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Pope Francis Sends Message to Legionaries of Christ, Regnum Christi

‘The journey of renewal has not ended, because the change of mentality in individual persons and in an institution requires much time for assimilation’

Pope Francis had a message of hope and renewal on February 29, 2020, for the Participants in the General Chapter of the Legionaries of Christ, and to the General Assemblies of the Consecrated Women and of the Laity of Regnum Christi:

“You opened yourselves courageously to the action of the Holy Spirit, thus entering in a course of true discernment,” Pope Francis said in a message read to the group. The Holy Father had intended to meet the group in person but for the third straight day a  slight indisposition” kept him close to home in Casa Santa Marta.

“Accompanied by the Church, you carried out patiently and willingly a demanding work to overcome the tensions, also very strong, which sometimes were caused,” the Pope continued. “This called for a further change of mentality because it required a new vision in the mutual relations among the different realities that make up the Regnum Christi. I know well that it wasn’t easy because what we are most strongly connected to are our ideas and often true indifference is lacking, to which we must open with an act of our will, to have the Holy Spirit work within us. The Spirit leads us to detachment from ourselves and to seek only the Will of God because only from it comes the good of the whole Church and of each one of us.

“I hope that your new governments are aware that the journey of renewal has not ended, because the change of mentality in individual persons and in an institution requires much time for assimilation, hence, a continuous conversion.” 

Here is a translation of the address of the Holy Father Francis transmitted to the participants in the General Chapter of the Legionaries of Christ, and to the General Assemblies of the Consecrated Women and the Laity of Regnum Christ.

 * * *

The Holy Father’s Address

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m happy to have this meeting with you at the end of a stage in the journey you have undertaken, under the maternal guidance of the Church. You, Legionaries of Christ, have just ended the General Chapter and you, Consecrated Women and Consecrated Laity of the Regnum Christi, your General Assemblies. They were elective events of new general governments, end of a stage of the journey you are doing. This means that it’s not finished but must continue.

The criminal behavior engaged in by your Founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, which emerged in its gravity, caused — in the wide reality of the Regnum Christ — a serious crisis, both institutional as well as of individual persons. In fact, on one hand, it can’t be denied that he was the “historical” Founder of the whole reality that you represent but, on the other, you can’t hold him as an example of sanctity to imitate. He succeeded to make himself considered a point of reference, through an illusion that he succeeded in creating with his double life. Moreover, his long personalized government had, in a certain measure, polluted the charism that the Spirit had originally given to the Church, and this was reflected in the norms, as well as in the practice of government and of obedience and in the impact on life.

In face of the discovery of this situation, the Church did not hold back her maternal solicitude and came to meet you with diverse means, putting by your side persons of great human and pastoral sensibility, as well as of known legal competence. Among them, I wish to recall the late Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Pontifical Delegate. The new Constitutions and the new Statutes are truly “new,” be it because they reflect a new spirit and a new vision of religious life, consistent with Vatican Council II and the directions of the Holy See, be it because they are the product of a three-year endeavor, in which all your communities were involved and which has led to a change in mentality. It was an event that entailed a true conversion of heart and of mind, This was possible because you were docile to the help and support the Church offered you, making you aware of the effective need of a renewal that would make you come out of the self-reference in which you were closed.

You opened yourselves courageously to the action of the Holy Spirit, thus entering in a course of true discernment. Accompanied by the Church, you carried out patiently and willingly a demanding work to overcome the tensions, also very strong, which sometimes were caused. This called for a further change of mentality because it required a new vision in the mutual relations among the different realities that make up the Regnum Christi. I know well that it wasn’t easy because what we are most strongly connected to are our ideas and often true indifference is lacking, to which we must open with an act of our will, to have the Holy Spirit work within us. The Spirit leads us to detachment from ourselves and to seek only the Will of God because only from it comes the good of the whole Church and of each one of us.

This work led to the constitution of the Federation of Regnum Christi, made up of the Religious Institute of the Legion of Christ, of the Society of Apostolic Life of the Consecrated Women of the Regnum Christi and of the Society of Apostolic Life of the Consecrated laity of the Regnum Christi. To this reality of the Federation are added individually numerous laypeople, who don’t assume the evangelical counsels, thus constituting a “Spiritual Family,” a wider reality of the Federation itself. The Federation is a canonically “new” reality, but also “old,” because you already lived unity and autonomy in the years after 2014. It still remains a very vast field, which must be the object of discernment on your part. Therefore, the journey must continue, looking ahead, not behind. You can look back only to find trust in God’s support, which has never been lacking.

It’s about determining the concrete application of the Federation’s statutes. This requires discernment, be it of the organs of collegial government, be it of the General and Territorial Governments of the three federated realities. The Statutes must always stimulate discernment. However, if this isn’t easy at the personal level, it is much less so in a government group. Discernment requires, on the part of all, much humility and prayer; and the latter, nourished by the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life, leads to assimilating oneself to Him and to seeing the reality with His eyes. So one will be able to act objectively, with a healthy detachment from one’s ideas: which does not mean not having one’s assessment of the reality and of the problems that must be addressed, but it means submitting one’s point of view to the common good.

You have elected the new Superiors General and their Councils. The first responsible for the direction of the Legion of Christ and of the Consecrated Women and the Consecrated Laity of the Regnum Christi are their Directors, but the Councils have a very important function, even if the men and women Counsellors are not Superiors. In fact, the Councils must be a valid aid to the Superiors in their government, but at the same time, they also have a function of control over the work of the Superiors themselves. They are called, in fact, to govern in consideration of persons and in respect of the common right of the Church and of that which is proper of the Institute or of the Society. Therefore, the canonical normative provides that, when a question is subjected to the consensus of the Council, the Superior can’t vote, precisely to leave the Counsellors freer (Cf. Canon, 267 §2; 127 CIC; Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, Response of August 1, 1985, in AAS 77 [1985] 771).

I hope that your new governments are aware that the journey of renewal has not ended, because the change of mentality in individual persons and in an institution requires much time for assimilation, hence, a continuous conversion. It’s a change that must continue in all the members of the Federation. A return to the past would be dangerous and senseless. The individual governments of the three federated realities are called to undertake this journey with perseverance and patience, be it in regard to their own Religious Institute or Society of Apostolic Life, be it in regard to the Federation and to the laypeople associated to it. This requires that the three governments have a coherent vision with the will that the Church has shown all these years with her closeness and with all the concrete means she has made available.

You, members of the new general governments, have received the mandate of the Church to continue on the journey of renewal, gathering and consolidating the fruit matured in these years. I exhort you to act fortiter et suaviter: energetically in the substance and gently in the ways, being able to take, courageously and at the same time with prudence, whatever other ways are to be undertaken in the line traced and approved by the Church. If you put yourselves docilely in the school of the Holy Spirit you won’t be overwhelmed by fear or doubt, which disturb the mind and hinder action.

I entrust you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary; I accompany you with my affection and my prayerful remembrance, and I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the entire Family of the Regnum Christi. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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