Their prophetic role in the face of the challenges of Christian unity and globalisation.
Chiara Lubich: We are at the service of the new evangelization. Piero Coda: With the movements, the Church of the future. Andrea Riccardi: Diversity is enriching
The ecclesial movements? “They represent a true gift from God for the new evangelization and for missionary activity.” In her address, Chiara Lubich, founder and guide of the Focolare Movement, drew on Redemptoris missio and other key documents of John Paul II’s magisterium to profile the movements and ecclesial communities in the face of the challenges posed by Christian unity and globalisation. These historic challenges have been brought to people’s attention in recent weeks by the mass media because of two events: Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Ukraine and his urgent ecumenical appeal, and the imminent G8 Summit Meeting in Genoa of the eight most industrialized nations.
Against this backdrop, the 10th International Theological and Pastoral Congress organised by the Focolare Movement on the theme, “The Ecclesial Movements for a New Evangelization” brought together in Castelgandolfo 1300 clerics – Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants from 44 different countries – along with Cardinals Dario Castrillon Hoyos and James Francis Stafford (to whom the Pope’s Message concerning the Congress, which we referred to yesterday, was addressed). Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Saint Egidio Community described the present as an “historic anthropological turning-point” which places the new evangelization “between a global world and many identities closed in upon themselves”. The Symposium asserted that evangelization can only take place if there is openness and communion; and this must exist first of all within the Church itself, between its institutional and charismatic dimensions, and among the movements and new communities.
In her address, delivered at the Focolare Movement’s international Mariapolis Centre, Chiara Lubich interpreted the experience of her movement in the light of the requisites for a new evangelization: “Its ardour is new if those who proclaim the Gospel simultaneously grow in their union with God. Its methods are new if it is carried out by the whole People of God. Its expressions are new if it is in keeping with what the Spirit suggests”: to proclaim God’s love for every person; to form mature ecclesial communities; to re-evangelise oneself through the Word and a life of love; to proclaim the Word and to share the fruits of living it… Quoting John Paul II again, she continued, “a Christian society no longer exists, what does exist is globalisation with an interweaving of peoples and cultures.” In this context, she said, evangelization must follow the path of the dialogues indicated by the Second Vatican Council: dialogue within the Catholic Church, among Christians, with members of other religions and with persons of good will. “For 40 years the Focolare Movement has been engaged in all four dialogues.” Present in 182 countries, “it involves people of all walks of life, from children to bishops.” However, “it is especially our lay people that the Lord uses as instruments for the new evangelization.”
In the words of the theologian Piero Coda, the new ecclesial movements “constitute both a preparation for, and a reception – at once charismatic and dynamic, and in some cases even surpassing and prophetic – of the ecclesiological model proposed and broadly outlined by the Council, but which in reality has yet to be defined from the theological and pastoral standpoints.” The new movements and ecclesial communities are implementing this ecclesiology of communion “by living it.” This is one of the key passages in his address, “Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts for the Building up of the Church and for its Mission.” This communion, which was evident in a surprising way during the Jubilee year, is “the way the Spirit rejuvenates the Church and guides it in its mission.”
What we have before us, he said, is a roughly-outlined ‘icon’ of the future of the Church”, one of whose characteristic and decisive features is its lay countenance: not only within the Church, but also as it relates to the world, to society and to contemporary culture.
As Andrea Riccardi explained, the responsibility of the movements in evangelization is thus twofold: communion within the Church and communication of the Gospel in the contemporary world. “These recent years have increased the awareness that diversity lived out in love is enriching for the Church and for each charism… The movements are not little churches whose ambition is to spread to the entire Church. They are gifts which the Lord has given to his Church throughout the course of the twentieth century. Each movement has interpreted a particular aspect of the Church’s vocation in an original way. But each of these aspects, by its very nature, turns one’s attention back to the Church. The numerous vocations to the priesthood that continue to emerge in the movements are a gift to the Church. The witness of Christian love for all, especially the poorest, is a gift to the Church for the whole world. The communication of the Gospel, which lies at the basis of the missionary ‘structure’ of the charisms of the movements is a gift to the Church”.