Let’s Bridge: Genfest 2012

The 2012 Genfest was held in Budapest under the banner “Let’s bridge.” It extended an invitation to overcome conflicts, unite peoples, and link generations, starting with unity within one’s own self. One narrates about the event: “Thousands of young people are now returning to their homes to be “bridge builders” among people, and to spread the ideal of brotherhood…”

Genfest 2012
The Genfest 2012 in Budapest under the banner “Let’s bridge”, extended an invitation to overcome conflicts, unite peoples, and link generations, starting with unity within one’s own self.

“…The completion of the bridge is the next phase – an image of the unity that flows through daily situations in life. It involves the cornerstone that keeps the bridge’s arch from collapsing: loving even when it is painful. This was illustrated by some young Italians who work at a center that offers help to illegal immigrants. Their presentation also contained photos and audio recordings of their friends.

Genfest 2012Adhelard and Ariane shared from Burundi about their work at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Bujumbura. And Kaye from the Philippines shared her experience of separation and reconciliation in the family. They were stories that have not yet resulted in a happy outcome, continuing experiences lived with love that allowed those involved to experience a fullness of life even in sorrowful situations such as these. Thus solid foundations have been laid that allow safe crossing, the final phase of this metaphorical process. A bridge provides access to many roads. Issa, a Christian from Nazareth and Noura, a Muslim from Jerusalem know how true this is. They meet regularly, together with other Christian, Muslim and Jewish youths to better know one another more and to pray for peace…Perhaps Budapest residents

will later recall this unusual and non-violent revolution that has been reborn from here.”

Genfest 2000: A Wave of “Light”

Sandro Rojas Badilla
Sandro Rojas Badilla

Sandro Rojas Badilla shares: “Eighteen years have passed but the effect of Genfest 2000 still moves all of us who were there… I would never have imagined what surprises were in store for me that year! One day in February while strumming my guitar, I thought of Chiara “Luce” Badano, a gen like us, who had died 10 years earlier, and in her last moments she had offered her pain for the success of the Genfest. I still can’t explain how the inspiration came to me to compose a song dedicated to her: “Run, run, tell me there’s nothing to fear. Run, run, shine, shine since your light is now in me.”

I couldn’t but entitle the song: “Luz” (Light)… “Light” was subsequently chosen as one of the Genfest songs, and since then, up to this day, it has been and is translated into various languages, becoming the symbol of an experience which many young people have made their own, following the example of Chiara Badano, who in 2010 was proclaimed Blessed.… Lastly, the most anticipated moment was the proposal of Chiara Lubich: “The idea of a more united world, for which many young people are battling, will not be just a utopia, but with time will become an immense reality. And the future is above all in your hands.”

United World: Let’s Show It! Genfest 1995

Michelle Sopala, from the US, was among 12,000 young people gathered at the Palaeur in Rome in Genfest 1995. She recalls: “When I think back to Genfest 1995, who couldn’t forget the dances, the performers’ faces, the general excitement, and the very strong experiences of the participants. In fact, before all the excitement of those two days at the Palaeur in Rome, my thoughts went back to the intense experience of unity we had built together during the months, and especially the weeks, before the event. I can’t really remember the details, but every time we got together to prepare for it, the result was a deeper and stronger union with God…

And now for the Genfest, itself! Even though it was a life-changing event in all aspects, I can’t deny that the highlight for me was the meeting with Chiara Lubich. I don’t know what the other 12,000 young people in the arena felt, but I felt like Chiara was talking to me, and to me alone. Whena youth asked her the final question,“Chiara, from the bottom of your heart, what would you like to say to us young people?” With super-astute intuition and understanding of what the young heart yearns for, she quoted St. Catherine who had urged her disciples not to be satisfied with small things because ‘God wants them big!’”

An Ideal That Makes History: Genfest 1990

Chiara Favotti: Genfest 1990
Chiara Favotti: Genfest 1990

Chiara Favotti recounts: “The 1990 Genfest was known as the “Genfest of the Wall,” or better, the fall of the wall. Just a few months before, an historical event had begun to change the face of Europe and of the world. On one memorable night, following a week of public disorder and the first signs of openness between East and West Germany, a large number of East Berliners were seen climbing the Wall that had divided them from the West for 28 years, and they began to break holes in the Wall with pick axes… I took part in the 1990 Genfest… It was an unforgettable experience. For the first time, there was an explosion of happiness; young people from east and west looked in each other’s eyes and squeezed each other’s hands as TV cameras broadcasted the scene in the Paleur Stadium to millions of television viewers around the world.

Genfest 1990
Genfest 1990

We were given a mandate: to bring love back into the world. “Friendship and kindness aren’t enough,” said Chiara Lubich.“Philanthropy isn’t enough, neither are solidarity or non-violence. We have to change from being people focused on our own small interests, to being small daily heroes who are at the loving service of our brothers and sisters in every neighbor.”

Many Roads Towards a United World: Genfest 1985

Padraic Gilligan gives us an insight of Genfest 1985. “It was a new episode
in the history of the Genfest. It was the fifth edition with the theme, ‘Many roads towards a united world,’ at the Palaeur in Rome, with 20,000 youths from all over the world. The musical group “Factor One” formed by three students of Dublin participated with the unforgettable “Yes to You” song… My experience at Genfest 1985 was one of validation and verification – validation of my choice to live for unity, and verification that it was possible. I had had many experiences of large-scale events – festivals, football matches, and concerts – but at Genfest there was no hatred, hostility and enmity like when rival factions meet at soccer games nor was there any fleeting alcohol/drug-induced euphoria common at festivals and concerts. Instead, this was replaced by a deeper, and more lasting joy.”

For A World United: Genfest 1980

On May 17, 1980, forty-thousand young people from around the world gathered at the Flaminio Stadium in Rome, Italy. On May 18th, they met in Saint Peter’s Square with Pope John Paul II. Here is Pat Bertoncello recounting her first Genfest: “Italy was going through hard times with assassination attempts by the Red Brigades and a job crisis. My father who was in metalworking, was laid off and later lost his job.

The injustice of it all bothered me, as did the social conflict, but I also could feel being made to renew society. I spent hours talking with friends, and debating, but it only left me empty inside… Despite all the rain, colorful dances were performed on stage, one after the other. It seemed like I had entered into another dimension. Forty-thousand young people filled with enthusiasm were flowing in from every corner of the world – all of them bearing witness to the Gospel they were really living…

Then a small woman with white hair got up on stage. It was Chiara Lubich. I looked at her through binoculars. As soon as she began to speak, a deep silence fell over the crowd. I was captivated more by the sound of her voice than by what she said, by the conviction that emanated from her words, and the power which contrasted with her fragile appearance. She spoke of a “moment of God,” and, even though she went over a list of divisions, break-ups and the overall disunity of the human race – she was proclaiming a great ideal: a united world, Jesus’ own ideal. She invited us to bring the divine into the life of society, into the world – through love.”

Genfest 1975: Unity is Possible

Genfest 1975
Genfest 1975

There were 20,000 young people, present from all 5 continents, at the Palaeur Stadium. Chiara Lubich presented them later to Pope Paul VI who exclaimed: “A new world is born.” Patrizia Mazzola gives a personal testimony of someone who was present at Genfest 1975, held in conjunction with the Holy Year in Rome: “The 1970s, a period which went down in the history of many countries as one of social unrests, protests, wars and a general sense of disorientation… It was March 1, 1975.

The Sports Palace in Rome with 20,000 young people from five continents, made a powerful impact on me. I immediately experienced the power of the Gospel when it is lived. For example, it was the first time that I found myself sharing deeply with someone who was sitting next to me, thus living the experience of being brothers and sisters.

Genfest 1975
“I was amazed and awestruck by the personal testimonies, so much so that I almost had to pinch myself to believe that all this was happening.” (Patrizia Mazzola, from a memory of Genfest 1975)

My dream, to see a world of peace, a united world, came true, right there and then. I was amazed and awestruck by the personal testimonies, so much so that I almost had to pinch myself to believe that all this was happening.

Chiara Lubich
Chiara Lubich

I listened attentively as they shared their stories from the stage: the two young people from South Africa where apartheid had not yet been overcome, the group from Belfast where there was conflict due to religious and political division. They were tangible signs that, if we really committed ourselves, we can achieve peace right there where we live… The next day, we all gathered at the Vatican, in St Peter’s Basilica, where Chiara Lubich presented us to the Holy Father.


Genfest 1975

During the offertory, twelve young people, representing all of us, walked up with Chiara on the altar. I remember the endless applause. Consequently, during the Angelus (midday prayer) in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope greeted us with these encouraging words: ‘This morning, around the altar, we had twenty thousand faithful, the young Gen – New Generation – who came from all over the world.

The beauty of it was something moving. We thank God and take courage. A new world is born: the Christian world of faith and charity.’”

Compiled from focolare.org

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