FRASCATI, Italy (CNS) — Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, “lit a new light in the church’s journey toward unity,” Pope Francis said.

In a message to hundreds of people gathered in the cathedral of Frascati Jan. 27 for the formal opening of Lubich’s sainthood cause, Pope Francis expressed his hope that “the shining example” of her life and activity would strengthen Focolare members’ faith and commitment to building up the unity of the church and friendly relations with members of other religions.

Lubich, who was born in Trent, in 1920, founded the Focolare Movement with a few friends during the Second World War, inspired by Jesus’ words “that they all would be one.” Gradually, the women decided to form a community and share everything they had with each other and with the poor. They sought a sense of family gathered around a hearth — “focolare” in Italian.

The movement now has more than 2 million members and associates in 192 countries and a strong focus on building positive relations with people of other faiths.

The formal opening of a sainthood cause, approved by the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, is largely a juridical act with the swearing in of various officials of the cause, including the promoter and members of a tribunal to collect and evaluate eyewitness testimony and study the candidate’s writings.

For the cause of Lubich, who died in 2008, the formalities came after an evening prayer service.

Bishop Raffaello Martinelli of Frascati, the diocese in which Focolare’s international headquarters is located, told the congregation the work ahead will not be easy, “but it is a service we want to render to the church in order to offer a witness of faith, hope and charity through the work and life of one of its daughters.”

According to the Focolare Movement’s website, the tribunal will hold its first formal session Feb. 12, interviewing Maria Voce, Lubich’s successor as head of the movement. She will be the first of about 100 people who knew Lubich and will be interviewed about her life and work.