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Pope Francis: to the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, “finding the Holy Spirit in the new communities and building fraternal bonds”

“We have a duty to discern and find the Holy Spirit in these communities”, while trying to build “genuinely fraternal bonds”. This was said by Pope Francis this morning, as he gave audience to the participants in the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led by their president, card. Kurt Koch. Francis mentions some recent meetings with “Christians of different traditions” – the prayer in Bari with the leaders of the Orthodox and Eastern Churches, the meeting in Geneva for the 70th anniversary of CEC, the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at Circus Maximus, in Rome, “and, may I add”, he says off the cuff, “the yearly meeting – His Eminence was at two of them – with the US John 17 Group and the pastors…: there’s deep friendship and familiarity, which helps a lot”. These are “highlights of that ecumenical journey that all Christians are called to accomplish by walking together, praying together and working together, while waiting for the Lord to lead us back to full unity”. The topic of the plenary meeting – “Pentecostals, Charismatics and Evangelicals: impact on the concept of unity” – “is extremely relevant”, and “the steady rise in these new forms of Christian life” is a phenomenon “that cannot be neglected”, the Pontiff explains. Hence some guidelines. “Firstly, we have a duty to discern and find the Holy Spirit in these communities, while trying to build genuinely fraternal bonds with them. This can be achieved by multiplying the opportunities to meet and overcoming mutual distrust, very often prompted by ignorance or misunderstandings”. Here, Francis provides his personal experience, with an acknowledgment of guilt. He actually tells that, when he was a provincial superior of the Society of Jesus, he had forbidden the Jesuit fathers from coming into contact with the Catholic Renewal, because “more than a meeting of prayer, it looked like a ‘samba school’”. He tells, however, that then he had “apologised” and he states: “As a bishop, I had a good relationship with them, with Mass in the Cathedral”. Activities that can be shared include prayer, listening to the Word, serving the needy, announcing the Gospel, defending human dignity and human life. “By getting to know each other in a fraternal way”, according to the Pope, Catholics may learn to appreciate the experience of communities that often live faith and Christian testimony in different ways, while those communities will be helped overcome their prejudices about the Catholic Church and find that, “in the invaluable wealth of tradition, received from the Apostles”, the Holy Spirit “is not dulled or muffled at all, it actually keeps effectively working”.

 

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