asked ourselves: Why are we doing this and will we keep going another year? And we found answers. We are going on for all those who left the focolare movement and for those who are still in it. This year specially for our friends who are still part of the movement.

New websites and interviews:  

Regain my freedom

This website is a new blog written by Roho. It will be a search for where she comes from and what happened to her. She is still discovering what happened to her while being part of the Focolare Movement and recovering from it. She is a survivor, proud and strong. The language is English and Italian.

The stumblings of a turtle...  
(L' inciampo del carapace.  Degli errori di Chiara Lubich o di chi l’ha mal consigliata.)

A website in Italian writing about everything you ever wanted to know about the focolare movement but never dared to ask.

Oref (Organizzazione Ex Focolari)

Oref (Former Focolari Organization) is an international organization that brings together women and men who have distanced themselves from the spiritual path of Chiara Lubich's Focolare Movement after having been part of it, having recognized its limits and abuses and rejected its practices.

Pulling back the curtain on the Focolare Movement

Exclusive interview with the Italian author of a new look inside one of the Catholic Church's most influential -- and problematic -- ecclesial movements of our times

The Popes armada 25

"In the years I spent as a member of the Movement, I recall specific examples when 'books' were dismissed out of hand.  While I was doing a degree in English and Italian Literature, I mentioned to Jean-Marie Wallet, the head of the London Focolare, that, since meeting the movement, I was having increasing difficulty reading the books on my syllabus.  'Yes,' he nodded sagely: 'once you have read the writings of Chiara Lubich, the great works of world literature fade into insignificance.' " (By Gordon Urquhart)

August 10th, 2022

Here is an interesting question we have recieved:

Dear website team,

I regularly check your site (and recently also the OREF Facebook page) and questions keep popping up in my mind: I have been a volunteer of the Focolare movement for many years and have donated large sums of money within the framework of the community of goods donated. There was always an action, a charity or some reason to give. And many did with me! After reading La Setta Divina (particularly chapter 32) I understand all the more that the movement, with all movable and immovable property, has an enormous capital. But… who is actually in charge of all that money? The president?? Those responsible for the 'red'?? You are not telling me that 'Jesus in the middle' does the bookkeeping and has the last word in financial decisions.

People often talk about spiritual things, brotherhood, charism, living in unity…but isn't this a kind of 'smoke screen' to fool everyone?

What POWER is actually behind the movement?
By now I have the necessary distance from the movement, so now dare to ask this open question in all honesty. I'm very curious how you think about this.

Thanks in advance for any response,

Pierre F. (France)

July 10th, 2022

Here are some experiences we have collected:

C. worked in a Mariapolis Center as a cleaner, in the kitchen, in the distribution of meals, at the reception in exchange only for room and board. There was no INAIl coverage for accidents or INPS for social security.

The working hours exceeded 48 hours of work per week, which theoretically would be the maximum allowed by the legislation.

On holidays or during breaks, housework had to be done in the Focolare, so in fact you never felt you had moments of rest or privacy to do something relaxing. During the holidays there was no possibility to choose the place to go, because everything was already established, the only possible choice was between sea and mountains. Visits to families were also established by the head of the Focolare.

M. worked in a public office. The salary arrived in his current account and the next day was transferred to the Movement for the needs of the Opera. Therefore, once he left the focolare he could not benefit from all the money he had earned during his working period.

L. lived in a Focolare, but due to her probably too determined and not very docile character she was invited to live outside the Focolare alone in an apartment, even if she had to always be accountable to the Focolare for all aspects of her life and her own work.

July 1rst, 2022

Six and a half months after La setta divina....

It seems that the strategy of ignoring and stalling is still the favorite choice of the movement.

Meanwhile, more and more people are reaching out to us and to the new organization called OREF, Organization Ex Focolari. For more information on OREF, please look at their Facebook page.

Why and how did OREF start?

After the publication in Italy of Ferruccio Pinotti's investigative book “The divine sect", OREF - ORganizzazione Ex Focolari was born, with the aim of investigating and recording cases of abuse of all kinds by the Focolare Movement, which seem to be a systematic problem, and to pursuing justice for the victims. Many people contacted OREF to share their experience of difficulties within the Focolare Movement.

The main objective of OREF is to offer, to those who have moved away from the Movement or to those who, despite being still inside, are experiencing a situation of pain or crisis, a space for listening and sharing, to face objectively, and with the support of those who have lived the same experience, the problems related to spiritual or property abuse.

OREF is an international organization that gathers members from various countries of Europe and America, who found in meeting and sharing the possibility of reworking the experience of totalitarian dedication to the Movement, which had led to psychological trauma and spiritual, difficult to overcome. In this meeting space we want to affirm the value of the dignity of the person, in the possibility of living the freedom of conscience and thought in a full and authentic path of realization.

June 1rst, 2022

Five and a half months after the release of the book La setta divina....

The Focolare movement still has to come up with an answer, meanwhile, we received this mail from Rosa, telling us her story.

When I was young, a few times I went along to GEN-congresses in Rome and I still remember well how special it was when Chiara gave a speech. I was in a kind of hypnosis and could only look up to her as someone who knew the answer to all my problems.

Did I need to cling to someone “beyond myself” in hopes of getting clarity in myself?? A strange confusing experience that has bothered me for years.

In the book La Setta Divina I read an interesting quote from the psychologist Miguel Perlado: “... movements like Focolare can become a psychological movement that should support and improve the health of the leader [...] The dynamics are very complex: there is a kind of deep exchange, a mutual transference between the foundress and the followers, one becomes important to the other and vice versa. A mutual dependence is created which is necessary on the one hand for the mental balance of the leader and on the other hand important for the follower because otherwise he does not know what to do with his life…”

Perlado's words make a lot clear to me, a confirmation of what I have dealt with in the past.

Rosa P. (Argentina)

May 1rst, 2022

Four and a half months after the release of the book La setta divina....

The Focolare movement still has to come up with an answer, but one of the contributors to the book has written to our website and she has also released a very interesting video on Youtube. We are happy to share this news with all our readers.

My name is Monique van Heynsbergen, I am an ex focolarina from the Netherlands.

I would like to say a few things about the book LA SETTA DIVINA (The Divine Sect). The author and research journalist Ferruccio Pinotti has done an extraordinary job. He described the dark aspects of the Focolare Movement and explained the sectarian drifts. And I would say, he revealed the mysteries of the Movement.

In the book you also can read 18 testimonies (inclusive mine) of former members: very painful stories of different people from different parts of the world, victims who have suffered abuse on various levels, former members who tell what they experienced within the Movement and explain why they left. I read everything and I noticed that all these testimonies have similarities. It means that there is something general in the structure of the Movement, in the so-called "system of unity", that does not work, that does not fit!

I got to know that there were much more testimonies, but the book already counted 500 pages....  Well, I cannot speak for other people, I can only say something about my own personal experience:  I got to know the Focolare Movement in 1965. One of Chiara Lubich's first companions, Graziella De Luca, was traveling to the Netherlands for her apostolic work and in that occasion my father met the Focolarini. A few weeks later, my father suddenly died of a heart attack. Some Focolarine, having our address, came to our house and my family, mother and four children, were invited to come to the Mariapolis. This was the start of a new chapter. I was 10 years old and I was very sad about the death of my father, all of us in the family were shocked. Near my school there was a house where Focolarine were living in a commune and I often went there after school. The Focolarine were so kind to me and gave me attention; because of the emptiness and the sad atmosphere at home, I wanted to stay more and more there in the Focolare, as a new family. I participated in the meetings of the Gen and I wanted to follow Chiara, to choose God in the first place in my life. Me too - as a Gen – I wanted to commit myself to unity. I did not realize that I was slipping into another world, into a "parallel reality".

One day, I was 13 years old, I received a note from Eli Folonari, Chiara's secretary. The note says:

(September 5, 1969) “Dearest Monique,  Chiara has chosen for you the same name as hers: CHIARA. Are you happy? I wish you to be really a little Chiara. In unity, Eli.”

I really thought I had the vocation to be a Focolarina. Then, at the age of 19, I officially entered in the Focolare commune, but I didn't realize that I had joined a cult. I wanted to live for unity, but I did not realize that to reach such a lofty ideal I had to give up the most authentic of my being. How many times I have heard those famous words of Chiara, I still know them by heart. Some quotes: "Every soul of the Focolare has to be my expression and nothing else ...To live the Life that God has given them, they must be nourished by the God who lives in my soul ... They must therefore let themselves be generated by me "....(end quotes)

Yes indeed, we had to live "the Soul"....the soul of Chiara. How many times I have been told: "Monique must not exist"..."Monique must be dead". This was my "education" in the years of growth, in adolescence. And even if there were things I didn't understand, people said to me "It doesn't matter if you don't understand, as long as Chiara understands!"  In addition, I grew up in a female system. This created confusion in me in juvenile development and adolescence, because the person responsible for me was a woman and in the life of unity the only point of reference. In a very subtle manner I was more and more in her power, as if she entered inside of me on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level. Even later, growing up, somebody else was still thinking for me. This created a deep dependence on my capo who represented Chiara. I was - so to speak -, "in love" with the person who kept me in prison and I did not know how to get out of this strong dependence. Outside of unity, outside of the Movement, who am I ???

At the age of 33 I felt so crushed, under pressure, that I wanted to end my days. I had the feeling of being two people: on the one hand I was the external Monique, the good Focolarina in the national center, the pseudo-personality. On the other side I was the inner Monique, the real one, the hidden one and... so lonely. I had to leave Focolare for not getting crazy.

Some time ago I have read a metaphor who says: being in a sect is the same as a fetus that is inside the mother's uterus. The mother feeds, and the fetus is very well, in a warm place and safe. But then, to become a real person you must get out of that uterus and learn to stand on your own feet.

Well, in 1988 I went out and in fact I had to learn many things in life… After a long road of ‘healing’ I can say that I am well, I have rebuilt a life, I am serene and happy. Even if I still live with consequences, underneath I am always living with a wound inside of me, that is part of my life, that made me the person I am now today. I speak of a wound because I see all those years in the Focolare as a great rape! Violence on my being, violence in my soul. I do not know how to say it differently ..... It was a painful road to be able to regain my autonomy,  my dignity. It was a painful road to rediscover the strength of my soul. It was a painful road to finally discover my personal connection with the Creator .... and this no one can take away from me!

Details of my story are in the book of Ferruccio Pinotti, but believe me, to be able to write one single chapter,  it took so many years. Every word has been suffered. The only job left for now is to forgive myself: I forgive myself, again and again, because I thought that in distant past I had made a sincere choice. I thought that life in the Focolare system was the real one. I forgive myself that in those years I made the wrong choice, because as a girl and as a young adult I did not have the human capacity, I did not have the mature discernment to do otherwise.

However, read LA SETTA DIVINA. Finally, with all my heart I would like to thank Ferruccio Pinotti, because his book function as a loudspeaker for so many cries in the desert.
In my opinion his work has a great importance!

Find the video of Monique in Italian here!

February 1rst, 2022

Two and a half months after the book La setta divina was published, there still has not come a serious answer from the Focolare movement to the people who have told their stories in this book. We are somewhat surprised about this, but we will continue to wait somewhat more...

November 15th, 2021

In the past few days we received a lot of letters and mails about the new book La setta divina. It is not possible to put all the reactions here on these websites of www.focolare.net and www.focolari.info but we will do our best to give our readers a general idea of what is written to us.

Marian from Naples wrote: "I bought the book and I am now reading the first chapters. I am impressed by the introduction of Mr. Vignon. He writes about the way that Chiara formulates her vision of Unity in a letter dated November 1950: "Unity is therefore unity and only one soul must live: mine, that is, that of Jesus in our midst, who it is in me ». I heard this before and when I asked the focolarini about the meaning, they indeed used the magic word: "mystical".
The "Paradise '49"  would be a text of such high mysticism that one would have to cover one's eyes and bury one's head in the sand to begin to reveal its intuitions. Pierre Vignon writes that an authority of the Vatican, in the 1950s, made it known that if these texts by Chiara Lubich had not been destroyed, the movement would not have been approved. Suddenly the text disappeared, only to reappear a few years after the end of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)".

Reading this and more in the introduction of this book makes me curious of what to expect in the other chapters. I will be happy to write again after I have read more of the book."

November 12th, 2021

Some days ago we, the people responsible for www.focolare.net and www.focolari.info received the book of Ferruccio Pinotti, 'La setta divina', (The divine cult). We are currently reading the book with great interest and care. And even tough we are tempted to place a quick and general reaction about the book on this website, we will only do this after we have read the book completely. We have seen many reactions to the book on the internet already and we can't help but wonder how people are able to jump to conclusions so fast, without giving the appearance of having read the entire book....

Twenty odd years ago someone posed the question on this website if the focolare movement could be considered a sect. We have asked ourselves this question for the past two decades and now finally, November 2021, this book of mr. Pinotti seems to give, after a hard and thorough investigation, an answer that is bringing new life to this discussion. Whatever one may think of the book, we believe that it must have taken a lot of courage, both for mr. Pinotti and for those who contributed to the book, to come forward and speak their minds.

So, while accepting the inevitable risk of leaving out some people, we are happy to thank Ferruccio Pinotti, Pierre Vignon, Maria Iarlori, Martina Castagna, Guido Licastro, Gordon Urquhart, D.M. Fabbroni, Claudia Benvenuti, Matteo Ricci, C. Sgaravatto, G. Rahoy, Lucia Zanier, Ursula R., Silvia Martinez, L. Palmier, Monique Goudsmit, M. Collin, D. Lai and many others for their contributions to this book about the focolare movement.

(You can order this book from Amazon.com or Bol.com)

Please visit our Guestbook or write to info@focolare.net


November 8th, 2021

This week (9th of November) we will see the publication of a new book about the Focolare movement. The title of the book will be 'La setta divina' (The divine cult) and it is written by Ferruccio Pinotti. This website will provide more information about this book and the reactions from different people who share their views about the book.

February 6th, 2021

"In fact, the intermingling of the sphere of governance and the sphere of conscience gives rise to abuses of power and the other abuses we have witnessed, once the cauldron of these unpleasant problems has been uncovered." (Pope Francis, 2021)

On Saturday the 6th of February, Pope Francis gave a very useful and clear advice to the General Assembly of the Focolare movement. We are hopeful that this will help the movement to deal with the abuses of power that have happened in the past.

Soon we will publish on this website the stories of some people who have experienced a certain level of abuse.


February 1st, 2021

Focolare has a new president

Margaret Karram (58) is the new president of the Focolare movement.

We sincerely wish her wisdom and strength in the challenges that are in front of her and the movement. The people of this website would be happy to start a fresh new dialogue with the new president about the process of healing and respect for all the people who have been hurt in any way by the Focolare movement or by individuals in the movement.

For the first time in history, the Focolare movement has offered its apologies for victims of abuse. " we would like to take this opportunity of a worldwide link to ask for forgiveness who
leheartedly, sincerely, of all the people who have been victims of any form of abuse" . (Jesus Moran).

This is only the first step. People with complaints need to address a Central Commission and follow a set of complicated guidelines (19 pages). We hope that this will not build another barrier for those who want to file a complaint. Please let us know if we can be of any help.

If you speak Italian, please look at this website:
 Focolari e abusi for more information about the Focolare movement and Chiara Lubich.

Please visit our Guestbook, to read what our visitors wrote and to leave your own reaction. Thank you!

One of the letters we received in our guestbook recently:

My family was very active in the Focolare movement.  Finally all the members of my family except me, who was rather hostile to it. It  made me feel very isolated and marginal, and sometimes even judged, in my own family. I've been through a lot.

My parents became acquainted with the Focolare movement  the year I was born and took me to the meetings  of the movement as a child. I didn't like it, but I had no choice.  After a few years,  we settled close to  a  focolare  and, from that moment on, the movement invaded our entire  family-life. Everything, absolutely everything, revolved around religion, the Church, the pope, and above all the  Focolaremovement, Chiara and its ideal. Members of the movement passed by almost every day. Meetings of the movement were sometimes held in our house. Chiara was completely adored. But above all, my father did not tolerate any thought that did not correspond to Catholic thought,the precepts of the pope or the ideology of Chiara. When we dared to evoke another opinion or any doubt, he reacted violently, with loud indignant cries and a sanctimonious speech imposing on us what to believe. As he was regarded as a good and respectable man on the outside, he became a true despot in our family. No dialogue was possible. Finally, the fear of expressing something he didn't like created a permanent tension. We  couldn't,  we didn't dare to express ourselves freely.

My parents had little contact with the outside world outside of their professional life. They were almost just people of the movement. The outside world was presented as evil, especially by my father who saw evil and temptation everywhere. As a teenager, all my contacts with the outside world were controlled and, very often, forbidden. We didn't have television. I was not allowed to listen to music in my room. There were only Catholic newspapers entering the house. My readings, music, film outings or  other  cultural, sports and leisure outings with classmates were severely controlled, censored and, more often than not, banned. The reasons for the refusals were not always clear to me: the organization was not Catholic; the activity, book or film was immoral; I could meet boys; the host was a man... Finally, it took courage to ask for an exit permit, as conflict and refusal were almost systematic. I remember, among other things, and for example, the virulent oppositions I encountered when, at the age of 16, I wanted to go to a concert by Alain Souchon and, at 22, enroll in an art school where I was going to draw nudes. In both cases, the attitude of my parents caused me such an internal conflict that I was sick of it.

Sexuality was taboo. My parents didn't talk about it at all,  except in negative and reproachful terms  tinged with a lot of mystery. I  couldn't  date  boys. Love between man and woman was not addressed, only the love of neighbor and God.  No flirtation allowed, pace boyfriend before graduation, no pre-marriage sex, no contraception. For my father, it was the woman who led the man into carnal sin.  Men, on the other hand, were presented as poor being  victims of their instincts and can hardly control them. All female coquettishness was therefore  forbidden: no miniskirt, no bikini, no clothing that could be considered suggestive or provocative. Everything about the body was suspicious, its pleasures doomed. You couldn't hang out in the bathroom or in bed. In  our family, physical contact was avoided. We didn't touch each other, we didn't kiss, we didn't hug each other. There was no physical display of affection. 

There was little or no room for joy, lightness, laughter, humor, spontaneity, self-deprecation. Everything  was taken seriously. The suffering was magnified,  it allowed us to live  'Jesus forsaken'. We were educated with, continuously, Chiara's speeches that we must renounce ourselves, sacrifice ourselves, deny ourselves, ignore ourselves. You had to suppress your emotions, always smile, pretend everything was fine. It was God's will to be nothing, to want nothing, to live only in the service of God and others. We were just talking about love. But what love when I didn't get room to exist?  I was a very happy little girl  but, from my teens,I  felt more and more crushed by the dark and heavy atmosphere that prevailed within our family. I was withering.

In 1980, I was present in Rome at  Genfest. Just as the pope or Chiara (I don't know) shouted to the cheering crowd of young people, "So you are all ready to sacrifice for each other!" the crowd said yes, gloating. And I thought, "No, I don't want to sacrifice myself! I haven't experienced anything yet and I'm not allowed anything. I have nothing to sacrifice: I have already been sacrificed." Besides, who has the right to ask a young person to sacrifice himself?  

So I wasn't in favor of the movement and as a teenager I went less and less to meetings. At the age of 14, I didn't want to go to Mass anymore. I was considered by my parents to be in a state of mortal sin, in perdition. The pressure was terrible. I went back until I was 16, stopped again, went back, and gave up for good when I was 18. But I felt bad in my own family.

One day, at the age of 19, I made the 'effort' of making pancakes on a Good Friday while my parents and sister were at the service. I wanted to celebrate the first night of the Easter holidays happily with my family. The pancakes were categorically refused because they had to fast. I found myself alone with my preparations in the kitchen, my parents having retreated to the living room in an accusatory silence and my sister having climbed into her room. I was devastated. And I was wondering, is this God's will? I dreamed of a Jesus knocking  on the door, coming in and saying, 'Are there pancakes here?' and sitting down at my table to share them with me. I felt rejected and sacrificed by my parents in the name of their God, their religion and their ideal.

At the age when teenage girls discover the world, I lived locked up, deprived of all freedom, of all autonomy, of any possibility of expression, in absolute solitude, with parents for whom religion came first. I always felt them in judgment, repression and reproach. I had no one to confide in. I didn't dare talk about what was going on at home to my classmates,I was ashamed. And then I always thought maybe I was the problem. I thought I was mean and bad.  I was doing everything I could to 'look' normal. I thought I would run away but I was too shy and the outside world scared me. I became an insomniac. I woke up at night with panic attacks because I felt like I had no power over my life, that I had no place to exist. I felt like 'life' and lots of opportunities were passing through my fingers. I became depressed. I begged God to take my life back. I thought about  suicide, but I was afraid to go to hell. I was afraid of going crazy. I felt something was wrong, but was it me where my parents? I was in total confusion. Not so long ago, a psychotherapist told me that it was psychological abuse, that my parents had done everything to prevent me from being myself and that I had been lucky not to have fallen into psychosis. 

When I finally left the family home, I was very bad in my skin. I didn't know who I was.  I lived cut off from  myself,  my body, my emotions, my desires,my needs. I didn't dare  trust what I felt,  express  my  opinion  or make a decision. I  felt  uncomfortable in society, did not know how to behave  and take my place. I  had never felt satisfied my parents  and felt their love for who I really was. The outside world,the others, the men and the sexuality scared me. As for God's love, I thought I  no longer deserved it. I lived in  infinite solitude, locked in myself.

Furious with my parents, I stayed several months without contacting them. I had to do a lot of therapy, but there's still irreversible damage. How do you live when your wings have been cut off at an age when they are being deployed? Feelings of anger, sadness and guilt still regularly overwhelm me. More than the Focolare movement, I blame my parents for allowing themselves  to indulge in such extreme and destructive behaviors. I would have wanted only one thing: to be able to be myself and receive their love, their listening, their benevolence, their trust and their support to discover the world and to flourish serenely.