Monday, 2 June 2014

Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal

I have more than once noted on this blog that there exists a profound influence on Pope Francis of the movement Communion and Liberation. This influence originates in his encounter with the movement in Argentina, before his election to the see of St Peter; and it enables us to understand a number of his more challenging remarks since that election. [Enter the term search term "Pope Francis Communion and Liberation" in the search box of this blog to see relevant posts.]

Pope Francis participation on Sunday in a meeting of the Charismatic Renewal in the Olympic Stadium in Rome reveals the influence of another of the ecclesial movements. Abbey Roads has some coverage of this meeting: The Pope and the Holy Spirit and Pope Francis at the "Renewal of the Spirit" Convocation in Rome. An English language report is here: Francis at Rome’s Olympic Stadium: “The devil wants to destroy the family. This latter report appears a little out of sequence when compared to the original text of Pope Francis' address at the Vatican website (at the time of posting, only an Italian version available): Discorso del Santo Padre ai partecipanti alla 37ma Convocazione Nazionale del Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo.

There is a very tangible warmth in the meeting of Pope Francis with the members of the Italian Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a warmth that can be seen in the Vatican Insider report linked above and in the words of the full Italian text. One thing I particularly noted - and it is reflected in my own experience of Charismatic Renewal - is the way in which Pope Francis places the particular gifts of the movement in the context of the Church as a whole.
When I think of you charismatics, there comes to me an image of the Church itself, but in a particular manner ...
I was particularly struck by Pope Francis account of how his own understanding of the Charismatic Renewal grew over time:
Come voi forse sapete – perché le notizie corrono – nei primi anni del Rinnovamento Carismatico a Buenos Aires, io non amavo molto questi Carismatici. E io dicevo di loro: “Sembrano una scuola di samba!”. Non condividevo il loro modo di pregare e le tante cose nuove che avvenivano nella Chiesa. Dopo, ho incominciato a conoscerli e alla fine ho capito il bene che il Rinnovamento Carismatico fa alla Chiesa. E questa storia, che va dalla “scuola di samba” in avanti, finisce in un modo particolare: pochi mesi prima di partecipare al Conclave, sono stato nominato dalla Conferenza episcopale assistente spirituale del Rinnovamento Carismatico in Argentina. 
[As you probably know - because the news reports carried it - during the first years of the Charismatic Renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not love much these Charismatics. And I said of them: "They appear like a Samba school". I did not share their way of praying and the many new things that occurred in the Church. Later, I began to know them and, in the end, I understood the good that the Charismatic Renewal does in the Church. And this history, which goes from "Samba school" onwards, finished in a special way: a few months before taking part in the Conclave, I was nominated by the bishops' conference as the spiritual assistant to the Charismatic Renewal in Argentina.] 
The report from Vatican Insider describes something that I too have encountered with the Charismatic Renewal - that is, a direction of praise towards Jesus Christ rather than towards an individual speaker or personality (I recall vividly seeing Fr Cantalamessa turn towards an image of the face of Christ at the end of a talk and join in with the applause of his audience, thereby redirecting that applause towards the Lord and away from himself):
Francis crossed a section of the stadium pitch on foot to get to the stage. He was accompanied by the president of RNS, Salvatore Martinez and the Regent of the Papal Household, Fr. Leonardo Sapienza. Some of the delegates who stood along the course which had been marked out for the Pope, shook his hand. In the meantime, the crowds cheered, sang and called out Francis’ name. In his brief greeting to the Pope, Martinez reminded faithful that Francis wanted them to call out Jesus’ name, not his.
Martinez started singing “Jesus is Lord” in Spanish and Francis joined in.....
And a final thought from the words of Salvatore Martinez to Pope Francis, a thought which reflects the experience of a generation in the life of the Church:
We were born with Paul VI, we grew up and matured with John Paul II and now here we are with you.

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