ROME, JUNE 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
How is, or should be,
the relationship between new ecclesial movements and communities and parishes?
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Miguel Segura, rector of
the Center of Higher Studies of the Legion of Christ
in Rome, comments on how the two can work together.
Q: Many of your seminarians collaborate in parishes of Rome
and other dioceses. What contribution to the binomial "parish-movements" can
we expect from the Pentecost meeting promoted by Pope Benedict
Father Segura: The whole Church has already been reflecting
on this question for several years. We have several addresses
of Pope John Paul II on the relationship between the
movements and parishes.
Benedict XVI had also offered many reflections
on this point before his election to the pontificate. More
recently, the Pontifical Council for the Laity has continued to
reflect further on this topic. Answers are being given both
in the theological-canonical realms as well as in daily life.
I believe that the contribution we can now expect is
growth in mutual understanding and acceptance, in continuing to learn
how we build the Church all together. It is a
reality lived in the first person by many parish priests
and Christians belonging to different movements.
This collaboration is growing
and multiplying, offering us, on one hand, a very wide
range of positive experiences and, on the other, a series
of normal difficulties for the whole reality in growth. At
times the difficulties, fears and risks, become the only point
of view from which the relationship is addressed between parishes
and movements, clouding the evidence of all the positive things
that so many parish priests and bishops are experiencing.
I say, I think that one of the fundamental contributions
of the movements´ meeting with the Holy Father and the
2nd World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, will
be to give us the correct perspective to address the
relationship between these two realities.
Q: Have you found parish
priests who are interested in joining a movement?
Of course. As commented in meetings of the Association of
Rectors of Roman Ecclesiastical Colleges, a high percentage of diocesan
vocations currently present in Roman colleges come from new movements.
Given this fact, many parish priests are inviting the movements
to participate from within, in parish life.
On the other
hand, I personally know many diocesan priests, among them parish
priests, who adhere to the spirituality of some movement to
strengthen their personal friendship with Jesus Christ and to develop
their apostolic action with the wide range of initiatives that
the movements contribute in carrying out the pastoral plans of
Q: But on adhering to a particular movement,
is there not a risk that a person might "takes
Father Segura: There could be in some parish priests
some partisanship, but I think we must not generalize. So
many cases demonstrate the opposite.
We all form only one
body in Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Parish priests seek the most appropriate means for their own
spiritual life and to carry out their ministry. And, if
they feel called by God to live their own vocation
and mission according to a charism approved by the Church,
it can only be for the priest´s personal good and
for that of the faithful that God has entrusted to
The movements are not and must not be closed
groups or parallel churches; they are no more than ways
or vehicles to bring people to Christ and the parish
is the bridge.
It is true that on this bridge
there can be traffic problems and a possible solution would
be to ban circulation, but another solution would be to
enlarge the bridge and organize the traffic. That is why
there is often talk of the parish as the "community
If the goal of the parish is to
bring all men to Christ and make them sharers in
his friendship, the solution seems evident. On the other hand,
the luminous testimony of so many parish priests teaches us
that they are not mere administrators or guardians of that
bridge, but pastors who infuse in parish life a constructive
climate of charity and ecclesial communion.
And all the faithful,
whether or not they belong to movements or lay associations,
must collaborate with their parish priest with a genuine attitude
of service, fostering unity in carrying out the common mission
of going throughout the world to preach the Gospel.
What positive fruits do you see in the collaboration between
movements and parishes?
Father Segura: Let´s return to experience. In
fact, parishes are very numerous that welcome the new movements
in their interior and it has been my lot personally
to witness the positive fruits they produce: a more conscious
living of one´s baptism, missionary impulse, increase of vocations to
the priesthood and consecrated life.
Members of movements are no
more than baptized Christians who wish to share their experience
of faith in Christ. Depending on their spirituality, they emphasize
one or another aspect, all of them important.
deepening of the faith, others the living of their faith
through charity, others their announcement by proclamation of the word
or by example.
Many parish priests have been able to
take advantage of this torrent of "lived faith" to revitalize
their parishes and to multiply their own efforts of evangelization.
Every movement is a great source of resources for the
parish, primarily when speaking of volunteers, catechists, parish leaders, formative
resources and apostolate programs.
Q: What fears and risks are
you referring to when you speak of difficulties between movements
Father Segura: At times one perceives in some
parish priests mistrust and reticence toward new movements, but I
must acknowledge that at present that phenomenon is diminishing. In
a mistaken way, they have seen movements as alternatives to
the parish, almost as if the parish was destined to
be replaced by them.
It is also true that on
other occasions some members of movements have lacked greater humility
and willingness to be integrated in the parish organization.
I am convinced that possible conflicts must be resolved with
humility, in dependence on the ordinary of the place, and
in the light of the evangelical charity and the command
of Christ who sends us out to evangelize.
Holy Father has just said in his message to the
participants in the world congress of ecclesial movements gathered in
Rocca di Papa: "The movements must address all problems with
sentiments of profound communion, in a spirit of adherence to
the legitimate pastors."
The needs of society and of the
Church being so many and so urgent, nothing should weigh
more in the scale of the common mission that God
has entrusted to us. Very illuminating in this connection are
the words of the conference "The Ecclesial Movements and Their
Theological Place," given by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which
to my mind has already given much fruit, though we
must continue to meditate and apply it.
Q: Is there
not a danger of separation within the parish? Some move
according to a charism, others according to another. Would it
not lead to fragmentation?
Father Segura: I think the charisms
in themselves are not sources of disintegration. All of them
come from the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.
He has willed to arouse within the Church, and according
to the needs of each period, orders, congregations, secular institutes
and lay movements, making of them branches and flowers of
the one and only tree that is the Church.
don´t think we must worry about each flower having a
different color, if all of them, with a sincere spirit
of communion, contribute to the beauty of the tree. Thus
every movement contributes with its part to the great whole
of the parish work.
Q: Will the meeting with Benedict
XVI this Saturday foster collaboration between movements and the parish?
Father Segura: I am sure it will. Movements are not
a problem, but a gift for parishes and for the
whole Church. This event will be for movements a great
occasion to meet with the Pope, and to manifest their
adherence to him and to the other bishops.
make more evident that the Church of Christ is a
communion, in which the diversity of gifts enriches the unity
of life and of mission.
It will also be of
benefit to parishes, as the Holy Father´s message, without a
doubt, will stimulate movements and new ecclesial realities to intensify
Christian life and evangelizing zeal in the parishes where they
Jesus Christ compared the Kingdom of God to
different realities in growth: leaven, a seed, a grain of
mustard that becomes a bush and luxuriant tree. At times
the seed or embryo does not reveal with clarity all
that it will be when it reaches maturity and this
can cause an understandable unrest; but in the case of
the movements approved by the Church we have the guarantee
that we know the sower.
The reality that the Holy
Spirit sows at present in the Church and in parishes
cannot be harmful if it bears his signature.