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VATICAN LETTER (UPDATED) Aug-8-2005 (920 words) Backgrounder. With photo posted Aug. 4. xxxi

Lay movements have an old friend in new pope

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lay movements that enjoyed the strong support of Pope John Paul II believe they have an even stronger ally in Pope Benedict XVI.

In fact, one of the first meetings Pope Benedict has convoked on his own initiative -- rather than confirming a gathering originally planned under his predecessor -- is a Pentecost 2006 encounter with lay-movement representatives.

Leaders of 29 movements and communities, including the Focolare movement, Communion and Liberation, the Community of Sant'Egidio, L'Arche and the charismatic renewal, met in late June with officials of the Pontifical Council for the Laity to begin planning the encounter.

Guzman Carriquiry, a council official, said the June meeting was a brainstorming session and the real work on the program for a working meeting and a celebration with the pope would begin in the autumn.

Pope Benedict is no stranger to the lay movements, so the June meeting began with a review of a speech he gave during a similar Pentecost 1998 meeting at the Vatican with representatives of 50 lay movements.

"His 1998 speech is the most authoritative, explicit, organized theological treatment of the new movements that exists," Carriquiry told Catholic News Service Aug. 4.

Since 1998, he said, "the most important change has been that we have a new pope."

In his speech to the movements seven years ago, "he called them to press ahead in a process of maturity," Carriquiry said. "The 2006 meeting will be an opportunity to see how that call was followed."

The movements involved are groups of mainly lay people who have a specific itinerary of prayer and formation and, usually, a particular mission or outreach such as evangelization, faith education, charitable work or social justice advocacy.

In his 1998 speech, Cardinal Ratzinger said the movements do not include "initiatives" to promote a specific form of devotion or "pressure groups" aimed at changing church teaching; their "essential criterion" is that of being rooted in the faith and teachings of the universal church and unwaveringly loyal to the pope.

Cardinal Ratzinger also spoke at a 1999 meeting of bishops and representatives of the movements to discuss ways to improve the welcome bishops give to the movements and the way the movements show respect for local bishops and priests.

When he was archbishop of Munich and Freising, and then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "everything he has written" about lay movements "indicates very strong support," Carriquiry said.

In 1978 then-Cardinal Ratzinger gave official recognition to the Catholic Integrated Community, a movement of men and women, single and married, assisted by priests.

The community's Web site said the movement's roots go back to 1945 when a small group of Catholic young people in Germany asked themselves why Germany's Christian majority did not prevent the Holocaust with its murder of 6 million Jews and why Christian citizens did not stop the rise of Nazism in Germany and of communism throughout Eastern Europe.

Members of the Catholic Integrated Community live together and many of them work at community-run schools and health clinics, including one in Rome where the future pope was said to have been a regular visitor.

Pope Benedict also has close ties with Communion and Liberation, the lay movement founded by Msgr. Luigi Giussani in Milan.

Cardinal Ratzinger presided at Msgr. Giussani's funeral in February.

But closer to home, female members of Memores Domini, an organization of men and women from Communion and Liberation who have made promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, now care for Pope Benedict's apartment.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, the former secretary of the doctrinal congregation who spent time with the pope in the northern Italian Alps in July, told a reporter that two of the women were even working at the vacation chalet. "I knew one of them, Cristina, because she had already worked with Cardinal Ratzinger," he said.

Before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger urged the movements to submit to the guidance of local bishops in order to ensure they are not dividing parishes or dioceses. But he also told bishops that they must respect the gifts of the Holy Spirit expressed in the movements and allow themselves to be surprised at what God can accomplish through them.

In his 1998 talk, he said he had "experienced the warmth and enthusiasm" with which the movements lived the Catholic faith and the joy they felt compelled to share with others.

In the 1960s, when traditional forms of Catholic faith and piety seemed to be growing stale, he said, "the Holy Spirit once again asked to speak. And faith began to re-blossom in young men and women -- without 'ifs' or 'buts,' without reservations or easy ways out."

Confidence that the movements were the work of the Holy Spirit, he said, does not mean they are free of human error, such as exclusivity or too narrow a focus.

But, he said, dioceses, parishes and other church structures caring for all Catholics and trying to meet a variety of needs often lack the focus some Catholics want as an aid to living the Gospel in a radical way.

The movements, he said, "are a gift to the entirety of the church and they must submit themselves to the requirements of this entirety," while at the same time, a parish priest or local bishop cannot "indulge in any pretense that there be absolute uniformity in the organizations and pastoral programs" operating among his flock.


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