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Place and Role of Movements in the Church (Part 1 of 2)

Interview with Father Arturo Cattaneo, Professor of Canon Law

ROME, MAY 23, 2006 (Zenit) - The world congress of ecclesial movements, held in Rome in 1998, opened with an address of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

In his address the cardinal asked bishops not to "condescend to any pretence of absolute uniformity in pastoral organization and programming."

He said that the diocesan bishops must seek to harmonize "unity and variety" in itself and not "confuse unity with pastoral uniformity."

In this interview with us, Father Arturo Cattaneo, professor of Canon Law at the St. Pius X Institute of Venice, explains the need to not insist on uniformity in the Church.

Professor Cattaneo is author of "Unita e Varieta nella Comunione della Chiesa Locale" (Unity and Variety in the Communion of the Local Church), published by Marcianum Press of Venice.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Wednesday.

Q: Can you explain the reason for calling attention to the danger or temptation of uniformity?

Father Cattaneo: Uniformity is an impoverishment of unity. In the Church, unity is characterized by catholicity. Consequently, also in every local Church a plurality and diversification must be developed that not only do not disturb unity but enrich it and change it into communion.

Q: What do you understand by "catholicity"?

Father Cattaneo: It is one of the great rediscoveries of ecclesiology of the 20th century. In his work "Christians Disunited," Yves Congar described it as a "dynamic universality of the unity of the Church" or, in other words, as the "capacity that its principles of unity have to assimilate, perfect, exalt and lead to God, to unite in him the whole man and all men, as well as all values of humanity."

The Church "responds therefore to the law of the recapitulation of everything in Christ (Ephesians 1:10)." ("Chretiens Desunis, Principes d'Un Oecumenisme Catholique," 1937).

Q: And why do you consider catholicity so important for the integration of differences in unity?

Father Cattaneo: Catholicity, as the rest of the essential characteristics of the Church, is a gift and a task. The expression comes from the Greek "kata holon," which means "according to the whole" or "extended to the whole," indicating that the parts and differences must be in keeping with the whole, with a unity made of fullness, which must be continually realized and founded on the plenitude of the grace of Christ.

Q: Can you indicate the practical consequences that this has for the governance of the local Church?

Father Cattaneo: In pastoral governance, the diocesan bishop must take into account the catholicity of the local Church, and not confuse unity with pastoral uniformity at all costs, which makes difficult the fruitful insertion of the different charisms.

One cannot think that the only thing that is legitimate is what is organized by some diocesan organisms because then whoever does not submit to the decisions of such organisms runs the risk of being excluded from the paradoxically called "structures of communion."

Q: Don't you think that there must be limits to variety in the Church to guarantee unity?

Father Cattaneo: I think the question is incorrectly posed because it assumes as a given that unity and variety are necessarily opposed when, in fact, it is not so. Suffice it to think of the most holy Trinity that is a mystery of perfect unity in the diversity of the persons. The eruption of the numerous apostolic charisms, which give new life to our parishes and dioceses, has made the topic especially timely, of great importance also for ecumenism.

Q: But don't you think that at times there is tension between unity and variety?

Father Cattaneo: Indeed, the fact that these two aspects are not necessarily opposed does not mean that they are automatically in harmony. In fact, it is a challenge that the Church must address continually.

After dedicating an ample study to the local Church, I have been concerned many times with questions relating to the insertion in the parish and the diocese of the different ecclesial realities (personal pastoral structures, institutes of consecrated life, movements and various groups). I have brought together those studies in this book, some of which are still unpublished.

Q: The first great concentration of movements and ecclesial communities with the Pope was held in Rome in 1998. What are the reasons that impel Benedict XVI to repeat that meeting, programming it for Pentecost this year?

Father Cattaneo: Pentecost of 1998 was very special because that year was dedicated to the Holy Spirit -- part of the three-year period in preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000. That Benedict XVI wishes to repeat it seems to me to be an eloquent sign of the interest and confidence that he also has in movements.

I think the reasons are the same as those that moved his predecessor, among them I would mention above all the desire to be able to count increasingly on them, in the urgent and enormous work of the new evangelization.

Q: What is Benedict XVI's vision of the movements?

Father Cattaneo: I have referred to the interest with which he views the Movements. I think it stems from his strong missionary yearning, from the conviction that one must be profoundly committed to re-Christianize our society, to, among other things, make Europe rediscover its Christian roots.

I would say moreover that the Pope's sensitivity to the charisms that have given rise to so many ecclesial movements is the fruit of his attitude of profound humility and at the same time of responsibility at the service of the Church that he himself manifested in the homily of the Mass at the opening of his Pontificate.

Benedict XVI said: "My true program of government is that of not doing my will, of not following my own ideas, but of listening, with the whole Church, to the word and will of the Lord and of letting myself be guided by him, so that it is he himself who guides the Church in this hour of our history."


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Movements, Church, Vatican, Cattaneo, Canon, Law

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