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On Ecclesial Movements and New Communities

Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko's Address in Bogota

BOGOTA, Colombia, APRIL 2, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, gave in Colombia on March 9. He was opening Latin America's first congress of ecclesial movements and new communities.

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Ecclesial Movements and New Communities:
The Response of the Holy Spirit to Today's Challenge of Evangelization

By Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

1. The greatest challenge facing the Church at the beginning of the new millennium is the task which has always been entrusted to her: evangelization. The Church is called in every epoch, and therefore in our own, to embrace anew the missionary mandate of the Risen Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20).

For Matthew, making "disciples" and making "Christians" are one in the same.[1] "Making disciples" is at the very heart of Church's ongoing vocation and mission. The Church, founded by Christ, is sent to evangelize the world; it lives in a permanent state of mission and finds its very reason for being in that mission.

The evangelization of today's world -- the new evangelization and of such great interest to and so often spoken about by the Servant of God John Paul II -- is a task in which the Church places great hope; yet the Church is fully aware of the innumerable obstacles she faces in this work due to the extraordinary changes happening at a personal and social level and, above all, to a postmodern culture in serious crisis.

The expanding process of secularization and an authentic "dictatorship of relativism" (Benedict XVI) have produced a tremendous absence of values in many of our contemporaries, which is accompanied by a joyful nihilism that ends in an alarming erosion of faith, a type of "silent apostasy" (John Paul II) and a "strange forgetfulness of God" (Benedict XVI).

This situation, so sadly prevalent in countries of ancient Christian tradition, is contrasted with a type of "religious boom" characterized by ambivalence and ambiguity. The Holy Father mentioned this phenomenon in Cologne last August, saying: "I do not wish to discredit everything that fits this description (). But often religion is turned into a consumer product. One picks and chooses what he wants, and some even know how to draw profit from it."[2]

Consider the invasion of religious sects, the spread of New Age attitudes and lifestyles, and pseudo-religious phenomena such as magic and the occult. In truth, the globalized world has become a gigantic mission territory. As the Psalmist says so dramatically: "The Lord looks down on the sons of men if any are wise, if any seek God" (Psalm 14:2). It is more urgent than ever today to preach Christ in the great modern areopagus of culture, science, economy, politics and the mass media. The evangelical harvest is great and the laborers are few (cf. Matthew 9:37). This vital field of action for the Church requires a radical change of mentality, an authentic new awakening of conscience in everyone. New methods are needed, as are new expressions and new courage.[3]

As the Servant of God John Paul II exhorted the Church at the beginning of the third millennium: "I have often repeated the call for a new evangelization during these years. I repeat it again in order to emphasize that we must renew that original impulse and allow ourselves to be filled with the zeal of the apostolic preaching after Pentecost. We must awaken in ourselves those sentiments of St. Paul who exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16).

And in his words to the German bishops in Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI manifested a profound apostolic desire: "We must reflect seriously on how we might carry out a true evangelization today, not just a new evangelization, but often a true first evangelization. People don't know God, they don't know Christ. A new paganism is present, and it is not enough just to maintain the community of believers, although this is very important. () I believe that together we must find new ways of bringing the Gospel to today's world by preaching Christ anew and by establishing the faith."[5] The words of these two Popes will serve to guide our reflection on the connection between the evangelization of today's world and the ecclesial movements and new communities.

2. Among the many fruits produced for Church life by the Second Vatican Council, the "new associative moment" of the lay faithful undoubtedly holds a special place. Thanks to the ecclesiology and the theology of the laity developed by the Council, many ...

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