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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 23:51 GMT
Key Catholic woman activist dies
Undated pic of the late Pope John Paul II (L) greeting Chiara Lubich at the Vatican
Chiara Lubich was admired by the late Pope John Paul II
One of the most influential women in the modern Catholic Church, Chiara Lubich, has died at the age of 88.

She was the founder of the lay Focolare Movement, an organisation dedicated to helping the poor, with 2.1m supporters in more than 180 countries.

The movement seeks to spread Christian values by promoting traditional families and inter-religious dialogue.

The Unesco peace prize winner, who was close to the late Pope John Paul II, had been in poor health for years.

Lubich died at her home near Rome, Focolare said in a statement.

Born in the northern Italian city of Trento, she felt a call during World War II at the age of 23 to alleviate human suffering.

Pope Benedict XVI praised her "constant commitment for unity within the church, ecumenical dialogue and brotherhood among all people".

"I hope that all those who knew her or met her, admiring the wonders God performed through her fervent mission, follow in her footsteps, keeping her charisma alive," the pontiff said in a statement.

She won the Unesco Prize for Peace Education in 1996, the Council of Europe's Human Rights Prize in 1998 and the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1977.

Her funeral will take place next Tuesday at Rome's Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, the Vatican said.

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