Charism   and Mission

More than one hundred bishops and cardinals gathered in Rome for a seminar on the movements, a year after May 30, 1998. The new forms of aggregation of the lay faithful faced with the task of heightening awareness of the reason for one's existence, so as to be able to answer the challenges of the Third Millennium freely, without flight into associationism or moralistic stands


More than one hundred bishops and cardinals from some fifty countries on five continents were in Rome for a seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (in collaboration with the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), a year after the meeting with the Holy Father in Piazza San Pietro which brought together half a million people. They came from Boston and Hong Kong, Cuba, Moscow, Cordova, Kazakhstan, Buenos Aires, Birmania, Tripoli, Belo Horizonte, Tunisia, Jerusalem, Vilnius, Ferrara, Rio, Bucharest, Dublin, Bombay, Newark, Taipei, Zagabria, Algieria, Berlin. For three days, until Friday, June 18th, they engaged in dialogue on ecclesial movements and the new communities.

Introducing the proceedings, American Cardinal James Francis Stafford (President of the Vatican agency that organized the meeting) took as his starting point the words of the Pope at the meeting of the movements in May 1998, when he defined as "co-essential" the two aspects of the Church, the charisms and the institutions.
Stafford went on to observe that "the law of Incarnation demands that the continuity of Jesus' involvement with humankind after His Ascension lie in a human attraction. The relationships within the community of Jesus' disciples are the model for the whole Church in all times and all places." As to the theological position of the movements, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity said that "it is founded on the Christian experience of faith; that is, on the subjective and at the same time objective evidence of the revelation modeled on the original relationship of the first disciples with Jesus and each other."

The next to speak was Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who spoke of the May 30, 1998, meeting as "a far-reaching event for the entire Church," a gift on the threshold of the Third Millennium, "And a gift always implies a task, because it is necessary to make it bear fruit. We bishops have a responsibility to society, precisely because we are charged with the heavy duty of evangelization that today is dramatically urgent, so that the movements can become a providential tool."

The movements are not "a part"
Bishop Rylko then pointed out that the movements "are always actively open toward the universal dimension of the Church" and this "cannot be the object of reductive views that see them merely as the expression of specific types of spirituality." In the teaching of John Paul II the movements constitute "one of the forms by which the Church is realized." The Holy Father does not stop here. He adds that "the Church itself is a movement. In the thought of John Paul II, the category of movement is profoundly rooted in the category of mission." Remembering that "in the Church, both the institutional and the "charismatic" aspects are coessential," Rylko quoted the Pope: "An authentic movement exists like a nourishing soul within the institution. It is not an alternative structure to it. It is instead the source of a presence that constantly regenerates ecclesiastical and historical authenticity."
Concluding his talk, the Secretary of the Council for the Laity said, "One thing is certain: the face of the Church in the Third Millennium will also be traced out by our capacity to listen to what the Spirit says to today's Church through these new forms of aggregation of the lay faithful."

In outlining the challenges of the religious and cultural context of this end of the millennium, Dr. Guzman Carriquiry, Undersecretary of the Council for the Laity, went more deeply into the meaning of the movements and new communities as a "providential answer" about which the Pope talked at Pentecost '98. "Charisms are not produced by the Church either in response to an opportunity or of a need. They are certainly not thought up in some office or for some project. Their eruption is unforeseeable. Nonetheless the charisms are given for the common good, for the increase and spread of the Body of Christ in human history." He then summarized what a charism is: "A gift of the Holy Spirit given to a person in a determined historical context so that he can initiate an experience that can be in some way useful to the Church." Carriquiry did not fail to highlight the value of the movements in a particular historical moment when the challenge is mission: "Mission is a communication of the Christian experience from person to person, as the movements testify."

The Church itself is a movement
The second day a round table entitled, "A cordial welcome, a humble insertion: the movements in the life of local churches," offered the personal testimonies of some prelates: the Dutch Simonis, the Czech Vik, the French Lustiger (who sent his talk), the African Sarah, the American McCarrick, and the Italian Caffarra.
On June 18th, the bishops' seminar was opened to the witness of the founders and leaders of some movements: Chiara Lubich (Focolare), Father Giussani (CL), Kiko Arguello (Cammino Neocatecumenale), Andrea Riccardi (Sant'Egidio); Gérald Arbola (Comunità dell'Emmanuel), and Salvatore Martinez (Rinnovamento nello Spirito). The afternoon was devoted to reflection on the more properly pastoral and juridical aspects of the phenomenon of "movements" within the Church. The experts on canon law, Feliciani of the Università Cattolica di Milano and Ghirlanda of the Pontificia Università Gregoriana, spoke.
In concluding the proceedings, Cardinal Stafford read a long personal message from the Holy Father, which we publish here.