PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE LAITY
Dear friends, Just a short time ago in Aparecida in Brazil, the 5th General Conference of the Latin-American and Caribbean Episcopate came to a close. The theme was: Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our people may have life in Him”. The Conference was opened on 13 May by His Holiness Benedict XVI with an address that oriented the future of that continent, a programme of life and action for the Latin-American laity. To fully grasp the importance of this event, we must refer to the general conferences that preceded it and that are milestones in the life of the Church in Latin America, particularly Medellín (1968), Puebla (1979) and Santo Domingo (1992). In Medellín they looked for ways in which to apply the conciliar magisterium to the Latin-American situation. The themes that emerged concerned the poor, “liberation”, base ecclesial communities and social-political engagement. However, mistaken interpretations can unfortunately lead to a reading of reality from an exclusively ethical-social or political viewpoint that in many cases can prevail over the salvific event. A turning-point takes place when the attention and pastoral concern of the Church by the committed lay minorities and the militant elite, extends out to the multitudes of the baptised for whom Christian tradition, even if not very sophisticated, is very strong. Their forms of popular piety are then re-evaluated as a precious heritage that can respond with Christian wisdom to the great existential questions. To preserve, reformulate and revitalise that patrimony of faith that pertains to almost 90% of Latin-Americans, representing just under half of all baptised Catholics, becomes a crucial question. It is, in fact, threatened both by the currents of christianisation induced by a global culture that is increasingly more distant and hostile to Catholic tradition, and by the spreading and proliferation of evangelical and neo-pentecostal communities as well as sects.
The greatest need is to deal with gaps in evangelisation and catechesis and to avoid the risk of translating Christianity into exasperated moralism, political messianism and ideological syncretism. It was at the time of the Puebla Conference and then that of Santo Domingo, both of which took place under the guidance of the pontificate of John Paul II, that there emerged a longing to reaffirm the Christian identity and the mission of the Church in order to give rise to a new evangelisation that makes the presence of Christ more evident, persuasive and incisive in people’s lives, in families and among peoples.
Following upon this desire, the Aparecida Conference was to be a loud call to return to the essentials of Christian identity. In our world full of false masters who seduce and deceive with illusory promises of happiness and “salvation” bought cheaply, it is really important that the lay faithful recognise in Christ the only true Lord and Master who has “the word of eternal life” (cf Jn 6:56). His disciples must be recognised, and they are those people who enter into a communion of life with Christ-Master. The generosity of the Latin-American laity can be seen today in the commitment of a very large number of catechists, effective participation in parish life, Christian communities, and so many networks of solidarity close to the poor. However, it is of utmost importance that the laity assure a more coherent and effective presence in the cultural areopagi and on the political scene where the destiny of nations is decided. There is still very much to be done to further the culture of life, authentic development, the fight against poverty and greater equity, processes of social inclusion and the consolidation of democracy and integration among the countries of the continent. On the one hand, political leaders who declare themselves Catholics with the purpose of attracting support rather than to really take on responsibility and be coherent with faith and the social doctrine of the Church, and on the other hand, discontented individualism and the moral relativism generated by the consumer society, both show the need for in-depth Christian education and for community accompaniment. These will permit the lay faithful to be capable of clear discernment of faith and of coherent and competent commitment in public life, so as to give witness to the transforming power of faith and charity at the service of the common good. In this sense great help can be given - as the Holy Father said explicitly in his inaugural address - by the ecclesial movements and new communities that have been spreading throughout the continent since the eighties. John Paul II and Benedict XVI called them “providential”. They represent an extraordinary charismatic, educational and missionary richness for the Church and for peoples. This came out strongly in the Congress of ecclesial movements and new communities organised in Bogota in March 2006 by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and CELAM as a contribution to the path of preparation of the Aparecida Conference, the first in which representatives of these new ecclesial groups have taken part. Much can be learned from these groups concerning methods, ways and schools of formation of true disciples and missionaries of the Lord. With their missionary impetus and creativity that distinguish their pedagogical methods and their proclamation of Christ, the movements and new communities born through the action of the Holy Spirit in Latin-America bring an enormous contribution to the mission of the Church. This is not only in Latin America but in many other countries of the western world that are wealthy and forgetful of God. These groups offer them the faith they have received according to the law of traditio and redditio. In this way, to the tired and discouraged Christianity of many, they respond with a faith full of joy, enthusiasm and courage. To a Christianity turned in on itself, passive and inhibited, they respond with an active, missionary faith that does not face the world with an inferiority complex. This is also seen in the renewal experiences of the great tradition of Catholic Action and other worthy associations of the faithful.
In Aparecida Benedict XVI delivered to the people of Latin America a programmatic manifesto that is valid for all peoples: every serious project at the service of humankind, for social advancement in justice and freedom, must part from recognition of the reality of God, the primacy of God, and of God’s centrality in the life of human beings. There have always been attempts to remove that primacy as people forget that “those who exclude God from their horizons falsify the notion of “reality” [and that] only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner”. For this reason, historical memory, present urgent needs and the future goals of Latin America were outlined by the Pope with a fixed gaze on the truth of “faith in the God of Love, the incarnate God who died and rose again in Jesus Christ”, the unshakable foundation of a hope that cannot be imprisoned in political ideology, social movements or economic systems of sorts. Recalling that evangelisation has always gone step in step with human advancement and authentic Christian freedom, the Holy Father has reminded us again of the need for a social catechesis and adequate instruction in the social doctrine of the Church because “the Christian life is not expressed solely in personal virtues, but also in social and political virtue” and because “the encounter with God is, in itself and as such, an encounter with our brothers and sisters, an act of convocation, of unification, of responsibility towards the other and towards others”. How then can the Church, illumined by faith in Christ, contribute to a solution of the problems of Latin America and the world of today? How can it respond to the challenges of poverty and the degradation of the dignity of humankind? How can it contribute to the creation of just and fair structures, an indispensable condition for a just society? Structures that are just, the Pope said, do not arise or function without the moral consensus of society on fundamental values, and on the need to live according to these values even against one’s own interest. Moreover, a society in which God is absent does not find the consensus needed on moral values and the strength to live according to the standard of these values. The task and fundamental vocation of the Church is therefore “to form consciences, to be the advocate of justice and truth, to educate in individual and political virtues”. Lay Catholics should continue to mature in awareness of their responsibility to be present where consensus is being formed, to oppose injustice and to bring the Gospel to light in public, cultural, economic and political life, working as “leaven” and making Christ visible through the witness of a life that shines with faith, hope and charity.
* * *
With the encouragement of His Holiness Benedict XVI, the Pontifical Council for the Laity will hold a seminar from 22 to 24 November 2007 with the presence of a large number of bishops to reflect and discuss the reality of movements in the Church. On 3 June 2006, the Vigil of Pentecost, the ecclesial movements and new communities were at the centre of a remarkable encounter with the Holy Father in Saint Peter’s Square. For a few days leading up to this event there was a congress with over one hundred leaders of these movements. The theme was: “The beauty of being a Christian and the joy of communicating it”. To follow up on these two events, we feel it is appropriate to continue the reflection with pastors from all over the world and speak of ecclesial movements and new communities as a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church of our times.
The years that have passed since a similar event took place in June 1999 have been rich in getting-to-know one another better and in a greater awareness of the role that these different groups have had in the work of the new evangelisation. In this regard, the thinking of the Holy Father Benedict XVI proceeds in perfect harmony with the magisterium of the Servant of God John Paul II.
The seminar will receive orientation from the words of Benedict XVI “I ask you to approach movements with a great deal of love”. This statement is taken from an address given to a group of bishops on their ad limina visit.
During the seminar - at which some ecclesial movements and new communities will be represented - there will be lectures, working groups, testimonies and discussion. The high point will be the audience the Holy Father will grant to all the participants. From the responses received we can see that bishops from local Churches everywhere are interested to register their participation in this event.
The movements and new communities in the words of the Holy Father.
A brief review
The faithful and pastors who wish to delve into the teachings of Benedict XVI on ecclesial movements and new communities, are concentrating their attention particularly on the words he spoke at the memorable encounter on the vigil of Pentecost 2006 and the message he sent on the occasion of the Congress held in preparation of that event. During the vigil, one of the points emphasised by the Pope was that the Holy Spirit gives life and freedom, and that “the movements were born precisely because of a thirst for true life” and “they are intended to be and should be schools of freedom, of this true freedom”. In his words to the Congress several days earlier, he affirms that these new ecclesial groups are “a luminous sign of the beauty of Christ and of the Church, his Bride”. These are clear fundamental indications that deserve to be increasingly better known and studied. Moreover, the Pontiff has on many occasions dealt with the subject, tracing the fundamental lines for a clear understanding of the “new era of group endeavours of the lay faithful” (Christifideles laici, 29). We would like to mention some of these “sparse” teachings, because perhaps not everyone knows about them or has realised their importance. Further teachings of the Holy Father will be included with the next issue of our newsletter.
Benedict XVI has reasserted several times that movements and new communities do not have their origin in human initiative but that they are gifts of the Holy Spirit as is the Church itself: “Among the realities raised up in the Church by the Holy Spirit are the movements and ecclesial communities ... The entire Church, as Pope John Paul II loved to say, is one great movement animated by the Holy Spirit, a river that travels through history to irrigate it with God’s grace and make it full of life, goodness, beauty, justice and peace” (4 June 2006, Regina Coeli). These new groups are considered by the Pope to be a gift for the Church, particularly in order to help put the Second Vatican Council into effect. Over the past few decades we have witnessed a “vast flowering of associations, movements and new ecclesial realities providentially raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Every gift of the Spirit is found originally and necessarily at the service of the edification of the Body of Christ, offering a witness of the immense charity of God for the life of each person. The reality of ecclesial movements, therefore, is a sign of the fecundity of the Lord’s Spirit, because it manifests in the world the victory of the Risen Christ and it accomplishes the missionary mandate entrusted to the whole Church” (24 March 2007, to the members of Communion and Liberation).
In maintaining this premise, Benedict XVI is well aware that he is completely in conformity with the teachings of John Paul II: “My venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, has presented the Movements and New Communities which have come into being in these years as a providential gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, in order to respond in an effective way to the challenges of our time. And you know that this is also my conviction (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Bishop-friends of the Focolare Movement and the Sant’Egidio Community, 8 February 2007). The Pope predicts that they will continue to spread: “Dear representatives of the new movements in the Church, the vitality of your communities is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s active presence! It is from the faith of the Church and from the richness of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that your mission has been born. My prayer is that you will grow ever more numerous so as to serve the cause of the Kingdom of God in today’s world” (26 May 2006, to the representatives of movements in Poland).
The movements express the variety of gifts of the Spirit, all necessary to build up the Church, gathered in unity thanks to the ministry of the bishops in communion with the Pope: “The Holy Spirit wants the multiformity of the movements at the service of the one Body, which is the Church. And this comes about through the ministry of those he has placed to sustain the Church of God: the Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Bishop-friends of the Focolare Movement and the Sant’Egidio Community, 8 February 2007). The charismatic origin of the movements requires that they be welcomed by the bishops with attention and respect, “with much love”, notwithstanding the difficulties that such a wave of innovations can imply in some circumstances: “After the Council, the Holy Spirit endowed us with the ‘movements’. They sometimes appear to be rather strange to the parish priest or Bishop but are places of faith where young people and adults try out a model of life in faith as an opportunity for life today. I therefore ask you to approach movements very lovingly. Here and there, they must be corrected or integrated into the overall context of the parish or Diocese. Yet, we must respect the specific character of their charism and rejoice in the birth of communitarian forms of faith in which the Word of God becomes life” (18 November 2006, to German bishops). There is no contradiction in the Church between charism and institution, but complementarity and reciprocal interpenetration: “In the Message to the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, 27 May 1998, the Servant of God John Paul II had this to say: that there is no conflict or opposition in the Church between the institutional and the charismatic dimensions, of which the Movements are a significant expression. Both are co-essential to the divine constitution of the People of God. In the Church the essential institutions are also charismatic and indeed the charisms must, in one way or another, be institutionalized to have coherency and continuity. Hence, both dimensions originate from the same Holy Spirit for the same Body of Christ, and together they concur to make present the mystery and the salvific work of Christ in the world. This explains the attention with which the Pope and the Pastors look upon the richness of the charismatic gifts in the contemporary age” (24 March 2007, to the members of Communion and Liberation).
The Pope gave two fundamental rules on how to welcome the movements:
“It seems to me that we have two fundamental rules of which you spoke. The first was given to us by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians: do not extinguish charisms. If the Lord gives us new gifts we must be grateful, even if at times they may be inconvenient. And it is beautiful that without an initiative of the hierarchy but with an initiative from below, as people say, but which also truly comes from on High, that is, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, new forms of life are being born in the Church just as, moreover, they were born down the ages. At first, they were always inconvenient. Even St. Francis was very inconvenient, and it was very hard for the Pope to give a final canonical form to a reality that by far exceeded legal norms. For St. Francis, it was a very great sacrifice to let himself be lodged in this juridical framework, but in the end this gave rise to a reality that is still alive today and will live on in the future: it gives strength, as well as new elements, to the Church’s life. I wish to say only this: movements have been born in all the centuries. Even St. Benedict at the outset was a movement. They do not become part of the Church’s life without suffering and difficulty. St. Benedict himself had to correct the initial direction that monasticism was taking. Thus, in our century too, the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has given us new initiatives with new aspects of Christian life. Since they are lived by human people with their limitations, they also create difficulties. So the first rule is: do not extinguish Christian charisms; be grateful even if they are inconvenient. The second rule is: the Church is one; if movements are truly gifts of the Holy Spirit, they belong to and serve the Church and in patient dialogue between Pastors and movements, a fruitful form is born where these elements become edifying for the Church today and in the future. This dialogue is at all levels. Starting with the parish priest, the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the search for appropriate structures is underway: in many cases it has already borne fruit (22 February 2007, to the clergy of Rome).
This coming September 7 and 8, the “Church and Sport” Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity will host an international seminar on the theme: “Sport, a pastoral and educational challenge” that will specifically address the role of sport chaplains.
The first international seminar, held in November 2005, focused on the theme: “The Christian mission within the field of sport today” and analysed in a general way the opportunities and challenges that the growing sector of sport in today’s society presents to the Church. This initial exchange of ideas helped to point out some of the ways in which sport can be considered a field of Christian mission and the role the Church and Sport Section should play in this sector.
In addition, in March 2007, the Section also collaborated with the Scientific Commission of the Church and Sport study group of the German Bishops’ Conference for a seminar held in Mainz, dedicated to elaborating the anthropological, theological and pastoral aspects of a Christian vision for sport. To build upon the work undertaken, during the seminar in September, the “Church and Sport” Section will consider one of the pastoral aspects of sport, namely, the specific role of sport chaplains within the greater context of the pastoral mission of the Church in sport in light of today’s educational challenges.
For these two days of reflection, participants will be representatives from the pastoral offices for sport within national bishops’ conferences, representatives from Catholic sport associations, experts from various sectors of sport, and chaplains of professional and youth teams.
The seminar will begin with a general reflection on the world of sport within the context of a greater educational crisis. This will be followed by a general review of the pastoral ministry to the world of sport to date. The seminar will then shift its focus to the specific significance and role of sport chaplains.
The seminar will also include two panel discussions: one will be dedicated to receiving feedback on what professional and amateur athletes and coaches look for in a chaplain, and the other panel discussion will voice the pastoral experiences of various chaplains from different sectors of the sporting world. Lastly, the seminar will also be an opportunity for an exchange of ideas and initiatives in light of some of the upcoming major sports events around the world.
In 2008 we shall have the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem by John Paul II on the dignity and vocation of women. This letter is in perfect continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which encouraged a much wider participation of women not only in the cultural and social sphere, but also in the ecclesial sphere. In the decree Apostolicam actuositatem we read: “Since in our times women have an ever more active share in the whole life of society, it is very important that they participate more widely also in the various fields of the Church’s apostolate” (no. 9). The concern of the Church for the effective advancement of women did not cease with Vatican II.
In 1973, six years after the establishment of the Consilium de Laicis, Paul VI, responding to an explicit request from the Synod of Bishops and in view of the International Year of women proclaimed by the United Nations in 1975, instituted the “Study commission on women in society and in the Church”.
In 1988, in response to the wishes of the Synod of Bishops concerning the participation of the laity in the life of the Church and in order to study the question of women, John Paul II published Mulieris dignitatem. It is significant that this letter was written during the Marian Year, a providential time to look at the theme of women while looking at Our Lady. In this path of reflection, Mulieris dignitatem is a milestone. For the first time, a pontifical document was entirely dedicated to the topic of women. John Paul II proceeds with an anthropological analysis in the light of Revelation in order to derive, both from the first chapters of Genesis and from the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fundamental truths like the equal dignity of men and women created in the image of God, the unity of the two and the call to communion, the importance of complementarity and reciprocity between men and women, the appreciation of the feminine “genius”, the figure of Mary as a model for women, and the total fulfilment of human beings called to holiness.
It is an established fact that, twenty years after Mulieris dignitatem, the language and contents of the magisterium of John Paul II have not only been assimilated but they have also generated a perspective of renewed appreciation of women and a keener awareness of the importance of reciprocity between men and women. John Paul II laid the foundation for a new feminism and his reflection has brought a breath of fresh air to a culture often hurt by antagonistic tendencies in the man-woman relationship, a theme that was later developed in the Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world published in 2004 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Benedict XVI in turn expressed and took up again the appreciation of the Church for the contribution of women. It is enough here to mention the catechesis in the general audience of 14 February 2007, dedicated to women and their ecclesial responsibility from the early Christian communities until today.
On the twentieth anniversary of Mulieris dignitatem, the Pontifical Council for the Laity is again taking up this in-depth study of the relationship man-woman and the participation of women in the mission of the Church, with a conference on the theme: “Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety”. It will be held in Rome from 7 to 9 February 2008 with the participation of around 250 people coming from the five continents. The main objectives of the Conference are to review the progress made over the past twenty years in the field of the advancement of women and the recognition of their dignity; to open up a reflection in the light of revelation on the new cultural paradigms and on the difficulties faced by Catholic women in living according to their identity and in collaborating in fruitful reciprocity with men in building up the Church and society; to remind women of the beauty of the vocation to holiness, encouraging them to respond to it with increasing awareness and, as players in the mission of the Church, to place at the service of the apostolate, family, workplace and culture, all the richness of the feminine “genius”.
9th International Youth Forum
The central theme of the 9th International Youth Forum was “Witnessing to Christ in the world of work”. The Forum took place in Rocca di Papa from 28 March to 1st April. The theme touches on one of the focal questions in human experience, and reflects, especially among youth, the complexity of our globalised world. It is a challenge for evangelisation and for Christian life. In a world undergoing rapid transformation, the fragmentation of traditional relations opens the way to new styles of life and types of employment that are not always better. This is seen in the marginalisation of the young and the elderly and in the growing gap between rich and poor. Proclaiming the Gospel here is certainly an exciting and difficult challenge.
Around three hundred delegates from eighty or so countries around the world, were invited to Rocca di Papa by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. They enthusiastically took part in the full schedule of the Forum. Archbishop Stanisław Ryłko gave a very clear synthesis at the end: “As we looked at the epoch-making transformations in the labour market of our times that mostly penalise the younger generations, we asked how Christians can live out their work commitments in a globalised world that is changing so rapidly and so much; how they can retrieve the true meaning of their daily toil so that it will not become mere routine and degenerate into activism that has no end beyond itself and that parches the spirit; how they can live in situations of “precarity” or unemployment that are so common today and cause such hardship; how the “Gospel of work” proclaimed by the Church is heard in the world of work of our times, so conditioned by inflexible market laws and ruthless competition, and if it still has a word to say to our contemporaries and above all to the youth; how to witness to Christ in workplaces that are totally disconnected from the logic of faith. The Forum has been a time of passionate searching for answers to these questions by treasuring the lessons that were heard, by listening to the views offered in the panel discussions, by the dialogue and exchange of each one’s direct experience, and also through the moments of prayer and recollection before the Lord present in the Eucharist”.
The path of this study began with an analysis of the situation by professors Giancarlo Rovati and Michele Tiraboschi. It was studied further in a panel discussion and in the contributions made by the delegates from the floor. It went on to discuss the meaning of work in human life and came to the heart of the question: “Proclaiming the ‘Gospel of Work’ today”, and then “Joining professional and Christian life” which was the topic of the talk by Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke osb of Eichstätt in Germany.
There is no space here to mention all the panellists at the conference and guests who joined the working groups, people with different experiences from the five continents. However, we wish to point out that their guidance and invaluable contributions together with the enthusiasm of the delegates helped the forum to grow day by day. The syntheses given by the working groups was witness to the fact that: “It is in facts and daily actions that we each witness to Christ”, “We should stand out for our courage and capacity to listen”, “We should be faithful to our option as baptised people”, “We should set up pastoral ministry for workers in our countries if it does not already exist, and we should study the social doctrine of the Church”, “It is important to be close to those who suffer, to help young people to reconcile their faith life with their work life”, “We should put our experience here ‘on the net’”, “I have discovered the maternal character of the Church towards the movements”, “The Church has a treasure of humanity that it keeps, not for itself, but for the whole world”, “We must be witnesses of charity”.
His Holiness Benedict XVI sent a message to the participants that contained many thoughts for reflection: “The ultimate reference of every human activity can only be the human person”, therefore “Every human activity should be an occasion and place for the growth of individuals and society”. Referring to the transformations that “have radically changed the appearance and conditions of the labour market”, the Pope pointed out that “disturbing forms of marginalisation and exploitation” often affect young people. He reminded them of “the need to evaluate the human dimension of work and to protect the dignity of the person”.
After a short reminder of the World Youth Day Message, the Pope wrote: “It is not simply a question of becoming more competitive and productive, but it is necessary to be witnesses of charity”.
The forum was an experience of faith and of the universality of the Church. There were deeply spiritual moments with prayer and Holy Mass. The celebrants were Archbishop Stanisław Ryłko, Cardinal Renato Martino, Cardinal Ivan Dias and Bishop Josef Clemens. One of the days was dedicated to a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and the Forum concluded in Saint Peter’s Square with Benedict XVI for the 22nd World Youth Day.
The journey of the WYD Cross and Icon
THE JOURNEY OF THE CROSS AND
The last phase of the pilgrimage of the Cross and Icon in Africa, beginning after Christmas 2006, took them to Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Madagascar. Here, as in the previous stages, great numbers of youth and adults, Christians and otherwise, welcomed the Cross and Icon with festive choral singing and dancing before kneeling down in adoration and to entrust their intentions to Jesus and Mary.
The length of stay for the Cross and Icon was not the same in every country. Nevertheless, even when they stayed for only two days, as in the case of Swaziland and Botswana, those short visits were experienced as a time of grace. At times, the Cross and Icon could not reach the youth in their communities as happened in Mozambique. Time was short and the rainy season had made many places inaccessible. Therefore the youth went to Maputo, setting out in plenty of time to be sure to be there for the arrival of the Cross and Icon. At each stage, the local Church decided the priorities that often became prayer intentions. In South Africa, for example, the Cross and Icon were in territories like the Eastern Cape which the organisers did not hesitate to call “a land of death, disaster and desperation”. Here, drugs, no work prospects, and above all, AIDS, has victims among the very young. Gathered around their bishop and filled with hope, the young South Africans prayed to the Lord and his Mother, closer than ever during this pilgrimage, to bring their healing to this country and its people.
Madagascar was the last stopover in an amazing experience of faith that had begun on 12 April 2006 in Senegal. Politicians, members of government and institutional leaders all met at the Apostolic Nunciature with the bishops, and above all, with a huge crowd of young Christians to offer the Cross and Icon a welcome worthy of the most illustrious guests. At the farewell ceremony at Antananarivo airport, it was as if the whole of Africa were represented and not only those twenty countries who had the privilege of hosting the Cross and Icon during that long pilgrimage. On 17 February 2007 the Cross and Icon left Africa and headed for Seoul in Korea to start the last stretch on the way to WYD in Sydney. This journey includes countries of the Asian-Pacific region.
THE JOURNEY TO KOREA, THE PHILIPPINES AND THE PACIFIC ISLANDS
Each stopover that the Cross and Icon make has a unique and special characteristic, but one sentiment that seems to join them all is the feeling of togetherness with the rest of the world that is experienced when standing before this Cross and Icon that have travelled the world and been touched by so many young people.
The youth of Korea took the Cross and Icon to the Bridge of Freedom and prayed for the unity of the people from both parts of their country and for peace in the world, convinced that young people have a major role to play in securing this goal. The visit of the Cross and Icon to the Philippines awoke awareness in the Philippine Church that ministry cannot remain “inward looking” but must reach out to the many young people who have yet to personally meet Christ. They too want to touch and be healed by the Cross. On their arrival in Guam, the Cross and Icon were carried on a four-day pilgrimage around the island in the company of a large crowd of young people and families. The Cross and Icon remained for less than one day in Majuro in the Marshall Islands, and in that time a huge crowd followed them on an eight-mile procession. The Cross and Icon had a short but busy visit to the Chuuk Islands. They made their way to the parishes on small boats along rivers through the jungle and across the sea from island to island greeted by people throwing flowers and singing.
The next stopover was in Palau, and then the Cross and Icon went on to Papua New Guinea where some areas witnessed the largest crowds ever seen as people followed the Cross and Icon in procession. One of the areas visited in the Solomon Islands had been devastated by an earthquake and tsunami only two weeks earlier. The youth of the region spent the night in prayer with the Cross and Icon beside the damaged cathedral and they focussed on the Cross as a symbol of the Resurrection. Reconciliation was the theme for the visit of the Cross and Icon to Timor Leste, a country where there have been tensions between communities recently. The journey continued from island to island - Kiribati, Appia Samoa, American Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga - where the Cross and Icon were greeted by crowds of young people in traditional dress and where torrential rains did not stop the festivities - Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and New Zealand - where the 3-week journey around the country was very well prepared and attempted to reach young people in all kinds of situations, in schools, institutions, rural and urban areas, ethnic minorities, etc. and to pray in places with special significance in local memory. From 1 July the Cross and Icon are travelling around the dioceses of Australia to call the youth of the country to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.
Preparing for WYD 2008
All over the world departments of youth ministry are using the internet to gather applications from pilgrims, to inform them of meetings, liturgical celebrations and other gatherings. They are encouraging parishes to sponsor the participation of some of their young parishioners, and they are suggesting that young people be creative in finding ways of fundraising to make the trip.
Group registrations opened in March and individual pilgrim registration will open in July. For World Youth Day 2008, each member of a group will have to register individually. So far in 2007 representatives of the WYD08 Team in Sydney have been in Rome four times for discussions with the PCL on organisational and technical issues. Australian government officials also visited when they were in Rome for security meetings with the Vatican.
The second preparatory meeting for WYD 2008 will be held in Sydney on 15-17 October 2007 to which WYD organisers from bishops’ conferences and international movements, associations and communities will be invited.
The John Paul II Youth Foundation
The Youth Church Hope Foundation has changed name. Following the decision made by the Administrative Council of the Foundation during the meeting on 8 January 2007, and with the agreement of the heads of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the new name given is the John Paul II Youth Foundation. This is a tribute to the pontiff whose intuition gave birth to World Youth Day, an event that has given great impetus to youth pastoral ministry in the Church.
The Foundation was established to sustain the activities of the Youth Section of the Dicastery and it was erected with public juridical personality on 29 June 1991 by the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in order to “contribute to the implementation of the teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church regarding the priority of youth ministry, as particularly expressed in the World Youth Days”; and “to promote the evangelization of young people and support youth ministry throughout the world” (Statutes, art. 1, 2.1).
The Pontifical Council for the Laity: By decree of 16 October 2006 approved the new statutes of the Fédération Internationale des Mouvements d’Adultes Ruraux Catholiques (FIMARC).
By decree of 8 December 2006, granted final approval of the statutes of the “Vivere In” Spirituality Movement.
By decree of 1 January 2007 approved the new statutes of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO).
By decree of 22 January 2007, granted final approval of the statutes of the Silent Workers of the Cross Association.
By decree of 9 February 2007, approved the modifications to the statutes of the “Memores Domini” Lay Association
By decree of 22 February 2007, recognised as an international association of the faithful, Shalom Catholic Community, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
By decree of 15 March 2007, approved the modifications to the statutes of the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement)
By decree of 15 March 2007 approved the new statutes of the Association Internationale des Charités (AIC)
By decree of 25 March 2007, recognised as an international association of the faithful, the Franciscanos de María Association, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
By decree of 5 April 2007, recognised as an international association of the faithful, Les Maisons d’adoration Association, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
By decree of 11 April 2007 approved the new statutes of the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA-Pax Romana).
By decree of 26 April 2007 approved the new statutes of the International Catholic Society for Girls (ACISJF - In Via).
By decree of 19 May 2007, granted final approval of the statutes of the Institute for World Evangelization - ICPE Mission.
By decree of 26 May 2007, granted final approval of the statutes of the Missionary Community of Villaregia.
By decree of 27 May 2007 approved the new statutes of the International Council of Catholic Men (FIHC-Unum Omnes).
By decree of 15 June 2007, recognised as an international association of the faithful, the Apostolate for Family Consecration association, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
The Dicastery is presently examining the requests for canonical recognition presented by the following lay groups: Alliance of the Holy Family International, Fondacio, Catholic Integrated Community, Families of Nazareth Movement, Milicia de Santa María, Family Hope, Rinnovamento Carismatico Servi di Cristo Vivo, Light-Life Movement, Schönstatt Apostolic Movement, Hogares Nuevos-Obra de Cristo, Comunitŕ Cenacolo, Cançao Nova Community, Parish Cells of Evangelisation, Pan-American Health Care Network, Fédération Internationale des Centres de Préparation au Mariage, Movimiento de la Palabra de Dios.
The process of canonical readjustment of International Catholic Organisations (ICOs) continues. To date, the new statutes of ten of these organisations have been approved: ACISJF - In Via, AIC, BICE, CIJOCICYCW, FIHC-Unum Omnes, FIMARC, MIAMSI, ICMICA-Pax Romana, UCIP, WUCWO.
Between November 2006 and April this year we had the ad limina visits of the Italian bishops. They alternated by regions in showing their full communion with the See of Peter, and expressed their personal gratitude to the Holy Father for speaking to the national Convention of the Italian Church held recently in Verona. This was an essential contribution to guide pastoral ministry in Italy over the next few years. Our Dicastery received delegations from Lazio, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Puglia, Sicily and Tuscany. The encounters confirmed the words of the Pope in Verona when he described Italy as “a favourable terrain for Christian testimony”, where “Christian traditions often continue to be rooted and to produce fruit, while a great effort of evangelization and catechesis is taking place, addressed particularly to the new generations, but now even more so to families”. The bishops testified to the revival of traditional associations and the surprising spread of ecclesial movements and new communities that stand in contrast to the advance of relativism that derives from secularisation and is, according to Benedict XVI, “a radical and profound departure, not only from Christianity, but more generally from the religious and moral traditions of humanity”. The bishops informed us of progress in the “Cultural Project” set up by the Bishops’ Conference with the contribution of many of the laity, defined by the Pope as “a happy intuition and can make a very important contribution” so that Catholics may have suitable instruments to help the culture of their country grow. A work of authentic evangelisation “is never a simple adaptation to culture, but it is always also a purification, a courageous departure that leads to maturation and healing, an openness that brings to birth that ‘new creation’ that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit”. The bishops retraced with us the five areas of human existence that determined the organisation of the discussions in Verona. We spoke of the witness of the lay faithful with regard to affective relationships and the family, work and leisure, education and culture, conditions of poverty and illness, responsibilities in social and political life. In this framework we discussed the topic of Christian education as a rediscovery of the potential inherent in the sacraments of initiation so that, in the words of the Pope, “they reach effective fulfilment in the daily reality of our life, what the Holy Spirit accomplishes in us with Baptism. In fact, we are called to become new women and men, to be able to be true witnesses of the Risen One and thus bearers of Christian joy and hope in the world, concretely in that community of men and women in which we live”. The social and political commitment of Catholics shows encouraging signs of revival, after a period in which there was a general defeatist attitude, of bringing things down to levels extraneous to Christian experience. However, as the Pope urged them, there is much to be done to help them face, with “determination and clear policies the risks of political and legislative choices that contradict fundamental values and anthropological principles and ethics rooted in the nature of the human being, in particular, regarding the guardianship of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death, and to the promotion of the family founded on marriage, avoiding the introduction in the public order of other forms of union that would contribute to destabilising it, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable role in society. On the other hand, the Pope in Verona recognised that “the open and courageous testimony that the Church and Italian Catholics have given and are giving in this regard is a precious service to Italy, useful and stimulating also for many other nations. This commitment and this witness are certainly part of that great ‘yes’ that as believers in Christ we say to humankind loved by God”.
* * *
Activities of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre
On 2 February, feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus at the temple, Bishop Renato Boccardo, Secretary General of the Vatican City State, celebrated Holy Mass at San Lorenzo Centre.
On 16 February, Holy Mass was celebrated by Msgr Mauro Parmeggiani, Secretary Prelate of the Vicariate of Rome and head of the diocesan youth ministry.
On 9 March Archbishop Ryłko celebrated Holy Mass for the young people and then presented the message that Benedict XVI addressed to the youth of the world for the 22nd World Youth Day.
On 4 May Bishop Clemens was at the Centre to celebrate Mass and meet with a group of students from the Internationale Akademie für Evangelisation (IAE), the international school of evangelisation of the Emmanuel Community in Vienna.
On 14 June, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Msgr Kohn celebrated Holy Mass, followed by a meeting with the animators of the Centre - Rev. Sébastien Dehorter, chaplain, Pamela Fabiano and Leen den Blauwen - to evaluate the year 2006/2007 and make plans for 2007/2008.
Msgr Kohn met with Rev. Xavier Brizard, youth coordinator of the Emmanuel Community, to discuss the animation of the Centre.
“Laity Today” collection