Benedict XVI’s Long Vision of the Movements

Vatican City

Archbishop Rylko Tells of Pope’s Views

The new ecclesial movements and communities, which will gather at the Vatican this Saturday, were a surprise for the Church, which “no one had foreseen,” according to Benedict XVI.

The relationship between Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope) and these new ecclesial realities was discussed Tuesday by Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The archbishop was commissioned by the Holy Father to organize the meeting on the eve of Pentecost which is expected to attract 300,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.

“Pope Benedict XVI’s relations with the ecclesial movements are long-standing,” explained the Polish archbishop at a meeting with journalists in the Vatican press office.

“His first contacts with these realities, which later intensified and deepened, becoming genuine friendship, go back to the mid-’60s, when he was a professor at Tuebingen. It was the difficult period following the Second Vatican Council, but to the eyes of the theologian, those new charism were revealed immediately as a providential gift.”

Cardinal Ratzinger described their origin thus: “Behold, the Holy Spirit, so to speak, asked to be allowed to speak. And in young men and young women the faith was being reborn, without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts,’ without subterfuges or excuses, lived in its integrity as a gift, as a precious gift that helps one to live.”

The then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made this analysis on May 27, 1998, when opening the first world congress of ecclesial movements in Rome, called by Pope John Paul II.

Intense ways

Benedict XVI “sees in the movements ‘intense ways of living the faith,’ … creative minorities” that, according to Arnold Toynbee, “are determinant for the future of the world,” explained Archbishop Rylko.

For Benedict XVI there is no opposition between the “hierarchical” Church and a “charismatic” Church.

“The appropriate theological placement of movements in the Church must be found in apostolicity, the dimension from which arises the particular bond that unites them to the ministry of the Successor of Peter,” clarified Archbishop Rylko.

In the 1998 conference Cardinal Ratzinger affirmed: “The papacy has not created the movements, but it has been an essential support for them in the structure of the Church and their ecclesial pillar. The Pope is in need of these services and the latter need him, and in the reciprocity of the two types of mission the symphony of ecclesial life is effected.”

Now, as Pope, Benedict XVI is deepening this vision, according to Archbishop Rylko.

On meeting German bishops in Cologne last Aug. 21, the Holy Father said: “The Church must make the most of these realities, and at the same time she must guide them with pastoral wisdom, so that with the variety of their different gifts, they may contribute in the best possible way to building up the community.”

On that occasion the Pope added: “The local Churches and movements are not in opposition to one another, but constitute the living structure of the Church.”

Archbishop Forte of Chieti-Vasto is a member of the International Theological Commission said that the “presence and vitality” of the new movements and communities “is a sign that the Spirit is working in the Church and wills to enrich her with ever new gifts.”

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