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Golden anniversary for Charismatic Renewal

ROME (SE): Some 50,000 people gathered in Rome around the feast of Pentecost from May 31 to June 4 to celebrate the golden anniversary of the worldwide Charismatic Renewal Movement.
The five-day event was book-ended by Pope Francis, who attended a general audience on the first day and celebrated the final Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday.
The programme included a series of workshops and symposiums around Rome and, of course, no golden anniversary celebration is complete without a bit of reminiscing on the early days of the movement and its initial growth.
The golden jubilee was billed as a sign of communion, unity and charity.
“The pope urges us to be protagonists of history and to make these charisms a dynamism of love for men of our time,” Salvatore Martinez, the president of the Catholic Charismatic Association in Italy, told the Catholic News Agency on May 30, prior to the event kicking off.
“Spiritual ecumenism will be the culminating moment, the heart of this spiritual celebration,” he added.
Pope Francis has expressed his hope that the movement will continue to be a great force for ecumenism in the world and his attendance at its annual conventions in Rome is a strong sign of his belief in this.
The movement was a significant force when representatives of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification at Augsburg in Germany in 1999.
Writing in the organisation’s newsletter for January 1 this year, Christof Hemberger says that relationships began to grow at the gathering and spread to larger groups.
“It resulted in a powerful time of repentance and reconciliation with recognition of our need to forgive each other for any hurts inflicted through our thoughts, words or actions,” Hemberger says.
From these groups formed in 1999, known as meetings among friends, a network was born under the name of Together for Europe. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has remained heavily involved in the building of this network.
Delegates came to Rome from 220 countries spread across five continents for the convention this year and organisers described the event as spiritual renewal.
Michelle Moran, the president of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, affirmed that it would not include any discussion on doctrine, but rather be about spiritual communion.
Running under the theme, Jesus is Lord, which is central to all the kerygma and which no Church can appropriate for itself, the location of the main event gave it a more ecumenical flavour than in previous years.
Pascale Debbané, from Lebanon, explained that this year a location was chosen which does not have an extremely Catholic flavour. Instead of holding the vigil at St. Peters Square, it was at the Circus Maximus out of consideration for Pentecostal and Evangelical guests.
AsiaNews quoted him as saying, “The preparation time for the jubilee provided an opportunity for unexpected connections between some of the leaders of charismatic movements. Reconciliations took place that were thought difficult.”
Bruce Yocum, from the United States of America, sees the establishment of covenant communities as being part of the Church’s strategy for renewal.
“Such moments of reconciliation went on for the five days of the jubilee and constituted one of its most moving aspects,” he said.
Yocum is part of the first generation of the Charismatic Renewal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was in Rome in 1975 when Pope Paul VI welcomed the first international congress of this movement and led a Mass on its behalf in St Peter’s Basilica, calling it a chance for the Church.
Although division, rivalry, personality conflicts, jealousy and ingratitude have indeed marked the growth of the Charismatic Renewal Movement, its extraordinary surge has exceeded all expectations, often giving rise to painful spiritual secessions and loose affiliations.
Today, after a fledgling beginning 50 years ago at Duquesne University during a student retreat, nearly 200 million Catholics identify with what Leo Joseph Cardinal Suenens described as this current of grace, a phrase that was picked up by Pope Paul.
Pope Francis spoke about Pentecost, emphasising, “Unity is for the mission, to proclaim that Jesus is the Lord. We certainly have differences, but we want to be a reconciled diversity.”
The pope presented the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as a current of the grace of the Spirit that has neither founder nor statute or governing bodies.
He added that in this current, many expressions have been born that certainly are human works inspired by the Spirit, with various charisms, all in the service of the Church. “But against the current, one cannot build dams, nor lock up the Holy Spirit in a cage!”
The pope made a call to share the baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church, praise the Lord non-stop, walk together with Christians of various Churches and Christian communities in prayer and action for the neediest.
“Serving the poorest and the sick is what the Church and the pope expects from you, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but also from you all, all of you who have entered this current of grace!”

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