MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
To my Venerable Brother Cardinal James Francis Stafford
1. I learned with pleasure that on the initiative of the Focolari Movement a Theological Pastoral Convention will be held in Castelgandolfo from 26 to 29 June on the theme: "Ecclesial movements for the new evangelization". To you, who have the responsibility to accompany and guide the "ecclesial movements" in communion and according to the mission of the Church, I ask to convey my cordial greeting to Miss Chiara Lubich, to her collaborators and to the convention's speakers, and to all the priests, permanent deacons and seminarians studying theology who will be taking part.
In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, I pointed out the path that the Church, living out of the abundant outpouring of grace she received during the recent Great Jubilee, is called to take at the dawn of the third millennium. The Church must "start afresh from Christ", with her gaze fixed on him and steeping herself in his mystery. She must strive to be a school of communion and active charity for everyone. Thus, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, despite human frailty, the Church will be able to bear witness to God's love in all the areas where human life and the renewal of society are at stake.
This mission involves the entire Christian community and ecclesial movements are a "providential gift" for this process, as I myself recalled at the memorable meeting of 30 May 1998 in St Peter's Square. For this very reason, in the Apostolic Letter on the follow up to the Jubilee, I insisted on the need for the "promotion of forms of association, whether of the more traditional kind or the newer ecclesial movements, which continue to give the Church a vitality that is God's gift and a true "springtime of the Spirit'" (n. 46).
The positive effectiveness of the movements is revealed when priests find in them "the light and warmth" which help them mature in a true Christian life, and in particular, in a genuine "sensus Ecclesiae", spurring them to greater fidelity to their legitimate Pastors, making them attentive to ecclesiastical discipline and helping them to carry out with missionary zeal the tasks inherent in their ministry. The ecclesial movements are also "a source of help and support in the journey of formation towards the priesthood", particularly for those who come from specific group situations, with respect for the norms of discipline prescribed by the Church for seminaries.
It is important to prevent priests, deacons and seminarians who belong to movements or ecclesial associations from becoming narrow or closed-minded. Rather, their participation should open their spirit to accept and respect the other ways in which the faithful can take part in the life of the Church, encouraging them to become ever more persons of communion, "pastors of the whole" (cf. Pastores dabo vobis, n. 62).
3. With these premises, the priests who belong to ecclesial movements will find in them an opportunity for their spiritual and pastoral enrichment. Indeed, by belonging to them, priests can learn better how to live the Church in the rich experience of her sacramental, hierarchical and charismatic gifts, that correspond to the many forms of ministries, states of life and tasks by which she is built up. "Moved" and "attracted" by the same charism, sharing in the same history and belonging to the same group, priests and lay people share in an interesting experience of communion with the faithful who edify one another, but without ever losing their distinct identity.
I therefore encourage this Council to follow the progress of the ecclesial movements attentively, to foster an intense dialogue with them, to accompany them with pastoral wisdom and, when necessary, to make sure that they do not lack appropriate discernment, clarifications and guidelines.
From the Vatican, 21 June.