Communion between Ecclesial Movements and new Communities is something new in the history of the Church, but it has spread rapidly in all parts of the world.
History: Pentecost ’98
On the Vigil of Pentecost, May 30, 1998, John Paul II invited the Movements and New Ecclesial Communities to Saint Peter’s Square, to give a united witness. It was an historic event that brought together members and founders of a variety of Movements, each one the fruit of charism that the Holy Spirit had bestowed on the Church and the world as a response to the needs of our time.
John Paul II showed them their place in the Church, describing them as significant expressions of the Church’s charismatic nature, constitutive of the Church herself and co-essential to the Church’s institutional aspect.
Four founders spoke at that event: Luigi Giussani, Jean Vanier, Kiko Arguello and Chiara Lubich. Aware of the Pope’s wish that the movements be in communion with one another, Chiara Lubich promised John Paul II that she would do all in her power to promote fraternity among the movements, since her charism was unity.
The Focolare Movement and the other Movements
Since the beginning of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich had opportunities to meet several people who were the bearers of charisms: Fr Leone Veuthey from the Charity Crusade; Father Patrick Peyton, founder of the Family Rosary Crusade; Fr Pedro Richards from the Christian Family Movement; Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the Norbertine priest who founded “Aid to the Church in Need”. She also met the Catholic Charismatic Movement, the Oasis Movement of Father Virginio Rotondi, and the Better World Movement with Fr Richard Lombardi.
Communion in action
Many are the fruits that have matured over the years, thanks especially to the hundreds of Day Meetings that have been held in many countries and attended by over 500 Movements and New Communities, and increased recognition and appreciation by many bishops.
This communion is also built in other ways. Movements gather together for moments of prayer; they take part in common projects also at social and political levels; they practice mutual hospitality; they attend one another’s meetings and celebrations; they reserve space for this dialogue in their press.
The mutual love grows – which is meant to be the main mark of the relationship among the Movements and New Communities – a love that uncovers and values the gift that every ecclesial community contains to the point of loving it as one’s own; a love that gives an effective witness in this day just as it did in the first days of Christianity: “See how they love each other and how each of them is ready to die for the other.”
Benedict XVI and Pope Francis
Eight years from the 1998 Meeting, Benedict XVI invited the Movements and New Communities to Saint Peter’s Square again, this time to encourage them to find ways of addressing the challenges of our time. On Pentecost 2013, Pope Francis reiterated support for the numerous members of Ecclesial Movements that had gathered in the Vatican, pointing them towards the existential peripheries and the evangelising mission of the Church.
At the 3rd World Meeting of Movements in November 2014, which was promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, another goal was set: ecclesial maturity. How? By preserving the freshness of the charism, respecting people’s freedom and striving constantly for communion.
When Pope Francis met the members of the General Assembly of the Work of Mary in September 2014, he said: “Today the Focolare Movement finds itself in front of the same task as that of the whole Church: to responsibly and creatively offer its own particular contribution to this new season of evangelisation.”
Over the years, the dialogue among Movements has opened new horizons..
Communion with Religious Families with age-old charisms really began from a meeting between Chiara Lubich and the Franciscan Family in Assisi, October 2000, followed by a meeting with Benedictines in Montserrat, Spain, November 2001. Ecclesial Movements and Religious Families had another meeting in Assisi on October 23, 2010.
There have also been contacts with movements from other Christian churches. In the autumn of 1999 contacts were begun at two large-scale events that led to the “Together for Europe” first held in Stuttgart, Germany in 2004 for the building of a “new Europe of the spirit” with the light of the Gospel.
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