(Vatican Radio) On Friday afternoon in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met with members of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit, who have come to Rome for their 38th annual Convocation.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
A light rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of people gathered together in St Peter’s Square for an evening of prayer, spirituality, and evangelization. The event had a distinctively ecumenical character, with the theme of “Ways of Unity and Peace – Voices of prayer for the martyrs of today and for a spiritual ecumenism.” Representatives of various Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities were present for the meeting with the Pope Francis, testifying to “the power of ecumenical prayer and the need for a new fraternity among Christians.”
In his prayer at the beginning of the Audience, Pope Francis prayed that God the Father might send the Holy Spirit, Who will guide us to unity. It is the Holy Spirit, he said, who gives the various charisms within the Church, who works through the variety of gifts in the Church, and who grants unity. Pope Francis asked that Jesus, who prayed for unity in His Church, might help us to walk along the path of “unity, or of reconciled diversity.”
In his address, which he delivered “off-the-cuff,” the Holy Father reminded the members of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit of the words of Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, who called the charismatic renewal a “stream of grace.” The current of grace, he said, must always flow into the ocean of God, the love of God, and must not be turned in on itself.
Pope Francis also spoke about the idea of “unity in diversity.” Unity is not uniformity, he said, but reflects the confluence of all the different parts that go to make it up.
He warned of the temptation of leaders – or rather, servants – to imagine that they are indispensable, a temptation that can lead to authoritarianism or personalism, which “does not allow the renewed communities to live in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis exclaimed, is the only indispensable actor in the renewal, just as Jesus is the one Lord. At the same time he spoke of good founders who lead the communities they found, caring for them and leading them to spiritual maturity.
The Holy Father gave thanks for the “current of grace” which has borne much fruit. He encouraged those who have had the experience of the renew “to go forward, share it with the Church,” a service he called very important. He encouraged them especially “to form bonds of trust and cooperation with the Bishops, who have the pastoral responsibility of guiding the Body of Christ, including the charismatic renewal."
Finally, Pope Francis emphasized the ecumenical dimension of the charismatic movement, rooting it in our common Baptism. Unity among Christians, he said, must begin with prayer. He spoke, too, of modern-day martyrs: “The blood of the martyrs of today makes us one!” He gave the examples of a Catholic priest and a Lutheran minister who were both executed by the Nazis, and of the 23 Coptic Christians who, just a few months ago, were murdered in Libya. He noted, too, that Paul VI, in canonizing the Ugandan martyrs made reference to the Anglican catechists who shed their blood with them. “Excuse me, don’t be scandalized, they are our martyrs,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by reminding those in the Square of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the charismatic movement, which will be marked in St Peters on Pentecost in 2017. This jubilee, he said, quoting Bd Paul VI, will be an opportunity for the Church “to give thanks to the Holy Spirit for this current of grace which is for the Church and for the world; and to celebrate the marvelous works the Holy Spirit has done in the course of these 50 years, changing the lives of millions of Christians.”