The Church will celebrate a Year for Consecrated Life in 2015 to mark two key anniversaries, provide help to religious at a time of crisis in the Church, and to “evangelize” the vocation.
The three objectives were outlined this morning in the Press Office of the Holy See by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Pope Francis called for the Year at the end of his meeting with 120 superior generals of male institutes last November, at the suggestion of the heads of the congregation on having heard from many of the consecrated.
“First of all, this Year dedicated to consecrated life has been prepared in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and, more specifically, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the conciliar decree on the renewal of consecrated life ‘Perfectae caritatis’,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.
“We recognize these 50 years that separate us from the Council as a moment of grace for consecrated life, as marked by the presence of the Spirit that leads us to live even our weaknesses and infidelities as an experience of God’s mercy and love.”
For this reason, he added, “we want this Year to be an occasion for ‘gratefully remembering’ this recent past. This is the first objective of the Year for Consecrated Life.”
“With a positive look at this time of grace between the Council and today, we want the second objective to be ’embracing the future with hope’,” he continued. “We are well aware that the present moment is ‘difficult and delicate’ [and] that the crisis facing society and the Church herself fully touches upon the consecrated life. But we want to take this crisis not as an antechamber of death but as [an] opportunity to grow in depth, and thus in hope, motivated by the certainty that the consecrated life will never disappear from the Church because ‘it was desired by Jesus himself as an irremovable part of his Church’.”
“This hope,” he concluded, “doesn’t spare us—and the consecrated are well aware of this—from ‘living the present passionately’, and this is the third objective for the Year.”
He said the year-long celebration that begins in the fall of 2014 “will be an important moment for ‘evangelizing’ our vocation and for bearing witness to the beauty of the ‘sequela Christi’ in the many ways in which our lives are expressed.”
“The consecrated take up the witness that has been left them by their respective founders and foundresses,” he said. “They want to ‘awaken the world’ with their prophetic witness, particularly with their presence at the existential margins of poverty and thought, as Pope Francis asked their superior generals.”
For his part, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., secretary of the same congregation, explained the initiatives and events that will take place during the Year for Consecrated Life, which will begin this October to coincide with the anniversary of the promulgation of the conciliar constitution “Lumen Gentium”.
The Year’s official inauguration is planned with a solemn celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica, possibly presided by the Holy Father, which could take place on 21 November, the World Day ‘Pro orantibus’.
This would be followed by a plenary assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the theme of which would be “The ‘Novum’ in Consecrated Life beginning from Vatican II”.
Fr. Carballo outlined various international events also planned for Rome, among which would include a meeting of young religious and novices, those who have professed temporary or final vows for less than ten years, a meeting for spiritual directors, an international theological conference on consecrated life dedicated to “Renewal of the Consecrated Life in Light of the Council and Perspectives for the Future”, and an international exhibit on “Consecrated Life: The Gospel in Human History”.
For the conclusion of the Year for Consecrated Life another concelebration presided by Pope Francis is planned, probably for 21 November 2015, 50 years after the decree “Perfecta caritatis”.
Every four months throughout the year, the dicastery will publish a newsletter on themes related to consecrated life, the first of which will come out on 2 February of next year, entitled “Be Glad” and dedicated to the Magisterium of the Holy Father on consecrated life.
In response to the Pope’s wishes, the Antonianum Pontifical University in Rome will host a symposium on the management of economic goods and capital by religious from 8 to 9 March. There will be a series of initiatives planned particularly for contemplative religious, including a world Chain of Prayer among monasteries.
Archbishop Rodriguez Carballo also spoke of several documents that the dicastery is preparing: In close collaboration with the Congregation for Bishops and following a mandate by the Holy Father, the document “Mutuae relationes” on the relations between bishops and religious in the Church is being drawn up.
Also, always on the mandate of the Pope, the instruction “Verbi Sponsa”, which deals with the autonomy and cloistering of entirely contemplative religious, is being revised. Another document in preparation will deal with the life and the mission of religious while a fourth one will touch on the question of how consecrated manage goods in order to offer some guidelines and direction in the complex situations that arise in that area.
Finally, during the Year of Consecrated Life, it is hoped that the Holy Father will promulgate a new apostolic constitution on contemplative life in place of “Sponsa Christi”, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.