The annual gathering of the Focolare is taking place in Ballycastle.
The Focolare is a movement established in the midst of war–torn Italy in 1943 by a group of young women who formed a pact of mutual love and an agreement to live out the Gospel in unity and mercy, being the ‘first to love’ in any situation of potential discord.
Originally existing solely within the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, it is now worldwide and ecumenical. There are several Focolare houses in Ireland, including one in Belfast, formed 10 years ago.
This is the first time the movement has held its annual gathering in Northern Ireland.
The Church of Ireland Parish of Ramoan is accommodating the gathering for a Church of Ireland communion service, attended by delegates of all church traditions, each day of the conference at 9am.
From there the gathering moves to the Roman Catholic Church for 10am. The same readings are used at each service and the same intercessions.
On Friday evening (July 4) at 8pm there is to be an ecumenical service in the Presbyterian Church at which the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, will deliver a message of greeting by video as he is in Geneva for a Central Committee meeting of the World Council of Chruches.
The organisers of the Focolare event in Ballycastle are very grateful to the Rev David Ferguson, rector of Ramoan and for members of the parish who have supported this whole gathering.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, shared a platform on Friday morning with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick at which the meaning of pact or covenant was explored in theory and practice. This evoked memories of the occasion, two years ago, when the current President of the Focolare, Maria Voce, addressed an ecumenical gathering in St Anne’s Cathedral, and Bishop Noel Trainor, Bishop Alan Abernethy, the Rev Ken Lindsay and Dr John Dunlop, representing their church traditions, made a pact of mutual love that was a powerful moment of unity in a discordant world.