Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "signs" of a reawakening of religious life are "growing constantly", despite the process of the secularisation of culture and the "many clouds" forming on the horizon. Benedict XVI has addressed words of hope and encouragement to the members of the council for relations among the congregation for institutes of religious life, the societies of apostolic life, and the international unions of superiors and superiors general.
During the meeting, which took place yesterday but was made public only today, the pope emphasised how the revival of religious life is particularly affecting the new institutions, which propose a rigorous discipleship of Christ, and the older institutions that are rediscovering their or original charisms. "We all recognise", he observed, "how in modern globalised society it is becoming increasingly difficult to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel". This is a reality that concerns all of the baptised, and with greater reason those who have chosen consecrated life. "The process of secularisation that is advancing in contemporary culture does not spare, in fact, even the religious communities. But we must not allow ourselves to become discouraged, because if today there are not a few clouds forming on the horizon of religious life, there are also emerging, and indeed growing constantly, signs of a providential reawakening, which is providing reasons for consolation and hope".
"The Holy Spirit", he continued, "is breathing powerfully everywhere in the Church, prompting a new commitment to faithfulness in the historical religious institutes, together with new forms of religious consecration in harmony with the needs of the time". What distinguishes these new experiences, in the words of Benedict XVI, "is the common desire for evangelical poverty practiced in a radical way, for faithful love of the Church, for generous dedication to one's neighbour in need, with special attention toward those who are spiritually poor, who strongly characterise the contemporary period".
As for the orders and congregations with a long tradition, "we cannot fail to note that in recent decades almost all of these - both men's and women's communities - have passed through a difficult crisis due to the aging of their members, a more or less pronounced decrease in vocations, and sometimes even a spiritual and charismatic 'weariness'. In certain cases, this crisis has become worrying. But next to these difficult situations, which should be looked upon with courage and honesty, there have also been signs of a positive revival, especially when the communities have decided to return to their origins to live in a manner more closely in keeping with the spirit of their founder". "Thus there are centuries-old works and activities that have been revitalised with new sap; there are new initiatives of authentic implementation of the charism of the founders. It is along this path", he concluded, "that we must continue to walk, praying to the Lord that He may bring to fulfilment the work that He began".