VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- People consecrated to God in poverty, chastity and obedience are, with their faithfulness of life, a manifestation of divine love for the world, says John Paul II.
For the occasion of World Day of Consecrated Life, the Pope sketched the general features that should characterize the men and women religious and consecrated laity.
“Poverty, chastity and obedience are distinct characteristics of redeemed man, freed interiorly from the slavery of egoism,” he said Saturday during his homily at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the occasion. Members of various religious families were on hand.
“Free to love, free to serve: this is how the men and women are who deny themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven,” he said. “Following in the footsteps of Christ, crucified and resurrected, they live this freedom as solidarity, bearing the spiritual and material burdens of their brothers.”
This is the meaning of the “service of charity” that consecrated men and women offer “in the cloister and in hospitals, in parishes and schools, among the poor and immigrants, in the new Areopagus of the mission,” he added.
The witness of integrity in “consecrated life is an epiphany of the love of God in the world,” the Pope concluded.
World Day of Consecrated Life is observed on the feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The Mass, in which the Pope participated, was celebrated by Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
After the homily, John Paul II led the prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of consecrated life, and the men and women religious present renewed their commitment to be faithful “to Jesus in the mission.”
The Statistical Yearbook of the Catholic Church says that at the end of the year 2000 there were 139,397 religious priests, 518 religious deacons, 55,057 men religious (not priests), and 801,185 professed religious women. Secular institutes had 719 men members and 29,968 women members.