Plea for "Fewer Professionals, More Witnesses"

Congress for Consecrated Life Issues a Final Statement

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ROME, NOV. 28, 2004 ( The first World Congress of Consecrated Life ended with a statement in which religious worldwide commit themselves to witness with their lives the Gospel in times of terrorism.

Father José María Arnáiz, secretary of the Union of Superiors General and co-organizer of the congress, summarized the conclusions with the phrase: “fewer professionals and more witnesses.”

Formation and collaboration within the Church were two key words heard in the congress, whose theme was “Passion for Christ, Passion for Humanity.” The meeting, which ended Saturday in Rome, gathered 850 men and women religious who represented 1 million members of orders and congregations.

Those who are consecrated must be “ever more in touch with the joys and sorrows, the anxieties and hopes of humanity,” but also “more in the Church,” said Father Arnáiz.

“We want dialogue to be more intense with all those who make up the Church: with bishops, the Holy See, associations and movements, as our objectives are common,” the priest said.

The final statement highlights some of the main social evils, such as growing impoverishment, wars, terrorism and the “concentration of economic power.”

In his address to the congress, Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, suggested that consecrated life must be “founded on the Eucharist and based on an ample and solid commitment in the sector of formation.”

Brotherhood and the overcoming of ideological prejudices was the focus of the address delivered by Father Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominicans. “We must allow the Holy Spirit to demolish the little ideological speeches, both of the right and of the left, in which we find security,” he said.

At the invitation of Andrea Riccardi, founder of the lay Community of Sant’Egidio, the participants attended a prayer vigil in the Basilica of St. Mary of Trastevere, in memory of those who gave their lives for the Gospel.

In a message addressed to the congress and read by Archbishop Rodé, John Paul II said: “The people of our time are on occasions so impoverished that they are no longer capable of recognizing their own poverty.”

“Our age places us before forms of injustice and abuse, before the selfish prevarications of individuals and groups, which can be described as unheard of,” the Pope said. “From this stems the obfuscation of hope in many.”

“In this situation, consecrated men and women are called to offer disoriented, spent and forgetful humanity credible testimonies of Christian hope, making visible the love of God who does not abandon anyone and offering lost man genuine reasons to continue hoping,” the Holy Father continued.

“In the face of a society, in which love often does not find room to express itself freely, consecrated men and women are called to bear witness to the logic of selfless gift: their option is translated, in fact, in the totality of their gift of self out of love for the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family,” the papal message stressed.

“Consecrated life must safeguard a patrimony of life and beauty capable of slaking all thirst, bandaging every sore, being balm for every wound, thus satisfying every desire for joy and love, freedom and peace,” the Pope added.

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