Pope Francis' Address to Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

«Do not forget to thank the Owner of the vineyard who has called you to this exalted task»

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Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on the theme: “New Wine in New Wineskins” (November 25-29, 2014).

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With joy I meet today with you, participants of the Congregation’s Plenary Assembly, and with all those of you who give your service in the Dicastery. In particular, I welcome the Cardinals and Bishops, who have become members recently, and I thank the Cardinal Prefect for the greeting he addressed to me on behalf of you all. I find the title, which you have chosen for this session, “New Wine in New Wineskins,” beautiful and significant. In the light of this evangelical word, you reflected on the today of consecrated life in the Church, 50 years since the Constitution Lumen Gentium and the Decree Perfectae Caritatis.

After the Second Vatican Council, the wind of the Spirit has continued to blow with strength, on one hand driving Institutes to implement the spiritual, charismatic and institutional renewal, which the Council itself requested, and on the other, arousing in men’s and women’s hearts new ways of responding to Jesus’ invitation to leave everything to dedicate their life to following Him and to the proclamation of the Gospel.

In the part of the Lord’s vineyard, represented by those who have chosen to imitate Christ more closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels, new grape has matured and new wine has been distilled. During these days you have proposed to discern the quality and the maturing of the “new wine” that was prepared in the long season of renewal, and at the same time to confirm that the wineskins that contain it, represented by the institutional forms present today in consecrated life, are adequate to contain this “new wine” and to foster its full maturation. As I have reminded at other times, we must not be afraid to leave the “old wineskins,” that is, to renew those habits and structures that, in the life of the Church and, therefore, also in consecrated life, we recognize as no longer responding to what God asks today for His Kingdom to advance in the world: the structures that givie us false protection and that condition the dynamism of charity; the habits that distance us from the flock to which we are invited and impedes us from hearing the cry of all those awaiting the Good News of Jesus Christ. While you do not hide the areas of weakness that it is possible to verify today in consecrated life (such as the resistance to change of some sectors, the diminished force of attraction, the number –not irrelevant – of abandonments, the fragility of certain formative itineraries, the anxiety over institutional and ministerial tasks at the expense of the spiritual life, the difficult integration of the cultural and generational diversities, a problematic balance in the exercise of authority and in the use of goods) you wish to be listening to the signs of the Spirit ,who opens new horizons and pushes to new ways, always beginning from the supreme rule of the Gospel and inspired by the creative audacity of your Founders. In the demanding task that sees you come together, in order to evaluate the new wine and to test the quality of the wineskins that must contain it, you are guided by some orientating criteria: the evangelical originality of the choices, charismatic fidelity, the primacy of service, care of the littlest and fragile, respect of the dignity of every person.

I encourage you to continue to work with generosity and enterprise in the Lord’s vineyard, to foster the growth and maturation of lush bunches, from which to be able to extract that generous wine, which will be able to reinvigorate the life of the Church and rejoice the heart of so many brothers and sisters in need of your solicitous and maternal care. As you well pointed out, the substitution of the old wineskins with the new also does not happen automatically, but calls for commitment and ability, to offer the ideal space to receive and bear fruit the new gifts with which the Spirit continues to beautify the Church, his Bride. Do not forget to thank the Owner of the vineyard who has called you to this exalted task. Go forward on the path of renewal, undertaken and to a great extent acted during these 50 years, sifting every novelty in the light of the Word of God and in listening to the needs of the Church and of the contemporary world, and using all the means that the wisdom of the Church makes available to advance on the path of your personal and communal holiness.

The Plenary Assembly of your Congregation is situated, in fact, on the eve of the Year of Consecrated Life. Let us pray together to the Lord to help us in this Year to put “”new wine in new wineskins’!

I thank you for the work you are doing during these days, and for the service you give as members and collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. May the Virgin Mary accompany you and obtain for you a new revived ardor and the holy audacity to seek new ways. May the Holy Spirit assist and illumine you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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