11/26/2004, 00.00
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Consecrated life: bearing witness is more than a job

At World Congress on Consecrated Life, men and women religious debate the future: yes to providing services and assistance but the Holy Spirit is necessary, too.

Roma (AsiaNews) – Is there a future for the consecrated life? To answer this question some 850 men and women religious from around the world are meeting from November 22 to the 27 in Rome representing 200,000 men religious and 800,000 women religious.

Unlike the previous congress which took place in 1993 and brought together mostly men religious from Europe, this one is truly on a world scale. Of the 850 present, 95 are from Asia, 17 from Oceania, 91 from Africa, 248 from the Americas, and 399 from Europe.

Also attending are 323 superiors general from women's institutes and congregations, 160 superiors general from men's institutes and congregations, 113 delegates of conferences of religious, men and women religious theologians and editors of magazines on consecrated life. The meeting's theme is "Passion for Christ, Passion for Humanity".

Fr. José María Arnaiz, general secretary of the Union of Superiors General and one of the congress's organisers, told Asia News that "we are trying to uncover the signs of vitality that the Spirit is displaying in today's consecrated life so as to understand how to make them a new moment in our history as consecrated people".

For Father Arnaiz, we must "realise that despite the difficulties that surround religious life, optimism prevails because there is a sense that something new is blossoming. Religious life is gathering strength in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The encounter between Europe's religious life and new forms of the religious experience elsewhere will be important: it will bring about new things that we do not know yet, new things that we are trying to understand during the congress".

The emphasis is now on acculturation and the need to go back to spirituality. "One of the big changes to religious life," Father Arnaiz said, "is that until recently we focused on 'providing services', now we are focusing more on expressing charisma. It is important to provide education and assistance, but expressing one's basic spiritual motivations counts more. Consecrated life means bearing witness more than doing a job". (GF)

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