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Speech of the Holy Father, John Paul II, meeting with new ecclesial movements and communities, Vigil of Pentecost, May 30th.
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“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:2-3).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. These words from the Acts of the Apostles bring us into the core of the Pentecost event; they offer us an account of the disciples gathered together with Mary in the Upper Room to receive the gift of the Spirit. Thus Jesus’ promise is fulfilled and the time of the Church begins. From that moment the wind of the Holy Spirit would carry Christ’s disciples to the very ends of the earth. It would bring them to martyrdom of the sake of the Gospel.

It is as though this event, which took place in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, were being reenacted this very evening in this square, the heart of the Christian world. Like the Apostles back then, we too are gathered together in a great upper room of Pentecost, longing for the outpouring of the Spirit. Here we want to profess with the whole Church “the same Spirit . . . the same Lord . . . the same God who inspires them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). This is the atmosphere we wish to experience again, imploring the gifts of the Holy Spirit for each of us and for all baptized Christians.
2. I greet and thank Cardinal Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf at the beginning of this Encounter. With him I greet the cardinals and bishops present. I extend an especially grateful greeting to Chiara Lubich, Kiko Argüello, Jean Vanier, and Monsignor Luigi Giussani for their moving testimonies. With them, I greet the founders and leaders of the new communities and movements represented here. Lastly, I wish to address each one of you, brothers and sisters who are members of the different ecclesial movements. You were prompt and enthusiastic in accepting the invitation I addressed to you on Pentecost 1996, and have carefully prepared yourselves, under the guidance of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, for this extraordinary meeting which leads us closer to the Great Jubilee Year 2000.
Today’s event is truly unprecedented: for the first time the movements and new ecclesial communities have all had a get-together with the Pope.
It is the great “common witness” I announced for the year dedicated to the Holy Spirit in the Church’s journey to the Great Jubilee. The Holy Spirit is here with us!
It is he who is the soul of this marvelous event of ecclesial communion. Truly, “this is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
3. On the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, in front of a crowd that became astonished and disapproving due to the inexplicable change it noticed in the Apostles, Peter courageously proclaims: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God . . . you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up” (Acts 2:22-24). Peter’s words express the Church’s self-awareness, based on the certainty that Jesus Christ is alive, works in the present and changes lives.

The Holy Spirit, who was already at work in the creation of the world and in the Old Covenant, reveals himself in the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery of the Son of God, and virtually “bursts out” at Pentecost to spread the mission of Christ the Lord in time and space. The Spirit thus makes the Church like a stream of new life that flows through the history of mankind.

4. Through the Second Vatican Council the Comforter offered the Church -- the place “where the Spirit flourishes,” according to the Church Fathers (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 749 -- a new Pentecost by instilling in her a new and unexpected dynamism. Whenever the Spirit gets involved, he leaves people astounded, he brings about events of astonishing novelty, he radically transforms people and history. This was the unforgettable experience of the Second Vatican Council, when the Church, guided by the same Spirit, rediscovered the charismatic dimension as one of her defining elements: “It is not only through the sacraments and the ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the people, leads them and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:11), he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank . . . He makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church” (Lumen Gentium, no.12).

The institutional and charismatic aspects are roughly co-essential to the Church’s make-up. They contribute, albeit differently, to the life, renewal and growth in holiness of God’s People. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been affirmed for ecclesial movements and new communities.

5. Today the Church rejoices at the renewed confirmation of what we have just heard from the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17). All of you here present are the tangible proof of this “outpouring” of the Spirit. Each movement is different from the others, but they are all united in the same communion and in the same mission. Some charisms given by the Spirit burst in like an impetuous wind, which seizes people and draws them to new ways of missionary commitment to the radical service of the Gospel, by ceaselessly proclaiming the truths of faith, accepting the living stream of tradition as a gift and instilling in each person a burning desire for holiness. Today, I would like to cry out to all of you gathered here in St Peter’s Square and to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Spirit! Accept with gratitude and obedience the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to awaken in us! Do not forget that every charism is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church!

6. Charisms by their very nature are communicable and give rise to that “spiritual affinity between persons” (Christifideles laici, no. 24) and that friendship in Christ which gives rise to “movements.” The course from the original charism to the establishment of the movement happens through the mysterious attraction that the founder holds for all those who become involved in his spiritual experience. In this way movements officially recognized by ecclesiastical authority offer themselves as forms of self-fulfillment and reflections of the one Church.

Their birth and spread has brought to the Church’s life an unexpected newness which is sometimes disruptive. This has given rise to questions, uneasiness and tensions; at times it has led to presumptions and excesses on the one hand, and on the other, to numerous prejudices and reservations. It was a testing period for their fidelity, an important occasion for verifying the authenticity of their charisms.

Today a new stage is beginning visibly for all to see: the stage of ecclesial maturity. This does not mean that all the problems have been solved. It is a challenge more than anything else, a road to travel. The Church expects from you the “mature” fruits of communion and commitment.

7. In our world, often dominated by a secularized culture which encourages and promotes godless role models, the faith of many is being subjected to a hard test, and is not infrequently stifled and extinguished. Thus we see an urgent need for powerful proclamation and solid, in-depth Christian formation. How much need there is today for mature Christian personalities, who know their baptismal identity, their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world! How much need there is for living Christian communities! And here are the movements and the new ecclesial communities: they are a response the Holy Spirit has raised up to this critical challenge at the close of the millennium. They are, you are this providential response!

True charisms cannot but be inclined to an encounter with Christ in the sacraments. The ecclesial realities you belong to have helped you to rediscover your baptismal vocation, to appreciate the gifts of the Spirit received in confirmation, to trust in the mercy of God in the sacrament of reconciliation and, especially, to recognize in the Eucharist the source and summit of all Christian life.

Thanks to this powerful ecclesial experience, wonderful Christian families, true “domestic churches” which are open to life, have come into being, many vocations to the ministerial priesthood and the religious life have flourished, as well as new forms of lay life inspired by the evangelical counsels. In the movements, in the new communities you have assumed that faith is not abstract discussion nor a vague religious sentiment, but rather new life in Christ that comes about through the Holy Spirit.

8. How can we safeguard and guarantee a charism’s authenticity? In this regard it is essential that every movement submit to the discernment of the competent ecclesiastical authority. For this reason no charism can bypass reference and submission to the bishops in the Church. The Council wrote in clear words: “Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuiness and proper use of these gifts, through their office not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 19-21)” (Lumen Gentium, no. 12).

This is the guarantee that is required to be sure you are taking the right road! In the confusion that reigns in the world today, it is so easy to err, to give in to illusions. May this element of trusting obedience to the bishops, the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Successor of Peter, never be lacking in the Christian formation afforded by your movements! You know the criteria for the ecclesiality of lay associations found in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (cf. no. 30). I ask you always to adhere to them with generosity and humility, bringing your experiences to the local churches and parishes, while always remaining in communion with the bishops and attentive to their directives.

9. Jesus said: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:39). While the Church prepares to cross the threshold of the third millennium, let us accept the Lord’s invitation, so that his fire will spread in our hearts and in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.

Today, in this upper room in St Peter’s Square, a great prayer rises: Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts! Come, Holy Spirit of Life, Holy Spirit of Truth, Holy Spirit of Communion and Love! The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have brought about! Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here. Open their hearts, renew their Christian commitment, make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses to the risen Christ, Redeemer and Savior of man! Strengthen their love and their fidelity to the Church.

Let us turn our eyes to Mary, Mary of Jesus and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mother of the Apostles she accompanied in Pentecost, that she may help us to learn docility to the Spirit from her “let it done.” From this square today Jesus Christ repeats to each of you: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). He is counting on each one of you. The Church is counting on you. The Lord himself assured you: “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Amen.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2005-11-17


 
 


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