Acknowledging that Sunday, Pentecost, marked the ‘birth’ of the Church, Pope Francis has stressed: “The coming of the Holy Spirit transforms men [who are] closed because of fear, into courageous witnesses of Jesus.”
Pope Francis made this observation on the afternoon of Saturday, June 3, at Rome’s Circus Maximus for the Vigil of Pentecost and an ecumenical prayer, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which ended the next day, Sunday, with the Mass of Pentecost, which he presided over in St. Peter’s Square.
In his remarks, Pope Francis told the Evangelicals gathered: “Peace is possible beginning from our confession that Jesus is the Lord and by our evangelization on this path. It is possible, while showing that we have differences – but this is obvious, we have differences –, but that we desire to be a ‘reconciled diversity.’”
The Holy Father also decried all those being persecuted and killed for their faith, now more than ever, and stressed, “All Christians are united by blood of the martyrs.”
On the stage with the Pope, were leaders of Charismatic Renewal and representatives of the Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches and other religious confessions.
The meeting was preceded by songs, readings and testimonies, and introduced by the meditations of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M., Cap., Papal Household Preacher, and by Pastor Giovanni Traettino of the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation.
Here is a working translation of the Holy Father’s meditation, pronounced during the course of the meeting.
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Brothers and Sisters, thank you for the witness you are giving here today: thank you! It does good to all, it does good to me, too, to all!
In the first chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we read: “While staying with them He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (1:4-5).
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from Heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
Today, we are here in the open air as in a Cenacle, because we are not afraid: in the open air and also with a heart open to the Father’s promise. “All of us believers” are gathered, all those who profess that “Jesus is the Lord,”
Many have come from different parts of the world and the Holy Spirit has gathered us to establish bonds of fraternal friendship, which encourage us on the path towards unity, unity for the mission: not to be still, no! — for the mission, to proclaim that Jesus is the Lord, to proclaim the Good News to all peoples! To show that peace is possible. It is not so easy to demonstrate to today’s world that peace is possible, but in Jesus’ name we can show with our witness that peace is possible! But it is possible if we are in peace among ourselves. If we accentuate the differences, we are at war among ourselves and we cannot proclaim peace. Peace is possible beginning from our confession that Jesus is the Lord and by our evangelization on this path. It is possible. While showing that we have differences – but this is obvious, we have differences –, but that we desire to be a reconciled diversity. See, we must not forget this word but say it to all: reconciled diversity — and this word is not mine, it is not mine. It is of a Lutheran brother – reconciled diversity.
And now we are here and we are many! We have gathered to pray together, to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon each one of us to go out on the ways of the city and the world to proclaim the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Acts affirms: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (2:9-11). To speak in the same language, to listen, to understand . . . There are differences, but the Spirit makes us understand the message of the Resurrection of Jesus in our own language.
We are gathered here, believers from 120 countries of the world, to celebrate the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, which started 50 years ago and gave birth . . . to an institution? No. To an organization? No — to a current of grace, to the current of grace of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. A work that was born . . . Catholic? No. It was born ecumenical! It was born ecumenical because it is the Holy Spirit that creates unity and it is the same Holy Spirit that gave the inspiration so that it would be thus! It is important to read the works of Cardinal Suenens on this: it is very important!
The coming of the Holy Spirit transforms men [who are] closed because of fear, into courageous witnesses of Jesus. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, full of the strength of the Holy Spirit proclaimed: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified: (Acts 2:36). And this is the profession of faith of every Christian! God constituted Lord and Christ that Jesus whom you crucified or who was crucified. Are you in agreement on this profession of faith? [They answer: Yes!] It is ours, of all, all, the same!
The Word continues saying: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common, and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the Temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:44-47). The community was growing, and it was the Spirit that inspired. I like to think a lot of Philip, when the Angel said to him: “Go on the road to Gaza and find that proselyte, Minister of the Economy of Candice, the Queen of Ethiopia. He was a proselyte and was reading Isaiah. And Philip explained the Word to him, he proclaimed Jesus, and <the Minister> converted. And at a certain point, he said: “But there is water here: I want to be baptized.” It was the Spirit that drove Philip to go there, and it was the Spirit that from the beginning drove all believers to proclaim the Lord.
Today, we chose to gather here, in this place — Pastor Traettino said it — because here, during the persecutions Christians were martyred for the amusement of those who were looking on. Today, there are more martyrs than yesterday! Today, there are more Christian martyrs. Those who kill Christians, before killing them do not ask them: Are you Orthodox? Are you Catholic? Are you Evangelical? Are you Lutheran? Are you Calvinist?” No. “Are you Christian?” – “Yes”: <they are> slaughtered, immediately. Today there are more martyrs than in the early times. And this is ecumenism of blood: it unites the witness of our martyrs today. Christian blood is being shed in different parts of the world! Today, Christian unity is more urgent than ever, united by the work of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and in action for the weakest – walk together, work together, love one another, love one another. And together try to explain the differences, to come to agreement, but on the way! If we stay still, without walking, we will never be in agreement. This is so, because the Spirit wants us on the way.
Fifty years have passed. When this age is reached, one’s strength begins to decline. It is half of life — in my land we say “el cinquentazo” –, wrinkles become deeper, unless you trick yourself, but the wrinkles are there – grey hairs increase and you begin to forget some things . . .
Fifty years is a moment of life suitable to stop and reflect. It is the moment of reflection: half of life. And I will tell you: it is the moment to go on with more strength, leaving behind us the dust of time that we allowed to accumulate, thanking for what we have received and facing the new with trust in the action of the Holy Spirit!
Pentecost is the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit, the Father’s promise announced by Jesus Christ, is He who makes the Church: the Bride of Revelation, one Bride! Pastor Traettino said it: the Lord has one Bride!
Baptism is the most precious gift we have received. And now the Spirit leads us on the way of conversion that runs through the whole Christian world and which is one more reason for Catholic Charismatic Renewal to be a privileged place to follow the path to unity!
This current of grace is for all the Church, not only for some, and none of us is the master and all the others servants. We are all servants of this current of grace.
Together with this experience, you remind the Church continually of the power of the prayer of praise. Praise that is the prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving God’s gratuitous love. It might be that this way of prayer does not please someone, but it is certain that it is inserted fully in the biblical tradition. The Psalms, for instance: David dancing before the Arc of the Covenant full of jubilation . . . And, please, let us not fall into the attitude of Christians with the “Michal’s complex,” who was ashamed of the way David praised God [dancing before the Arc].
Jubilation, joy, joy fruit of the same action of the Spirit. Either the Christian experiences joy in his heart or something is not working – the joy of the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel!
Jesus read the passage of Isaiah in the Synagogue of Nazareth. I read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19; Cf. Isaiah 61:1-2). The happy proclamation: do not forget this – the happy proclamation: the Christian proclamation is always happy.
The third document of Malines, “Charismatic Renewal and Service to Man,” written by Cardinal Suenens and Father Helder Camara, is clear: Charismatic renewal is also a service to man.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit, praise, service to man – the three things are indissolubly united. I can praise in a profound way, but if I do not help the neediest, it’s not enough. “There was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34), says the Book of Acts.
We will not be judged for our praise but for what we did for Jesus. “But Lord, when did we do it for you? When you did it to one of these little ones, you did it to me” (Cf. Matthew25:39-40).
Dear sisters and dear brothers, I hope you will have a time of reflection, of remembering the origins; a time to leave behind all things added by one’s I and transform them into listening and joyful reception of the action of the Holy Spirit, who blows where and how He wishes!
I thank the Catholic Fraternity and the ICCRS for the organization of this Golden Jubilee, for this Vigil. I thank each one of the volunteers who made it possible, many of whom are here. I wanted to greet the office’s staff members when I arrived, because I know they worked a lot! And there is no payment! They worked a lot – the majority are young people from several Continents! May the Lord bless them greatly!
I am grateful in particular for the fact that the request I made to you two years ago, to give the World Charismatic Renewal a unique international service based here, has begun to be concretized in the Constitutive Acts of this new unique service. It is the first step, others will follow, but soon unity, work of the Holy Spirit, will be a reality. “Behold, I make all things new,” says the Lord (Revelation 21:5).
Thank you, Catholic Charismatic Renewal for what you have given the Church in these 50 years! The Church counts on you, on your fidelity to the Word, on your availability for service and on your witness of life transformed by the Holy Spirit!
Share with all in the Church Baptism in the Holy Spirit, praise the Lord without a break, walk together with Christians of different Churches and Christian communities in prayer and in action for the neediest. Serve the poorest and the sick: this is what the Church and the Pope expect from you, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but of all of you: all, all of you who entered in this current of grace! Thank you.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]