The pontiff calls for overcoming mistrust and mutual prejudices. “First of all,” he said, “we have the duty to discern and recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in these communities, trying to construct bonds of authentic fraternity with them.” For him, it is “necessary to avoid settling on static and immutable positions.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke Friday to participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, whose theme was “Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Evangelicals: Impact on the Concept of Unity”. In his address, the pontiff called for overcoming mistrust and prejudices that exist between the Catholic Church and other Christian movements.
For him, “The constant growth of these new expressions of Christian life is a very significant phenomenon, which cannot be overlooked. [. . .] First of all, we have the duty to discern and recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in these communities, trying to construct bonds of authentic fraternity with them. This will be possible by multiplying the opportunities for meeting and overcoming mutual distrust, motivated many times by ignorance or lack of understanding. And I would like to offer you a personal experience and declare a mea culpa. When I was provincial [superior], I had forbidden Jesuits to enter into relationships with these people - with the Catholic Renewal - and I said that more than a prayer meeting it seemed like a “samba school”! Then I apologized, and as a bishop I had a good relationship with them, with Mass in the cathedral ... But it takes a journey to understand.
“Among the various shared activities are prayer, listening to the Word of God, service to the needy, the proclamation of the Gospel, the defence of the dignity of the person and of human life. In a fraternal mutual acquaintance, we Catholics can learn to appreciate the experience of many communities that, often in ways different from those to which we are accustomed, live their faith, praise God and witness the Gospel in charity. At the same time, they will be helped to overcome prejudices about the Catholic Church and to recognize that in the priceless treasure of tradition, received from the Apostles and kept in the course of history, the Holy Spirit is not at all extinguished or suffocated, but continues to operate effectively.”
“The fact that more than a few Catholic faithful are attracted to these communities is a source of friction, but can become, for our part, a matter of personal examination and pastoral renewal. At the same time, the pope acknowledged that relations with these communities “are not easy”. Yet, “many communities are inspired by these movements and live authentic Christian experiences in contact with the Word of God and in obedience to the action of the Spirit, which leads us to love, witness and serve. Even these communities, as the Second Vatican Council taught, are by no means devoid of meaning and value in the mystery of salvation (cf. Unitatis redintegratio, 3).
“Catholics can welcome those riches that, under the guidance of the Spirit, contribute greatly to the fulfilment of the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, the Church grows in fidelity to the Holy Spirit the more she learns not to tame it, but to accept without fear and at the same time with serious discernment its fresh newness. The Holy Spirit is always new. Always. And we have to get used to it. It is newness that makes us understand things more deeply, with more light, and makes us change so many habits, even disciplinary habits. But He is the Lord of newness. Jesus told us that He will teach us; He will remind us of what He has taught us, and then He will teach us.”
“We must be open to this. It is therefore necessary to avoid settling on static and immutable positions, to embrace the risk of venturing into the promotion of unity: with faithful ecclesial obedience and without extinguishing the Spirit (cf. 1 Thess 5:19). It is the Spirit Who creates and recreates the newness of Christian life, and it is the Spirit Himself Who leads everything back to true unity, which is not uniformity. For this openness of heart, the search for communion and careful discernment are the attitudes that should characterize our relationships according to the Spirit.”
Francis cited some recent ecumenical meetings of “great importance and comfort”, like the one in Bari (Italy) over the beloved and tormented Middle East, and the one in Geneva for the seventieth anniversary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, which provided an “opportunity to renew our irreversible commitment to the promotion of ever greater unity between believers.”
Francis also mentioned the meeting with the Pentecostals on the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rome, at the Circus Maximus, and finally the meeting he had during his recent visit to the Baltic States, in Riga and Tallinn.