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Overview on Charismatics (Part 1)

Interview With Matteo Calisi of "Catholic Fraternity"

BARI, Italy, OCT. 28, 2004 (Zenit) - One of the expressions of Charismatic Renewal in the Church is the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

An international organization of pontifical right, it brings together more than 50 groups worldwide, including the Community of the Beatitudes, and the Community of Jesus, of Bari.

On the eve of the fraternity's Oct. 29-Nov. 1 congress in Fiuggi, its president, Matteo Calisi, a collaborator with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, explains in this interview with us the novelty that charismatics represent in the Church and the world. Part 2 of this interview appears Friday.

Q: What is the Catholic Fraternity and what is its mission in the Church?

Calisi: The Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships is the first international organization -- with headquarters in Bari and established by the Pontifical Council for the Laity -- which federates the main historical communities of Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

With pontifical recognition, on November 30, 1990, the Catholic Fraternity was established canonically as an international private association of pontifical right of faithful of the Catholic Church, with ecclesiastical juridical personality.

In the decree of recognition, the Holy See expressed the hope that the Catholic Fraternity would contribute to consolidate the Catholic expression of the Charismatic Movement. Therefore, the Catholic Fraternity does not have governmental functions or juridical responsibility over the member communities. It has only moral and spiritual responsibility: to foster the development of member communities in their ecclesial and Catholic dimensions.

Thus, each community keeps its own identity and juridical and governmental autonomy, and a substantial establishment in the local Church, but at the same time is a member of a universal federation of the faithful of pontifical right.

Addressing the Catholic Fraternity in several international meetings, the Holy Father John Paul II has emphasized the fundamental role of the Catholic Fraternity within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: "Within the Charismatic Renewal, the Catholic Fraternity has a particular mission, recognized by the Holy See. One of the objectives defined by your Statutes is that of safeguarding the Catholic identity of the Charismatic communities and encouraging them to maintain close ties with the bishops and the Roman Pontiff ... to help people to have a strong sense of belonging to the Church."

Q: The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is spread throughout the world, embracing about 120 million Catholics. How is the Holy Spirit experienced today?

Calisi: God does not dwell in stone temples, but above all in the hearts of the faithful, in which he has poured the power of the Holy Spirit with his charismatic gifts, the most important of which is love, as St. Paul says.

To the modern world, which declares the death of God and has a decaying process called "secularism," the charismatics wish to proclaim that God lives, because his faithful live in him, who dwells and works powerfully in them through the Holy Spirit.

In our days we receive this new and singular way of experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit operating in the faithful, which is called "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" and charismatic prayer.

Charismatic Renewal is an eloquent testimony, as the Holy Father John Paul II has affirmed on several occasions, of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, who are his temple.

The charismatics do not bring "novelties," rather, they are novelties themselves because they help the Church rediscover, through becoming aware of the powerful action of the Holy Spirit in the life of each one and of the Church, the wonder of gifts and charisms that are given to each one and to all for building the community of believers so that the Church, bride of Christ, can be ever more beautiful and worthy of the Bridegroom, her Lord.

It is a current of grace which has touched all the historical Christian churches -- Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox -- and which includes close to 600 million Christians worldwide -- about 120 million of whom are Catholics. It is the most extensive movement in the history of Christianity, unfortunately little studied by specialists!

The CCR is diffused in the most diverse realms of the Church and the world and takes on different expressions and forms of apostolate, such as prayer groups, covenant communities, life communities with lay people and-or clergymen and-or consecrated persons, communities and ecumenical associations, religious and monastic congregations, universities, etc. The variety of these charismatic expressions are a real richness for the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal, therefore, does not appear as a hierarchically structured ecclesial movement, as some think, but each different charism will uniquely contribute to the building of the one Church of Christ.

Each one of these realities shares within itself the specific graces of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal -- such as Baptism in the Spirit and the exercise of the Charismatic gifts -- and maintains bonds of friendship and sometimes of collaboration with the others. The latter are legitimately autonomous because of their specific charisms and foundation.

Each reality or expression of Catholic Charismatic Renewal acts according to the right-freedom of associations of faithful ratified by the legislator of the Church and stemming from the sacrament of baptism, under the authority and vigilance of the local authority or the Holy See according to its own law.

Q: What are the objectives of the international conferences that the Catholic Fraternity promotes? Who takes part in these events?

Calisi: The purpose of the 11th International Conference of the Catholic Fraternity will be to witness "Communion and Mission in the Third Millennium" in the light of the recent magisterium of the Holy Father John Paul II and to strengthen the spiritual and pastoral bonds with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the latter being the dicastery in charge of the apostolate of the laity in the Catholic Church.

More than 1,000 representatives and general moderators of the member communities of the Catholic Fraternity of all the continents will participate in the meeting, together with bishops and a cardinal from Brazil, France, Mexico, Italy, Vatican City and Albania.

Q: What can the laity contribute today to a reflection on "Communion and Mission in the Third Millennium"?

Calisi: Thanks also to the international diffusion of the Catholic Fraternity, the different charismatic communities have come into exchange contacts with other communities of different cultures and geographic locations, each maintaining its own original awareness.

They take on the common ecclesial challenges for the third millennium, such as the New Evangelization, ecumenism, spiritual and doctrinal formation, formation for the religious life and ministerial priesthood, etc.

This has been facilitated, and also stimulated, both by the recognition of the statutes approved by the Holy See and the continual exhortations, expressions of esteem and encouragement contained in the Holy Father's messages addressed to the Catholic Fraternity on different occasions, as well as the Catholic and global dimension of the mission of the Catholic Church herself which has facilitated the exchange between individuals and communities of very different cultural areas.

Thus, providentially, the universal and particular aspects become more than ever in the Charismatic Covenant Communities a common expression of authentic ecclesial breath, sign of feeling "cum ecclesiae."

The international nature of the Catholic Fraternity appeals to the urgency that the different covenant communities -- although committed in the local Churches -- parish, diocese -- in full communion and obedience to the local bishops --also live the sense of urgency of the universal mission of the Catholic Church in communion with the Successor of Peter.

Moreover, not a few communities of the Catholic Fraternity have proven programs of evangelization and missionary formation.

[Friday: On communion among the movements]


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