VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent a message of congratulations on the 80th birthday of Father Jaime Bonet, founder of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.
The Pope’s message, issued by the Vatican on May 18, was read by the fraternity’s president, Isabel Maria Fornari, during the thanksgiving Mass that Father Bonet celebrated May 21 in the church of the Verbum Dei Theological Institute in Madrid, Spain.
The Holy Father conferred his apostolic blessing on the founder and invoked an “abundance of divine graces and the maternal protection of the Holy Virgin Mary.”
Pope John Paul II gave his consent to the declaration of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity as a unique fraternity of consecrated life, which was ratified by the Holy See with a decree of papal approval in April 2000.
Jaime Bonet was born in Alqueria Blanca, Spain. While still a seminarian, he organized a school or “preaching academy” to give sound preparation for engaging in the ministry of the Word.
Later, Father Bonet was noted for his preaching of the spiritual exercises. In the 1960s, the growth of groups wishing to prepare for preaching led him to create “apostolic schools” or schools of evangelization with youths who, in the measure they were formed, became leaven in many other parishes.
In 1963 a group of girls belonging to the schools of evangelization asked Father Bonet about the possibility of consecrating themselves completely to the life of evangelization that he inspired with his preaching.
This first such group, called Diocesan Missionaries of the Word of God, were dedicated “to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” They received their approval from the bishop of Mallorca in October 1963.
As the fruit of Father Bonet’s preaching, groups of youth and some diocesan priests adopted this form of life. And, in 1969, two priests were given permission by the bishop to be incorporated in Verbum Dei.
On Wednesday, Father Jaime Bonet will celebrate 50 years of priesthood.
Verbum Dei is present in 35 countries. It has about 1,000 consecrated persons and 35,000 disciples.