Pope Touts New Movements as Aid for Priests

Says They Can Lead to an Authentic «Sensus Ecclesiae»

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the new ecclesial movements can offer «effective» help to priests attracted by their charisms.

The «positive efficacy» of the new communities for the life of priests, the Pope says, «is manifested when the latter find in the movements ´the light and warmth´ that help them mature in a fervid Christian life and, in particular, in an authentic ecclesial sense — ´sensus Ecclesiae´ — which leads them to firmer fidelity to legitimate pastors, and to attention to ecclesiastical discipline.»

The above statement is part of a message that John Paul II sent to Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the occasion of the Theological and Pastoral Congress, under way in Castel Gandolfo. The topic of the congress is «The Ecclesial Movements for the New Evangelization.»

The meeting, organized by the Focolare Movement of Priests, brings together cardinals and bishops, as well as founders and leaders of these new ecclesial realities, which grew particularly after the Second Vatican Council. Among them are Communion and Liberation, Sant´Egidio Community, Charismatic Renewal, Neocatechumenal Way, Regnum Christi, Work of Schönstatt, Cursillos of Christianity, and Focolare.

The Pope explains in the message, published today by the Vatican, that the movements are not only of help for priests, but also for seminarians, «particularly for those who come from specific associative realities, articulating firmly the respect due to the discipline established by the Church for the seminaries.»

However, the participation of seminarians, deacons and priests in movements cannot become «a presumptuous and restricted narrow-mindedness,» the Pope warns.

On the contrary, he states, «it must open their spirit to acceptance, respect and appreciation of other forms of participation of faithful in the ecclesial family,» leading them increasingly to be men of communion, «pastors of the whole.»

«With these premises,» the participation of priests in new movements and communities can become «a possibility for spiritual and pastoral enrichment,» the Holy Father explains.

By being in touch with these realities, he says, priests can «learn to appreciate better the way in which they live in the Church the sacramental, hierarchical and charismatic gifts, according to the multiformity of ministries, states of life, and tasks that edify her.»

The Pontiff explains that priests´ participation in movements should not lead to the «clericalization» of the latter, or to a «laicization» of priests.

«A priest,» he comments, «must participate in a movement as a singular presence of Christ, Head and Pastor, minister of the Word of God and of the sacraments, educator in faith, through union with the hierarchical ministry, regardless of the functions and tasks that he is called upon to assume,» in the movements.

The Holy Father explains that on these conditions «will depend, to a large extent, the growth of the movements in that ´ecclesial maturity´» that he himself encouraged at the 1998 Pentecost meeting of hundreds of thousands of members of these communities, in St. Peter´s Square.

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