La Santa Sede Menu Ricerca
La Curia Romana Pontifici Consigli


NEWS  16/2008





The President to the Readers


Dear friends,

Twenty years ago, on the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady in the year 1988, the Servant of God John Paul II signed the apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem. I wonder if we are really aware of how great a gift it was for the Church in our times. It was the first document from the pontifical magisterium entirely dedicated to women. Mulieris dignitatem opened up new horizons to theological and anthropological debate on the situation of women in the Church and society. During the press conference introducing the letter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said: “Anyone who goes to the trouble of delving further into this document will recognise that beyond its theological depth, it is also a document of great human quality that transmits a message to us and concerns us all” (L’Osservatore Romano, 1 October 1988, Italian edition). In order to mark this anniversary, the Pontifical Council for the Laity held an international conference in Rome last February on the theme: “Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety”. We shall speak further about this in a separate article.

Mulieris dignitatem came into being through John Paul II’s vigorous insistence on the dignity of human beings who “always and only exist as a woman or a man”. The document was providential. It gave the Church reliable guidance and encouragement in times of great challenge and existential and cultural confusion. Now, twenty years later, the apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women has not lost its relevance. It continues to be an invaluable source of inspiration and teaching that we can turn to time and again to read and meditate, beginning from the pages in Genesis where God created the human being in his image, male and female, right up to the “evangelical newness of life” manifested in the person of Jesus, in his words and in the way he behaved towards women. Mulieris dignitatem has helped many to discover the “feminine genius” that reaches sublime fulfilment in Mary the Mother of the Lord.

The document draws on the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and the world, and in a certain sense it is a fruit of that synod (cf J. Schotte in L’Osservatore Romano, 1 October 1988 Italian edition). Throughout the debates, many of the synod bishops pointed out the need for the Magisterium to speak out on the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and society. The Pope’s response to their concern was Mulieris dignitatem, published on 15 August 1988, even before the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici that was to come out on 30 December that year. It was an eloquent gesture, an unmistakable testimony to the importance John Paul II attached to theological anthropology that is based on God’s original design for the human being “male and female”. The Servant of God wrote: “It is only by beginning from these bases, which make it possible to understand the greatness of the dignity and vocation of women, that one is able to speak of their active presence in the Church and in society” (Mulieris dignitatem, no.1).

John Paul II considered that the anthropological challenge inherent in post-modern culture should be a real priority for the commitment and apostolate of the lay faithful, men and women. They are called to be consciously and responsibly aware of all that is contained in their femininity and masculinity - in a special way as married couples and parents-, and to joyfully proclaim the beauty of GodÂ’s plan, God who is creator and redeemer of each human person.

It is necessary nowadays for us to strongly denounce the marginalisation of women, the injustice and abuse suffered by women in many social and cultural contexts, and also the dangers of new cultural paradigms concerning gender. Lay Catholics engaged in politics and in full accord with the magisterium of the Church must advance laws that are just and that respect the dignity and vocation of women (cf Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,  Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life, 24 November 2002). All of this must be accompanied by the effective witness of men and women who live according to GodÂ’s design and the fulfilment of their own identity. It is not by chance that John Paul II asked the lay faithful to be promoters of a “new feminism” that “rejects the temptation of imitating models of ‘male dominationÂ’, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation” (Encyclical letter Evangelium vitae, no. 99).

The men and women of our times continue to be reminded by Christ that, “You are the salt of the earth [...] You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-16). The “newness of life” we receive in Baptism should also touch the way we think and live out our identity as man or woman in the Church and society. The deep cultural crisis of our times calls on Christians to give a clear and persuasive response with the style, language and method of the Gospel. We should not allow ourselves to be led by the diktats of worldly models, but unfortunately this can happen. We think of terms that are now being used within the Church that are typical of the new global ethics (cf Men and women: diversity and mutual complementarity, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Vatican City 2005, pp 89ff). Today the Lord is asking us to courageously go against the tide of being politically correct. We should not feel inferior, but should be aware that Christians have something essential to offer the world. What is most at stake in this great cultural challenge is the human person and the two institutions basic to humanity: marriage and family. John Paul II wrote: “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation [...] In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that ‘genius’ which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human!” (Mulieris dignitatem, no.30). These words echo those addressed to women in the closing speech of the Vatican Council on 8 December 1965: “at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women guided by the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to help mankind to keep from falling”.

I conclude with some important news concerning our Dicastery. In his letter of 11 March this year, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone communicated the names of the new Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity nominated by His Holiness Benedict XVI for the coming five year period. They include cardinals, bishops, priests and, above all, the lay faithful, men and women. Their names, qualifications and provenance are included in this publication. I would like to stress the importance of their role in the Dicastery. In its service they lend their much appreciated ecclesial, social and cultural experience, representing each of the worldÂ’s continents. It is through them that the Pontifical Council for the Laity is an “observer” worldwide of the Catholic lay apostolate at the service of the Successor of Peter. While expressing our grateful thanks to the Members and Consultors who have concluded their mandate, I also wish to convey our congratulations to those who are taking up the baton. May this service to the Holy See to which they were called by the Pope, become a school of ecclesial communion and an instrument of much spiritual growth. 


Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko



New Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity 


In the Holy See Press Office News Bulletin of 24 April last, the names of the new Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, nominated by the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the next five-year period, were made public. Among the thirty-seven members there are nine cardinals and three bishops, and - a characteristic of this Dicastery - twenty-five lay people representing different parts of the world. Nineteen of these were confirmed in their mandate that began in the previous five-year period. There are also lay people among the Consultors. There are ten of them together with four bishops and six priests. Unlike other dicasteries in the Roman Curia where members and consultors are mainly cardinals and bishops and, according to circumstances, “some clerics and other Christian faithful” (Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 7), the Pontifical Council for the Laity has a majority of laity among the members and consultors, as established in Paul VI’s motu proprio Apostolatus peragendi. It is therefore a place of special presence on the part of the laity in the Roman Curia, a space for expression of their concerns and hopes in the heart of the universal Church.

Here is the complete list of the Members and Consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity until the year 2013.


The members

• H.E. Card. Salvatore De Giorgi
Archbishop emeritus of Palermo (Italy)

• H.E. Card. Ivan Dias
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

• H.E. Card. Julio Terrazas Sandoval, C.SS.R.
Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia)

• H.E. Card. Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M.
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

• H.E. Card. José da Cruz Policarpo
Patriarch of Lisbon (Portugal)

• H.E. Card. Ennio Antonelli
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

• H.E. Card. Josip Bozanič
Archbishop of Zagreb (Croatia)

• H.E. Card. Stanis»aw Dziwisz
Archbishop of Cracow (Poland)

• H.E. Card. Lluís Martínez Sistach
Archbishop of Barcelona (Spain)

• Most Rev. Robert Sarah
Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

• Most Rev. Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández
Archbishop of Granada (Spain)

• Most Rev. Reinhard Marx
Archbishop of Munich and Freising (Germany)

• Prof. Carl Albert Anderson (United States)
Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus

• Mr Saïd A. Azer (Egypt)
Neocatechumenal Way

• Mr Marcello Bedeschi (Italy)
President of the John Paul II Youth Foundation

• Ms Paola Bignardi (Italy)
Coordinator of the International Forum of Catholic Action

• Prof. Matteo Calisi (Italy)
President of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships

• Mr Tanios Chahwan (Lebanon)
Secretary General of the Council for Lay Apostolate in Lebanon

• Mr Enrique Elías (Peru)
Procurator of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae

• Ms Pilar Escudero de Jensen (Chile)
Institute of Schönstatt Families

• Ms Crescencia Gabijan Cabilao (Philippines)
Consultant to the Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in the Philippines

• Ms Christiana Habsburg-Lothringen (Austria)
 Regnum Christi Apostolic Movement

• Prof. Thomas Han Hong-Soon (South Korea)
Vice-President of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Seoul

• Ms Katarina Hulmanova (Slovakia)
Coordinator of the Catholic Organisations Forum of the Slovak BishopsÂ’ Conference

• Ms Priscilla Kuye (Nigeria)
Vice-President of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria

• Ms Yuk-fai Rosa Lai (Hong Kong)
President of the Hong Kong Central Council of Catholic Laity

• Dr. Manfred Lütz (Germany)
Psychiatrist and theologian

• Mr Guy Maginzi (Democratic Republic of Congo)
International Executive Secretary of the Christian Life Community (CVX)

• Prof. Josep Miró I Ardèvol (Spain)
President of E-Christians and President of the Convention of Christians for Europe

• Ms Michelle Moran (Great Britain)
President of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS)

• Prof. Norbert Müller (Germany)
Lecturer at the Sports Science Institute of the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität in Mainz

• Prof. Balázs Schanda (Hungary)
Dean of the Faculty of Jurisprudence of the Péter Pázmány Catholic University in Budapest

• Ms Catherine Soublin (France)
Catholic Institute of Paris, Head of Continuing Education

• Mr Guilherme Vaz (India)
Director of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd in Mumbai

• Ms Lola Velarde (Spain)
President of the European Institute for Family Policy

• Prof. Pedro Morais Vieira (Angola)
Member of the Secretariat of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity

• Prof. Karol Zyczkowski (Poland)
Lecturer at the Jagellonica University of Cracow


The Consultors

• Most Rev. Józef Michalik
Archbishop of Przemysl  - Latin rite (Poland)

• Most Rev. Michel Dubost, C.I.M.
Bishop of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes (France)

• Most Rev. Jean Mbarga
Bishop of Ebolowa-Kribi (Cameroon)

• Most Rev. Carlo Mazza
Bishop of Fidenza (Italy)

• Msgr. Patrick Valdrini (France)
Ecclesiastical Counsellor to the Embassy of France to the Holy See

• Msgr. Piero Coda (Italy)
President of the Italian Theology Association

• Rev. Prof. Libero Gerosa (Switzerland)
Rector of the Theology Faculty of Lugano

• Rev. Prof. Luis Navarro Marfá (Italy)
Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law of the Holy Cross Pontifical University

• Rev. Prof. P. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J. (Italy)
Rector of the Gregorian Pontifical University

• Rev. Julián Carrón (Italy)
President of the Communion and Liberation Fraternity

• Prof. Helen M. Alvaré (United States)
Associate Professor of Law at the George Mason University School of Law

• Mr Kiko Argüello (Spain)
Co-initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way

• Mr Edio Costantini (Italy)
Past President of the Italian Sporting Centre

• Mr Moysés Louro De Azevedo Filho (Brazil)
Founder of the Shalom Catholic Community in Fortaleza

• Prof. Guillermo León Escobar-Herrán (Colombia)
Ambassador Emeritus of Colombia to the Holy See and lecturer in Political Sociology at the Gregorian Pontifical University

• Prof. Giorgio Feliciani (Italy)
Vice-President of the Communion and Liberation Fraternity, lecturer in Canon Law at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan

• Mr Luis Fernando Figari (Peru)
Founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae

• Mr Salvatore Martinez (Italy)
President of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit

• Dr Danuta Piekarz (Poland)
Lecturer at the Jagellonica University in Cracow

• Prof. Andrea Riccardi (Italy)
Founder of the SantÂ’Egidio Community



The 23rd Plenary Assembly


Twenty years have passed since the publication of the apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici by the Servant of God John Paul II. It was the fruit of the Synod of Bishops held in 1987 on the “vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world”. The publication date was 30 December 1988.

The document is a true magna charta for the Catholic laity of our times. It was written in order to “stir and promote a deeper awareness among all the faithful of the gift and responsibility they share, both as a group and as individuals, in the communion and mission of the Church” (Christifideles laici, n. 2).

Since that time, what developments have there been in thinking on the subject of the laity, what new challenges are faced by the Christifideles, what commitments should they assume in order to fulfil their calling?

This is the theme for the next Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, scheduled for 13 to 15 November 2008 in Rome. Participants will include the recently nominated members and consultors who will join those whose mandate has been renewed.

As the dates are very close to the twentieth anniversary of the publication of this important document, the senior staff of the dicastery have chosen as title of the Plenary: “Twenty years after Christifideles laici: remembrance, development, new challenges and tasks”. The Assembly will be a good opportunity to broaden reflection on the document with the experience acquired in the local churches, associations, ecclesial movements and new communities, in order to have a wider vision of the challenges and priorities for the life and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world today.

On the first day there will be keynote speeches on the identity of the lay faithful and their faith development. On the second day there will be a panel discussion in two parts, short talks on the responsibility of the lay faithful in politics, the workplace, education, culture, social communications and the international sphere. Ample time will be given to debate and discussion.

The final day will include the customary presentation of future programmes of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.



“Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety”
Twenty years after the apostolic letter
Mulieris dignitatem


The 20th anniversary of the apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem was marked by a conference held by our dicastery from 7 to 9 February 2008 in Rome on the theme: “Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety”. 280 delegates took part, coming from 49 countries in the five continents, representing 37 bishops’ conferences, 28 movements and new communities, 16 women’s associations and 9 religious institutes.

This title was chosen in order to highlight the fact that debate on the question of the feminine has entered a new phase. The principle of the equal dignity of men and women originated in Judaeo-Christian tradition and has now gradually entered into many cultures. From the 18th century many advances have been made in the political, economic and educational fields. The theme of women has also given rise to some extreme ideological positions. The radical feminism of the nineteen-sixties was viewed as a power struggle against men in order to obtain total autonomy for women with absolute control over their own bodies. This style of feminism demanded “sexual licence” and abortion as a right, thus showing the inconsistency of the basics. Such an approach has disillusioned the expectations of many women who long for self-fulfilment.

John Paul II, always attentive to the signs of the times, published Mulieris dignitatem in order to respond to the question of the dignity of women from the standpoint of Christian anthropology. In particular, he introduced the concept of unity-duality as a key to understanding the relationship between the sexes. Today we can see that the validity of this teaching persists. The international conference “Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety” emphasised that any attempt to deal with questions regarding the feminine condition also requires analysis of the masculine condition. A correct anthropology must consider duality from the standpoint of unity, for this continues to be the underlying principle. We therefore realised that it was necessary to take an anthropological approach which starts out with the original unity of the person, and then recognises the difference between the masculine “I” and the feminine “I”.

The interest the topic generated far surpassed our expectations. The conference opened on 7 February with an introduction by Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko, President of our dicastery. He emphasised the progress that has been made concerning the condition of women in the world as there is now more widespread sensitivity and recognition of their dignity and rights in all areas of social life. On the other hand, however, he pointed out concerns that are arising because of serious deviations in the post-modern world way of conceiving the man-woman relationship. Two extreme perspectives prevail which, on the one hand, increase conflict and competitiveness, and on the other, try to cancel out all differences. According to Cardinal Ry»ko, the cultural battle that awaits us concerns the very concept of the person and the recognition of their dignity. He invited the participants to take up this anthropological challenge with courage, and not to fear going against the tide. He also urged those present to denounce all abuse of the dignity of women and not to be influenced by worldly models or by those that may be politically correct but that go against Gospel values.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, dealt with the principles contained in Mulieris dignitatem. He underlined the need for a positive approach to the question that will not let it become a case of taking a position against someone or something. An attitude of clear reasoning that is joyful and positive should be offered to the Church and society.

The second talk was on the topic “Jesus of Nazareth, Mary and the women in the Gospel and in the early communities”, and it was given by Professor Hanna Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, lecturer in Philosophy of Religions at the Dresden University of Technology. She gave a clear explanation of the new elements introduced to the condition of women in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Professor Gerl-Falkovitz described how the Old Testament had already come a long way from the stereotypes in the cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. In those cultures women were considered only in relation to sexuality and child-bearing, seen as epiphanies of some mysterious divinity. Judaeo-Christian revelation humanised women by going beyond the limited vision of only regarding the biological aspects and by considering women as persons. Then, unexpectedly, new elements were introduced into history by Christ that went far beyond the old habits and customs. Through his teachings and actions, Jesus proclaimed the good news to men and women without distinction, encouraging unity rather than differences.

During the afternoon of the first day several viewpoints were discussed on the theme “Christianity and the advancement of women”. Professor Antonia Bel Bravo introduced the debate by pointing out that if we are to deal with the feminine question from a historical point of view, we must be careful about our research method because it should adapt to the object and not the contrary. Reality should determine the methodological approach and not the other way round. She recommended adopting the new historiographic criteria that take human actions into due consideration, thus putting into right perspective the place of structures and institutions. This new approach helps us to be free of prejudice and anachronisms, real pathologies in historical science. Professor Bel Bravo encouraged us not to concentrate only on what women have not been able to achieve, but to look at what they have managed to do, even during very difficult times in history when the feminine condition was particularly discouraging. The English historian Jack Scarisbrick made reference to one of the lesser known periods in the history of his country. Some of the data he gave was disturbing: during the anti-Catholic persecution of 1606, of the 820 accused, 532 (65%) were women. In a later persecution in Warwickshire, almost 70% of the 235 victims were women. He also spoke of how, during this period of persecutions, women had a decisive role in transmitting the faith and fidelity to the Pope. Professor Angela Ales Bello, lecturer in philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, spoke of the contribution of Edith Stein to dual anthropology in the man-woman relationship. She pointed out how Edith Stein, on the basis of ample psychological analysis, not only identified the general distinctive elements between male and female, but also specified the irreducible distinguishing characteristics. For Edith, a Carmelite martyr, it is precisely these differences that determine the destiny of each human person. Therefore she said that the feminine should be rethought in relation to the masculine in order to find a balanced relationship between the sexes. Eva Carlota Rava, an Argentinian Lecturer in spiritual theology, spoke of the women mystics and doctors of the Church. She demonstrated how the nature of their teachings is deeply feminine, rooted in life from which they found form and content. She observed in particular how, while men doctors teach us love for the truth, women doctors teach us the truth of love. Sister Grazia Loparco, a Church historian, showed how the Church has accompanied the path trod by women towards an ever greater understanding of their dignity and mission. She mentioned the great number of women founders of new religious congregations in the 19th century dedicated to education and health services. It was through their female sensitivity that they identified the needs of their times and they responded accordingly.

The final talk on 7 February was given by Professor Blanca Castilla de Cortázar on the theme “‘So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created themÂ’ (Gn: 1:27): person, nature and culture”. Professor Castilla emphasised the importance of a theology of image based on the story of the creation of man and woman in the first chapter of Genesis, following the outline suggested by John Paul II in Mulieris dignitatem. She noted the innovation the Pope brought to the theology of image, no longer limited to rationality and freedom, but extended to the relational dimension.

The second day of the Conference opened with a contribution by a married couple, Attilio Danese and Giulia Paola di Nicola, who spoke on the theme “Woman and man, created each for the other”. They both spoke on the “uni-dual” anthropology from the sociological standpoint. They pointed out that ecologists insist so much on biodiversity, yet the attempted non-discrimination of the sexes is being passed off on human beings in spite of the evidence of nature being quite the contrary. They then outlined the characteristics and tendencies of womanhood and manhood, emphasising their importance for the balanced development of humanity.

The panel discussion on “Problems and contemporary cultural trends” was opened by Marguerite A. Peeters, a journalist and director of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics. Her talk dealt with the current question of the so-called gender ideology. The concept, according to her clear analysis, is only the tip of the iceberg of the ongoing silent cultural revolution of deconstruction that claims to do away with the natural anthropological structure of man and woman in order to leave sexual identity itself to be an autonomous subjective decision. Olimpia Tarzia, President of the World WomenÂ’s Alliance for Life and Family, dealt with the theme of the defence of life. She warned of the distorting language currently in use that is carefully chosen in order to tranquillise consciences with regard to the serious attacks made on life and maternity. Maria Elena Lugo, President of the “ Padre José Kentenich ” Bioethics Commission, advanced a Christian vision of generation as a religious act in which the maternal womb is conceived of as an altar on which the married couple consecrate a new life. Helen Alvaré, former spokesperson for the United States Bishops, concentrated on the phenomenon of the reduction of women to consumer objects. She demonstrated how this reduction is tied to the extolling of the feminine body to the detriment of the soul. The process takes place through faulty language that appears to be praising women but in fact degrades and dehumanises them. When reduced to objects, they become incapable of authentic relations and gift of self. The session concluded with a presentation by Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, former foreign minister of Norway. She dealt with the theme of women in the world of work. She pointed out how policies in many western countries have no interest in the primary value of the family, thereby aggravating the problem of the low birthrate, and so these countries are becoming societies of pensioners.

The afternoon session on the second day opened with a talk by Paola Bignardi, Coordinator of the International Forum of Catholic Action. She spoke on “Women’s responsibility and participation in building up the Church and society”. Ms Bignardi specified that the responsibility of women in the Church is to be guardians of the original nature of the feminine genius that is expressed in a lively and intense interaction with men. The task of women is to build a Church with a maternal face, attentive to the demands of individual people and to authenticity in relationships, overcoming utilitarian and purely pragmatic outlooks through a re-evaluation of the contemplative dimension of Christian life.

Professor Giorgia Salatiello of the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome was the first on the panel to speak on the theme “The role and mission of women”. Carmen Aparicio, also a lecturer in the Gregorian, developed the theme of women as educators by presenting the figures of Maria Montessori, Carmen Cuesta and Edith Stein, three women who lived through the same period of history in different parts of Europe. Each led an approach to education that was able to combine intellectual training with the demands of an integral education. Sister Cristiana Dobner, a Discalced Carmelite, spoke of the feminine religious sense, beginning with Mary as an exemplary figure who is presented in Luke’s Gospel as one who kept all that took place and pondered them in her heart (cf Lk 2:51). Mary’s attitude is typically feminine. It implies vigilant attention to events, depth of thought and ability to accept: a reflective and prayerful attitude. But it is precisely because of it that one is ready for action. Brenda Finlayson, Vice-President of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO), offered her testimony on the importance of spousal and maternal love. Sister Enrica Rosanna, Under-Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, demonstrated that consecrated life shows how women in the Church have the opportunity to discover the treasure inherent in their own feminine identity by taking it to full maturity as an expression of the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the morning of 9 February the Holy Father Benedict XVI received the conference members in the Clementina Hall in the Apostolic Palace. In his address, the Pope recalled the teachings of John Paul II concerning women that are based on the mutuality of the sexes and their dual unity. “Therefore, when men and women demand to be autonomous and totally self-sufficient, they run the risk of being closed in a self-reliance that considers ignoring every natural, social or religious bond as an expression of freedom, but which, in fact, reduces them to an oppressive solitude. To promote and sustain the real advancement of women and men one cannot fail to take this reality into account”. The Holy Father continued: “A renewed anthropological study is certainly necessary based on the great Christian tradition, which incorporates new scientific advances and, given today's cultural sensitivity, in this way contributes to deepening not only the feminine identity but also the masculine, which is often the object of partial and ideological reflections”.

All the participants at the Conference were encouraged by the Holy Father to promote “a culture that recognizes the dignity that belongs to women, in law and in concrete reality”, and to build the Church and society in every sphere with their feminine genius. Working groups according to issues and geographical areas concluded the Conference. Cardinal Ry»ko, in his closing address, encouraged the participants to take coordinated action using all the forces available and to engage in parishes and dioceses. Following the example of Mary, they may thus freely follow their calling and fulfil the mission entrusted to them in the Church and society. 


The WomenÂ’s Section is on the web

In response to a desire expressed during the international conference “Woman and man, the humanum in its entirety”, we now have a space on the web to develop the theme and exchange ideas. On that occasion, the 280 delegates from the five continents insisted that it is necessary to follow up on the themes that were discussed and to reinforce collaboration between movements, associations and individuals who work for the advancement of women and their mission in society and the Church. This internet space can be reached through the website by clicking on “Woman Section”. The objective is to provide users with the pontifical magisterium on women, and research and analysis by specialists and intellectuals. We can be contacted at



“I ask you to approach movements with a great deal of love”
Seminar for bishops


The second seminar for bishops on the topic of ecclesial movements and new communities took place in Rocca di Papa from 15 to 17 May 2008. It was opened by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State to Pope Benedict XVI. In his homily during the morning Mass he recalled that “the season of movements and new forms of association flourished under the long pontificate of John Paul II” and that they “witness to the joy, faith and beauty of being Christians”. When speaking of the role of Pastors, he said that “it can now be seen that Pastors are attentive to the signs of the times and put great effort into guiding and leading the movements, integrating this with the demands of the entire People of God. They can do this if they allow themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, and they will be witnesses and fathers for the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care”. He concluded with an invitation and guidelines for the Seminar: “Your symposium is intended to respond to this specific demand and to reflect on the question with an open attitude, appreciating and going out to meet with paternal love all those whom the Holy Spirit invites to work in the Lord’s vineyard”.

Over 150 participants from 50 countries took part in the seminar entitled “I ask you to approach movements with a great deal of love”. There were bishops, founders, leaders of ecclesial movements, theologians and academics. Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said in his introductory address that it was hoped that the seminar would be “above all a time of attentive listening to whatever the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today by means of these gifts that are showing such promise”. The Cardinal spoke of the path travelled over the past ten years and recalled the “great trust” shown during the last two pontificates in ecclesial movements and new communities, “identifying in them a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit and a providential gift for our times”. In this context he mentioned the two memorable world gatherings of movements and new communities, one called by Pope John Paul II on 30 May 1998, and the other by Pope Benedict XVI on 3 June 2006. Both were preceded by world conferences of movements and new communities organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The Cardinal urged the bishops “not to regard movements and new communities as another problem to be faced, but rather as a providential gift that the Church should receive with gratitude and a sense of responsibility so as not to waste the resource that they represent. It is a gift that involves specific duties both for the lay faithful and for the bishops themselves”. Cardinal Ry»ko then recalled the five criteria of ecclesiality formulated by John Paul II in Christifideles laici to help the work of discernment of these charisms, and the two fundamental principles of the relation between the Church and movements that were reaffirmed by Benedict XVI during a meeting with priests of the diocese of Rome: “do not extinguish charisms” and “the Church is one”. He concluded by reminding the bishops that Pope Benedict XVI asks them not to hold back but to “go out to meet the movements with a great deal of affection” because “it is not enough to welcome a movement. They need to be followed up with due pastoral care. [...] To follow up the movements means to encourage and appreciate their work and, where necessary, correct and admonish, so that they may truly become edifying elements for the Church of today and tomorrow”.

The topic of the address given by Monsignor Piero Coda, President of the Italian Theology Association, was: Ecclesial movements and new communities in the mission of the Church: a theological, pastoral and missionary perspective. In order to define the movements’ place in theology, he made reference to the enlightening address given by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger at the congress of ecclesial movements in 1998 who said that “the local ecclesial model is the supporting permanent structure of the Church” and, on the other hand that “movements create a new life-centre that does not undermine the local Church structures, but neither do they coincide with it sic et simpliciter since they work with a life-giving force that constitutes a reserve that can be drawn on by the Church”. Monsignor Coda spoke of the missionary perspectives of movements and how “movements and new communities have shown themselves to be capable of offering a triple contribution to the ever new call to proclaim the Gospel: first of all, the deep conviction and the spiritual enthusiasm that derives from close communion with Jesus which is decisive and life-transforming; secondly, the reference to a place where - in human fragility - there is the unmistakable light of Jesus and the practical possibility of following a path of faith; thirdly, the invention of new ways and strategies of witnessing, dialogue, proclamation, incarnating the Gospel and service to the poorest keeping up with the signs of the times”.

A talk on movements and new communities in the local Church was given by Reverend Professor Arturo Cattaneo of the Institute of Canon Law in Venice. He underlined how “the efforts of the bishop to help the insertion of movements in their local Church can be focussed by distinguishing three aspects: the unity of the local Church (integrating legitimate diversity), the catholicity of the local Church (openness to the universal Church), and the apostolicity of the local Church (complementarity between institution and charism)”.

Three testimonies by bishops highlighted the need for Pastors, when dealing with ecclesial movements and new communities, to correctly discern their genuineness and organisation within the Christian community (Archbishop Alberto Taveira Corrêa of Palmas, Brazil); to welcome them with trust and gratitude into the structures of the Churches entrusted to their pastoral care (Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France); to accompany them in their mission with a true sense of spiritual paternity (Archbishop Javier Augusto Del Río Alba of Arequipa, Peru).

“To encourage and support new movements as cells of Christian fraternity and elements of leavening, open and directed to the work of evangelisation, is one of the great projects of Cardinal Ratzinger and of Pope Benedict XVI”, were the words of Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in the keynote speech on the second day. That day was dedicated to the relationship between ecclesial movements and the petrine ministry. Taking a phrase from Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at the Pentecost Vigil on 3 June 2006 (“I ask you to collaborate more, much more, in the Pope’s universal apostolic ministry”), Bishop Clemens spoke of movements as gifts of the Holy Spirit, their connection with evangelisation and their role as collaborators of the Pope. He then dealt with the foundations of the relationship between the petrine ministry and movements and spoke of the apostolic succession, apostolic movements in history from the time of monasticism onward and their relations with the papacy. In responding to the question on how the forces of the local Church can connect with those of the movements in missionary engagement, he said that “the action of the Holy Spirit is again the point of reference for both parties”. He concluded by saying that the movements were an active and creative minority, and again quoted Cardinal Ratzinger: “these groups can encourage us all to be the leaven of the life of the Gospel in the world”.

The day had opened with Mass presided by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, followed by four presentations.

Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Christian Life Movement, addressed the theme of movements and new communities as schools of Christian education. He spoke of a personal encounter with Jesus, awareness of one’s own baptism, and of community life as a privileged space for faith development. Dominique Vermersch, Moderator of the Emmanuel Community, spoke of ecclesial movements and new communities as missionary fellowship. He pointed out that the first place for the lay apostolate is in the world and that “movements and new communities are very aware that the laity are in the frontline of the life of the Church. Their short history and their lives are intertwined by this encounter between the Church and the world”. Monsignor Massimo Camisasca, founder of the Missionary Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, spoke of movements and new communities as sources of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. In the first part he dwelt on the paths chosen by the Holy Spirit, emphasising that vocation is born of an attraction towards totality in life, “response to One who calls” as “a positive discovery of one’s own life”. In the second part he spoke of priesthood in the movements and the canonical forms through which they are expressed. The movements as areas of ongoing formation of priests was the topic addressed by Monsignor Claudiano Strazzari, rector of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Rome. He pointd out that, according to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis by John Paul II, it is “particularly important to be aware of and to respect the intrinsic link between formation before ordination to the priesthood and formation after ordination”.

In the afternoon, after the talk given by Bishop Clemens, the participants formed working groups according to language in order to deal with the theme of movements and new communities as a providential response to the challenges that contemporary culture sets before the mission of the Church in various geographical areas.

After dinner there was a colloquy with some founders and leaders of ecclesial movements and new communities: Kiko Argüello, initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way; Giovanni Paolo Ramonda, president of the Pope John XXIII Community; Andrea Riccardi, founder of the SantÂ’Egidio Community.

The third and final day’s work was introduced and accompanied by the audience granted by the Holy Father. Benedict XVI addressed the 150 participants and stated that “The Ecclesial Movements and New Communities are one of the most important innovations inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Church for the implementation of the Second Vatican Council [...] How is it possible not to realize at the same time that such newness is still waiting to be properly understood in the light of God's plan and of the Church's mission in the context of our time?”.

The PopeÂ’s inspiring words went on to enrich the meaning of the statement “I ask you to approach movements with a great deal of love”, the theme chosen for the Seminar, and they formed a background for the concluding panel discussion on “reciprocal expectations” that was moderated by Cardinal Ry»ko.  Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, spoke first about the reciprocal expectations. He emphasised on the one hand what pastors expect from movements: commitment on the frontiers of evangelisation, and to be attentive and adaptable to the signs of the times. On the other hand, what bishops should avoid: intransigence by the local Church and excessive pastoral planning. Cardinal Ruini stressed that on the part of the bishops there was need to involve the movements while respecting their specific charisms and freedom. Then Archbishop André-Mutien Léonard of Namur in Belgium, in speaking of the relations between bishops and movements, pointed out that the personal sensibility of the bishop cannot be the definitive measure of discernment, and that the new charisms - just as in those of times past - serve the local Church just by their very existence. Reverend Julián Carrón, president of the Communion and Liberation Fraternity, noted that pastors and movements face the same challenge of dechristianisation, that is, the situation where faith is being relegated to the margins of existence and even considered useless for peopleÂ’s lives. It is therefore a challenge for everyone to give, not correct responses but effective responses. One of these responses is the continuing flourishing of new ecclesial movements, particularly in Latin America, as we were told by Moysés Louro de Azevedo Filho, founder of the Shalom Catholic Community in Brazil. “Love, much love” was the keyword of the meeting. “I could almost say that I have nothing else to add”, Benedict XVI said during that audience. This is what is asked of pastors. Charity is the distinctive sign: “it makes the exercise of the ministry that has been entrusted to us authoritative and effective”. Cardinal Ry»ko concluded: God was with us over the past few days and now the real work begins. We return to our dioceses to witness to what we have experienced, strengthened by what we have received from the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by the words and teaching of the Successor of Peter”.



Bogota hosts the 2nd Congress
of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities in Latin America


From 28 February to 2 March 2008 in Bogota, Colombia, the BishopsÂ’ Council of Latin America held the 2nd Congress of ecclesial movements and new communities of Latin America and the Caribbean. The first meeting had also been held in Bogota in March 2006, and on that occasion they discussed the contribution of these new ecclesial groups to the path of preparation of the ecclesial community for the 5th general conference of the Latin American bishops to be held in May 2007. This second meeting was held to evaluate their charismatic, community and missionary contribution to the transmission and application of the guidelines laid down in the concluding documents of the General Conference. A message from the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, gave as an essential guideline the advice given by the Holy Father to the Brazilian bishops in the cathedral of Sao Paolo on 11 May 2007, and to all the Latin American bishops gathered in Aparecido: “A leap forward in the quality of peopleÂ’s Christian lives is needed”. The 2nd Bogota Congress was opened with the reading of the message by Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and with an introduction by the undersecretary of the dicastery, Professor Guzmán Carriquiry, who stayed for the entire meeting. Professor CarriquiryÂ’s talk was on “Ecclesial movements and new communities in Aparecida and its document”. Movements and new communities are fully appreciated in all their range and diversity by so many pastors in the Church. The Holy Father Benedict XVI spoke of them on several occasions during his apostolic visit to Brazil, and he pointed out their great gifts as well as the responsibilities that they should assume. The Aparecida document also emphasised the commitment of movements and new communities to education in the faith, community experience and witness so that the Latin American people “may have life in Him” as stated in the theme of the 5th Latin American BishopsÂ’ Conference in Aparecida. The topic was developed by the President of the Dicastery, Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko, in an essay published recently in “Aparecida 2007: Luces para América Latina”. The essay was entitled “Ecclesial movements and new communities, a powerful resource for the mission of the Latin American continent”.

It is now up to the movements to participate actively in the “continental mission” agreed on in Aparecida and ever present at this 2nd Bogota Congress, and also to be kept in mind for the 3rd American Missionary Congress in Quito from 12 to 17 August 2008.



The 25th anniversary of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre
Benedict XVI celebrates this date with young people


The San Lorenzo International Youth Centre has been in existence for 25 years. The church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus was inaugurated in 1983 by Pope John Paul II who called it a “sculptor of authentic Christian youth”. It was celebrated with a busy week of activities, prayer, gatherings, vigils and a morning of discussion and testimonials in order to make the Centre better known as well as its history and activities. The young people present included volunteers who over the years gave service to the Centre. From the beginning, the Emmanuel Community has taken care of the management of the Centre and the coordination of various associations and movements who animate pastoral activities. The approximate number of young people who have knocked on the door of the “Pope’s house for youth” is over two hundred thousand. The Centre on Via Pfeiffer has changed the lives of many young people. There, close to the Youth Cross, they have experienced conversion and reconciliation.

The silver jubilee of San Lorenzo started out with a visit by Pope Benedict XVI. He celebrated Mass in the small Romanesque church on Sunday 9 March. The Pope came to the young people to encourage them to joyfully continue the mission of San Lorenzo at the heart of the ecclesial community in Rome. It is a mission of faith, love and hope. “It gives me great joy to commemorate together with you, in this beautiful Romanesque Church, the 25th anniversary of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre which Pope John Paul II wanted to see located in the vicinity of St Peter's Basilica and which he inaugurated on 13 March 1983”, Benedict XVI told them. “The Holy Mass celebrated here every Friday evening is an important spiritual event for many young people who have come from various parts of the world to study at the Roman Universities. It is also an important spiritual encounter and a significant opportunity to make contact with the Cardinals and Bishops of the Roman Curia as well as with Bishops from the five Continents as they pass through Rome on their ad limina visits. As you have mentioned, I too came here often to celebrate the Eucharist when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and it was always a beautiful experience to meet boys and girls from all corners of the earth who find this Centre an important and hospitable reference point”.

The young people packed into the small church listened attentively to the Holy FatherÂ’s words.

On Thursday 13 March, after the penitential liturgy celebrated by Benedict XVI in Saint PeterÂ’s Basilica, the WYD Cross was carried in procession by the youth to San Lorenzo in Piscibus to take up its place in the church. The church is adjacent to the Centre. It is where the Youth Cross is kept, the cross that John Paul II entrusted to young people at the end of the Holy Year of Redemption. Since then it has travelled on pilgrimage to the five continents.

Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who told the young people during the homily to regard the founding of the Centre as a special relationship between John Paul II and young people. He emphasised that it was one of the PopeÂ’s prophetic gestures, a prelude to the founding of World Youth Days.

The evening continued with a vigil animated by young people from the diocese of Rome. There was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight.

Friday 14 was animated by the Taizé ecumenical community and the prior Brother Alois Löser was present. Monsignor Francis Kohn, head of Youth Section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, spoke of how the cross, “heart of Christian life, sign of contradiction, instrument of suffering and death, is also a sign of hope”. The Cross was at the heart of the vigil in the presence of hundreds of young people who overflowed the small church. Brother Alois gave a short meditation on the theme of WYD 2008: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses”. He said that “to be ChristÂ’s witnesses in the world is not just an exterior activity. It needs a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, and to have a deep interior life”.

On Saturday 15 March there was a meeting for discussion and testimonies on the theme: The history and mission of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre. It began with talks by Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko and Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and who in 1983 was Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Cardinal Ry»ko praised the work of service done in the San Lorenzo Centre. He said that like in many Church services “the law of the mustard seed applies. All the great works of the Church begin small, but they contain great promise and energy. You who are linked to the Centre have experienced this personally. Things that begin small and simple are the way that God works in history”.

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes recalled the early days of the Centre with the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome. He emphasised how John Paul II was the force behind the initiatives. He spoke of the CentreÂ’s activities in those early years that included street apostolate.

A panel of testimonies followed that revealed concrete everyday experiences in the Centre, at the same time going back over twenty-five years of important events in Church history. After reading the contribution sent by Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemysl (Poland) who was once head of the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the next speaker was Isabelle Campredon from France who was first to care for the Centre from 1983-1984. These were crucial years when the adventure was beginning and trust in providence was strong. Blandine Bécheras from France gave this service from 1989 to 1991. She recalled the time when the San Lorenzo youth used to take the WYD Cross to other countries. Kathleen Lahiffe from Ireland was in charge of the Centre between 1999 and 2001. She recalled the Jubilee and the huge influx of youth to Rome as a high moment of conversion. Martine Gilsoul Salmeri from Belgium initiated the Friday Mass for the youth of the world. The visits in the footsteps of the saints around Rome in 2003 was a very dynamic period for the Centre. Pamela Fabiano from Italy remembered being in San Lorenzo at the time of the death of John Paul II and of WYD in Cologne in 2005. They all recalled that besides the big events, there were many graces hidden in daily life with gatherings and small gestures that were meaningful for so many young people. Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, celebrated Mass on that day dedicated to Saint Joseph.

In the evening there was a time of Eucharistic adoration and vigil animated by the Emmanuel School of Mission that is run by the Emmanuel Community and who have a point of reference in San Lorenzo Centre.

On Sunday 16 March there was the Rome diocesan celebration of the 23rd World Youth Day, and the youth from San Lorenzo Centre took part in the Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Saint Peter’s Square. This concluded the cycle of events. The life of the Centre continues with a renewed missionary drive to be a “fountain” for those who thirst for God.



In memoriam


Chiara Lubich, founder of the Opus Mariae, passed away on 14 March 2008 with her closest Focolare colleagues at her side, and choirs outside her window who expressed their gratitude and affection. “I feel that Mary is close by” were among the last words Chiara said on this earth.

In the message sent by the Holy Father Benedict XVI on the day of her funeral, he described her as “a women of intrepid faith, a gentle messenger of hope and peace, founder of a vast spiritual family that embraces numerous fields of evangelisation... rendering silent and incisive service to the Church, always in consonance with the magisterium of the Church”. Chiara once wrote in her diary: “If God should call me to himself in his mercy, I would like there to be a symbol on my tomb: the dome of Saint Peter. It says everything to me: it expresses what I most love and most want to love: the Church, Jesus’ beloved for which he died; his Bride that was and shall be forever” (Diary 1964-1965). She is now at rest in the chapel of the Focolari Movement facing a beautiful mosaic of Mary Mother of the Church that recalls the Second Vatican Council, and in which there is a depiction of the dome of Saint Peter’s.

Her life was characterised by a deep and vibrant unity with the Successor of Peter and those who represented him. At her funeral celebrated by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in the impressive and crowded basilica of Saint-Paul-outside-the-walls, all the senior staff of the Pontifical Council for the Laity were present to give their final salute, the climax of so many years of close fruitful collaboration. For twenty-one years, beginning in 1987, Chiara Lubich was a consultor of the dicastery. Those present at the funeral included around forty bishops and cardinals and around one hundred priests concelebrating. There were also representatives of mainstream religions, Christian churches, politicians of various affiliations, and over thirty thousand people. This assortment of people speaks of the outreach of Chiara LubichÂ’s ideal: unity.

Thirty days after she left for heaven, there were numerous civil and religious commemorations around the world. In Rome there were three thousand people in the basilica of Saint Mary Major for the solemn Mass presided by Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko. He said: “With grateful memory we look back on her life so full of natural and supernatural gifts granted to her by the Creator with such abundance. [...] In a certain sense, it is not reckless to say that Chiara was a trail-blazer back in the nineteen-forties for the “new era of group endeavours” (John Paul II) and for the new “springtime of the Spirit” that we are experiencing in the Church and that is seen in the flourishing of ecclesial movements and new communities”.

The cardinal did not hesitate to say that as an expression of the “feminine genius” shown with powerful strength and beauty, “Chiara is certainly numbered among the great Christian women of the 20th century who have left deep footprints in the life of the Church and the world. She can be counted with Edith Stein and Mother Teresa of Calcutta...”. “The growth of the Focolare Movement is extraordinary, as are the fruits it has generated in the lives of so many people - not only Catholics, but all Christians, and people of other faiths and no faith”.

On her tomb is written: that they may be one. This eloquently summarises her life-long passion for the Gospel, her response to GodÂ’s call.



Recognition and approval of statutes


On Friday 13 June 2008 at the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the international team of the Neocatechumenal Way received the decree with which definitive approval of their statutes was granted. The decree of approval, dated 11 May 2008, solemnity of Pentecost, is undoubtedly an important step for the Way which started in Spain in 1964. This step required several consultations at various levels. During the period of approval ad experimentum of the statutes, the Pontifical Council for the Laity could verify the many fruits that the Neocatechumenal Way has always produced for the Church, consistent with the new evangelisation. They employ a catechetical-liturgical practice that has been accepted and appreciated in many local Churches for the past forty years. For this reason, after attentively reviewing the text of the statutes and inserting some modifications that were seen as necessary, the Pontifical Council for the Laity granted definitive approval of the statutes.

In the papal audience granted to the members of the Neocatechumenal Way on 12 January 2006, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said: “you intend your apostolic action to take place in the heart of the Church, in total harmony with her directives and in communion with the particular Churches in which you are going to work, making the most of the riches of the charisms that the Lord has awakened through the Founders of the Way”. More recently, on 17 May last, during the papal audience granted at the time of the Bishops’ Seminar organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Pope affirmed that “The Ecclesial Movements and New Communities are one of the most important innovations inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Church for the implementation of the Second Vatican Council”. The Pope made reference to words he had addressed to a group of German bishops on their ad limina visit: “I ask you to approach movements with a great deal of love” (18 November 2006), and he added, among other considerations: “We Pastors are asked to accompany the Movements and the New Communities closely, with fatherly concern, cordially and wisely, so that they may generously make available for use by all, in an orderly and fruitful manner, the many gifts they bear, which we have learned to recognize and appreciate”. From this perspective, it is to be hoped that the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way, now definitively approved, may be a valid instrument for them so that they may continue to contribute to the good of the whole Church.

On Friday 27 June in the Dicastery offices, the decree of approval of the new statutes was handed over to the International Catholic Conference of Scouting (ICCS). The decree is dated 23 April 2008. The modification in the ICCS statutes came about after the Dicastery, with the agreement of the Secretariat of State, requested the International Catholic Organisations to reformulate their canonical status according to the norms of the Code of Canon Law 1983 for the associations of the lay faithful. In these times of the “education emergency”, the approval of the new statutory form for the International Catholic Conference of Scouting, and therefore of the educational method of scouting guided by the Catholic faith, is a reason for hope for the education of the new generations of youth.

The Dicastery is presently studying the demands for canonical recognition submitted by the following groups: Fondacio, The Catholic Integrated Community, Milicia de Santa María, Family Hope, Rinnovamento Carismatico Servi di Cristo Vivo, Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, Hogares Nuevos-

Obra de CristoComunità Cenacolo, Canção Nova Community, Cellule Parrocchiali di Evangelizzazione, Pan-American Health Care Network, Fédération Internationale des Centres de Préparation au Mariage, Movimiento de la Palabra de Dios, Chemin Neuf Community,  Comunità Gesù Risorto, Unione Cattolica Internazionale di Servizio Sociale  “Madeleine Delbrêl ”, Misioneros de la Esperanza, Comunità Nuovi Orizzonti, Legio Mariae.



Ad limina visits


During the first semester of 2008 we had visits from the Latin-rite bishops from the Arab region, the Greek-Catholic bishops of Ukraine, the bishopsÂ’ conferences of Costa Rica, Cuba, Hungary, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Honduras. We heard many accounts of the suffering of the faithful who live out their faith under difficult conditions.

The Conference of Latin Bishops for the Arab Region (CELRA) comprises Israel and Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the Arab Emirites, Egypt, Djibouti and Somalia. The worst conditions in the Arabian Peninsula are those of Saudi Arabia where there is not even a semblance of religious freedom and where it is expressly forbidden for priests to work or even to enter the country. Nonetheless, there are almost three million Catholics there coming mostly from the Philippines, India and Egypt. In spite of the countless prohibitions, there are small faith groups who manage to gather privately to pray together. They form a Church entirely composed of lay people who courageously live in a situation of serious persecution. Even though they observe the laws of the land, they run the risk of being caught by the notorious religious police. In other countries of the region Christians are oppressed and subject to sharia law. Jordan is the only Islamic country where the Church can function fairly normally.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories also belong to CELRA. The Catholics of the Holy Land have lived in a state of war for decades. Although they are not really involved in the conflict, they suffer the worst of its consequences, caught between the Israelis and Palestinian Muslims. Most of them find that the only hope of a better life is through emigration, and so the Catholic population, once numerically quite consistent and culturally prominent, is in danger of disappearing. In Israel, where there is a certain guarantee of religious freedom, mission and dialogue are possible and practised.

The saddest accounts were those of the Latin Archbishop of Baghdad. Even though violence in Iraq is gradually diminishing, there has been no improvement for Christians. Oppression by Islamic radicals is increasing. There are murders, kidnapping, attacks and every kind of provocation so that Christians will be forced to leave the country. Legislation is tending towards the adoption of sharia law.

The Cuban bishops also spoke of difficult situations. The communist regime suppressed Church structures in 1961, and it is only slowly that, from the nineteen-eighties, it has been possible to begin a systematic reorganisation. The number of priests is limited by law, and lay people animate communities in small centres. After so many years of atheistic propaganda, many Cubans are returning to the Church, but they bring with them a heavy baggage of old wounds and a very dechristianised mentality that makes the work of re-evangelisation slow and difficult. There remain many limitations on the freedom of the Church, and it can only function in the few buildings assigned by the regime. The visit of John Paul II in 1998 was a real turning point. It restored enthusiasm and hope and greatly improved relations with the civil authorities.

Finally, a special mention is deserved by the bishops of Bangladesh. This tiny Catholic community is mostly composed of tribal populations that are discriminated against by the majority Bengalis, and they have a great number of problems. They are poor in one of the poorest countries in the world, and they live in a majority Muslim society. Nonetheless, when asked what the most serious problem was, the bishops replied: It is true that we have many problems, but our people are happy. They joyfully take part in Church activities, and they show great charity in helping those most in need, regardless of their religion. They know that Jesus will return”.



Contacts with associations and movements


The associations received in visit in the Pontifical Council for the Laity offices by Cardinal Stanis»aw Ry»ko during the first semester of 2008 were: Institute for World Evangelisation (ICPE Mission), International Union of European Guides and Scouts (UIGSE), International Coordination of Young Christian Workers (ICYCW), Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), Emmanuel Community, SantÂ’Egidio  Community, Comunità Nuovi Orizzonti, Comunità Shalom di Riva del Garda (Italy), Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus (MIAMSI), Catholic Integrated Community (KIG), International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS), "Pope John XXIII Community" Association, International Forum of Catholic Action (IFCA), Heralds of the Gospel, Missionary Community of Villaregia, Christian Life Community (CVX), Work of Nazareth, Prison Fellowship International, International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP), the Teresian Association, the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in France, Young PeopleÂ’s Missionary Service (Sermig), Christian Life Movement, Chemin Neuf Community.


During the first semester of 2008, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity took part in various events organised by associations and movements:

• on 6 January he celebrated Mass at the annual general retreat of the Magnificat Community in Montesilvano (Italy);

• from 25 to 29 March he took part in a gathering of European bishops that was organised by the Neocatechumenal Way in  “Domus Galilaeae”, in Korazim, Israel;

• on 3 April he celebrated the opening Mass at the 2nd International Colloquium organised by ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity, in Rome, on the theme: “Charisms and Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church”;

• on 15 April he presided at vespers on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Sant’Egidio Community in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome;

• on 16 April he took part in a gathering of bishops organised by the Emmanuel Community in Rome and gave a talk on “The role of bishops in welcoming and sustaining new communities”;

• on 18 April, one month after the death of Chiara Lubich, he celebrated Mass in Saint Mary Major’s Basilica in Rome, at which there was a large number of members of the Focolare Movement;

• as part of a cycle of conferences on “Love that makes the desert bloom. Evangelisation, family and ecclesial movements”, organised in Rome by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, he presided at the session of 24 April and introduced a talk by Kiko Argüello on “The family community at the service of evangelisation”;

• on 26 April he was in Rimini to preside at the opening Mass of the spiritual exercises of the Communion and Liberation Fraternity;

• on 27 April he presided at the opening Mass of the 5th ordinary Assembly of the International Forum of Catholic Action (IFCA) held in Rome with the theme “ For the life of the world: The laity of Catholic Action twenty years after Christifideles laici ”;

• on 15 June he presided at the closing Mass of the international gathering of itinerant catechists of the Neocatechumenal Way held in Porto San Giorgio (Ascoli Piceno, Italy).


The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Bishop Josef Clemens, met with representatives of the International Kolping Society, Apostolate for Family Consecration, Foyers de Charité, World Movement of Christian Workers and Catholic Action in Austria,  Associazione Pellegrinaggio per lÂ’Europa, Taizé Community, Regnum Christi Apostolic Movement, International Military Apostolate, Centro sportivo italiano, Movimento apostolico, Scouts and guides of France, Internationale akademie für musik und evangelisation (IME).

Bishop Clemens also took part in the following events:

• as part of a cycle of conferences on “Love that makes the desert bloom. Evangelisation, family and ecclesial movements”, organised in Rome by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, he presided at the session of 10 January and introduced a talk by Alberto and Anna Friso, respectively president and vice-president of the association Action for New Families of the Focolare Movement on the theme: “The family at the service of unity”;

• on 25 January he gave a talk on “Joseph Ratzinger and the idea of Europe” in Düsseldorf (Germany), during the annual Meeting of the ASG Bildungsforum association;

• on 28 February he represented the Dicastery at the Meeting of the bishop friends of the Focolare Movement at the Mariapoli Centre in Castel Gandolfo;

• on 29 February he gave the introductory talk at the seminar on “Sport: at the frontier of the new evangelisation”, organised by the Dicastery in collaboration with the Centro sportivo italiano, at the Maria Mater Ecclesiae College in Rome;

• on 6 April he presided at the concluding Mass at the 2nd International Colloquium organised by ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity, in Rome, on the theme: “Charisms and Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church”;


The undersecretary, Professor Guzmán Carriquiry, met with delegations from the Legionaries of Christ, the International Forum of Catholic Action, and seminarians and their rector from the Schönstatt Fathers.

Professor Carriquiry also took part in the following meetings:

• from 30 January to 1 February 2008 he took part in the “4th Rome Colloquium” organised by the Emmanuel Community in collaboration with the Pontifical Redemptor Hominis Institute, and spoke on the theme “Parishes and the new evangelisation. The contribution of the ecclesial movements and new communities”;

• from 2 to 5 April he took part in the 2nd International Colloquium organised by ICCRS and the Catholic Fraternity, in Rome, on the theme: “Charisms and Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church”, and moderated the sessions on one of the days;

• on 30 April he took part in a seminar on Christifideles laici twenty years after its publication that took place during the General Assembly of the International Forum of Catholic Action (IFCA);

• from 28 May until 1 June 2008 he attended the 19th International Seminar on the System of Parochial Cells of Evangelisation that took place in Milan at the parish of Sant’Eustorgio.


Monsignor Francis Kohn, Head of Youth Section, met with representatives of the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS), the Scouts and Guides of France and delegations from schools of youth evangelisation in various European countries.


From 22 to 24 June, Dr Rocío Figueroa represented the Pontifical Council for the Laity at a meeting of the International Coordination of Young Christian Workers (ICYCW) in Paris from 19 June to 4 July.



Meeting with the Plenary Council of the Community of the Beatitudes

On 5 June 2008 the Pontifical Council for the Laity held a meeting in the Dicastery offices with the Moderator General and the Plenary Council of the Community of the Beatitudes to evaluate the directives given to the Community by the Dicastery dated 15 November 2007. The meeting also served to discuss other aspects of the common life which is a feature of this movement, as they approach their General Assembly in Lourdes next November. Cardinal Ry»ko was present at the meeting, as were Bishop Clemens, Professor Carriquiry, Monsignor Delgado and also the Archbishop of Albi, Most Reverend Pierre-Marie Carré. There was discussion regarding several aspects of the charism of the Community, the distinction between the various states of life of the adherents, how life in common is lived and how families participate, the spiritual and doctrinal development of the members, exercise of authority, and the most suitable juridical form to be adopted considering the complexity of the forms of living in community. It was a cordial meeting with willingness to listen on both sides.


Other engagements

During the first semester of 2008 Cardinal Ry»ko met with the following people: Most Rev. Philip Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide (Australia) and President of the Australian BishopsÂ’ Conference; Most Rev. Oscar Sarlinga, Bishop of Zárate-Campana (Argentina); Most Rev. Séamus Freeman, S.A.C., Bishop of Ossory (Ireland); Most Rev. Wiktor Skorc, Bishop of Tarnów (Polonia); Most Rev. Ramon C. Argüelles, Archbishop of Lipa (The Philippines); Most Rev. Mario Alberto Molina Palma, O.A.R., Bishop of Quiché (Guatemala); Most Rev. Mounged El-Hachem, Apostolic Nunzio in Bahrain; Most Rev. Dominique Lebrun, Bishop of Saint-Etienne (France); Most Rev. Gabriel V. Reyes, Bishop of Antipolo (The Philippines); Most Rev. Raymundo Damasceno Assis, and Most Rev. Víctor Sánchez Espinoza, respectively President and Secretary of the Latin American BishopsÂ’ Council (CELAM); Most Rev. Francis Daw Tang, head of the Laity Commission of the Myanmar BishopsÂ’ Conference; Most Rev. Paolo Pezzi, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow; Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabarese), India.

On 24 January, Cardinal Ry»ko gave a talk on: “Youth pastoral ministry in the magisterium of Benedict XVI” at a conference organised by the Italian BishopsÂ’ Conference Youth Ministry Service and held in Salsomaggiore in Italy; from 13 to 15 February he took part in a conference held by the Catholic bishops of India in Jamshedpur City and gave the keynote speech on the topic: “ Empowerment of women in the Church and society ”.

The secretary Bishop Clemens met with the following people: Most Rev. Oscar Sarlinga, Bishop of Zárate-Campana (Argentina); Most Rev. Robert Zollitsch and Rev. Hans Langendörfer, SJ, respectively President and Secretary of the German BishopsÂ’ Conference; Most Rev. Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M, Archbishop of Trujillo and President of the Peruvian BishopsÂ’ Conference; Most Rev. Bernardo Hombach, Bishop of Granada (Nicaragua); Most Rev. Franz Lackner, the Austrian BishopsÂ’ Conference commissioner for sport, and Mr Reinhold Lopatka, State Secretary for Sports within the Austrian Federal Chancellery; Most Rev. Luigi Negri, Bishop of S. Marino-Montefeltro, President of the International John Paul II Foundation for the Social Magisterium of the Church, and Mr Marco Ferrini; His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The Secretary of the Dicastery was at the Augustinian Athenaeum on 7 April to attend a press conference organised by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See and the Australian Embassy to Italy on the theme: “Welcome to Sydney for WYD 2008";  on 27 April, on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of San Luca, he took part in a prayer vigil with young people and presided at High Mass in the cathedral of Bologna.

Prof. Carriquiry, the undersecretary, met with several bishops, most of them from Latin America. On 12 April he took part in a meeting in Turin at the basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice to mark the first visit of the Servant of God John Paul II to the city. He gave a talk on the theme of  Pope John PaulÂ’s pontificate. On 2 May he gave a talk on natural law theory and on the Latin-American contribution to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights during a seminar in the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome organised by the embassies of the United States, Costa Rica and Chile to the Holy See.

Msgr Kohn met with Most Rev. Jean-Yves Riocreux, Bishop of Pontoise (France); Most Rev. Benoît Rivière, Bishop of Autun (France); Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid (Spain).

Several ambassadors to the Holy See visited the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Cardinal Ry»ko met with: H.E. Anne Marie Plunkett, Ambassador of Australia; H.E. Carlos Luis Custer, outgoing Ambassador of Argentina; H.E. Luis Felipe Bravo Mena, Ambassador of Mexico. Bishop Clemens met with Anne Therese Giles, charge dÂ’affaires of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See.