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Ecclesial Movements Called Church's 'New Wine'

April 16th, 2010
Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

Already in 1985, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger referred to movements as a "new generation in the Church."

ROME (Zenit) - Young ecclesial movements are "new wine" for the Church, and there is still time to put them into "new wineskins," affirmed a professor at an Opus Dei university in Rome.Luis Navarro spoke of the ecclesial movements and the recent magisterium in an address last week during the inauguration of the academic year at the Pontifical University Holy Cross.

Bishop Javier Echavarrķa, chancellor of the university and prelate of Opus Dei, attended the event.

Navarro noted that already in 1985, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger referred to movements as a "new generation in the Church. He said a renewal was "tranquil, but effectively on the way."

"This was profound and prophetic ," Navarro said, "in a moment in which few could think, to use an expression coined by John Paul II, of the new Pentecost at the end of the 20th century," given that then a "winter in the Church" was spoken of.

In the following decades, he added, Cardinal Ratzinger "stayed close, accompanying these groups, and he sought, through theological reflection, to make them understood and loved."

The professor presented the magisterium of Benedict XVI regarding the ecclesial movements, dividing his address into four parts: general characteristics of the papal magisterium, the role of the Holy Spirit in movements, the ecclesial value of movements, and the relationship between pastors and ecclesial movements.

Never easy

Regarding the first point, he stressed that current pontifical teaching is in continuation with that of Pope John Paul II. Navarro also looked at Benedict XVI's awareness "of the positive and negative reactions brought about by the movements, and in particular, their difficult insertion into the particular Churches and parishes."

The Holy Father, in fact, "does not hide that the new forms of Christian life have always been uncomfortable in their beginnings, and are not easily understood," Navarro added.

Regarding the Holy Spirit and his role in movements, the link "is particularly intimate," Navarro contended. On various occasions, he noted, the Pontiff has indicated that movements are gifts of the Spirit and, thus, neither an initiative of the hierarchy nor of the faithful, but of God.

This charismatic origin implies the need of being at the service of the Body of Christ, such that "each movement has its reason for being in the building up of the Church, inasmuch as the very movement forms part of it," he continued. "If the movements do not adequately insert themselves in the universal Church and the particular Churches, they do not serve, they do not build up. The movements live for and in unity."

Effective evangelizing

Speaking of the ecclesial value of the movements, the professor said it is already substantial. He cited numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life fostered within these ecclesial realities. In the "highly secularized and relativistic world in which we live," they constitute "a privileged instrument of evangelization in every sector of society."

In this context, Navarro added, the relationship between pastors and movements is an "indispensable" goal, especially since "there is no conflict between the institutional and charismatic aspects of the Church."

The Pope, he said, asks pastors to have a "deeply paternal attitude" and the movements to have a "readiness for discernment."

Regarding the canonical aspects of these movements, Navarro affirmed that in the first place, it is necessary to recognize "the right to life for these new realities in the Church," according to their particular charisms.

"The whole Church, pastors and the rest of the faithful, should respect this right," he said. "The directors and members of the movements have the right and the duty to be faithful to their own charism."

Navarro said movements have "the grave obligation to let themselves be known as they are in daily life. To offer a partial vision implies to falsify their identity and impede the ecclesiastical authorities from being able to make a declaration according to the truth of the ecclesiality of the reality."

Ecclesial recognition of the movements, therefore, "is not just a simple formal process, which requires an examination of the statutes or norms, but rather an ecclesial event, by which a declaration is made to the entire Christian community that such and such a group is truly in the Church and for the Church," he explained. "The reality is recognized, not a piece of paper."

Recalling the words of Jesus, "People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved," the professor concluded that "in the case of the movements and the related magisterium of the Pope, we are still in time to put the new wine in new wineskins."

"This," he affirmed, "will be possible if all of us have our minds and hearts open to these gifts of the Spirit to his Church."

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