Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From the Vatican: Meet the Religious, Prep for Encyclical, etc.

Yesterday, the Pope received the executive councils of the global "umbrella" groups representing women and men religious:
The "signs" of a reawakening of religious life are "growing constantly", despite the process of the secularisation of culture and the "many clouds" forming on the horizon. Benedict XVI has addressed words of hope and encouragement to the members of the council for relations among the congregation for institutes of religious life, the societies of apostolic life, and the international unions of superiors and superiors general....

[T]he pope emphasised how the revival of religious life is particularly affecting the new institutions, which propose a rigorous discipleship of Christ, and the older institutions that are rediscovering their or original charisms. "We all recognise", he observed, "how in modern globalised society it is becoming increasingly difficult to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel". This is a reality that concerns all of the baptised, and with greater reason those who have chosen consecrated life. "The process of secularisation that is advancing in contemporary culture does not spare, in fact, even the religious communities. But we must not allow ourselves to become discouraged, because if today there are not a few clouds forming on the horizon of religious life, there are also emerging, and indeed growing constantly, signs of a providential reawakening, which is providing reasons for consolation and hope".

"The Holy Spirit", he continued, "is breathing powerfully everywhere in the Church, prompting a new commitment to faithfulness in the historical religious institutes, together with new forms of religious consecration in harmony with the needs of the time". What distinguishes these new experiences, in the words of Benedict XVI, "is the common desire for evangelical poverty practiced in a radical way, for faithful love of the Church, for generous dedication to one's neighbour in need, with special attention toward those who are spiritually poor, who strongly characterise the contemporary period".

As for the orders and congregations with a long tradition, "we cannot fail to note that in recent decades almost all of these - both men's and women's communities - have passed through a difficult crisis due to the aging of their members, a more or less pronounced decrease in vocations, and sometimes even a spiritual and charismatic 'weariness'. In certain cases, this crisis has become worrying. But next to these difficult situations, which should be looked upon with courage and honesty, there have also been signs of a positive revival, especially when the communities have decided to return to their origins to live in a manner more closely in keeping with the spirit of their founder."
Aside from his usual prepared remarks, the pontiff held a Q&A with the group.

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In other things Vatican, the third encyclical of the B16 reign is said to be ready.

According to Italian wire reports, the five-part text -- a social reflection on the (belated) 40th anniversary of Paul VI's Popolorum progressio -- should be released "shortly after Easter." The 1967 letter on globalization and the development of peoples marks its anniversary on 26 March, this year's Easter Wednesday. Listed among the new document's "consistent themes": "poverty, globalization, peace, disarmament, war between the rich and the poor, nuclear war and the environment."

Much of the text is said to draw upon the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, released in 2004 under the patronage John Paul II, and a revision of the document is foreseen following the new encyclical's release. In one innovation, alongside the traditional Western languages of a major text's pub-date release, the coming encyclical will also be translated into Arabic and Chinese in time for its debut. Its title is, of present, unknown.

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On Thursday, the Pope receives the General Congregation of the Jesuits, led by the new "Black Pope" -- the Father-General Adolfo Nicolás. In greeting the body, B16'll be seeing one of his top aides, who's now a creature of two Curias.

Yesterday, the GC elected the "Vatican spokesman" Fr Federico Lombardi as one of four general assistants ad providentiam to the General. A former provincial of Italy in his own right, Lombardi, 65, has served as director of the Holy See Press Office since July 2006, when he was named to succeed Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the legendarily charismatic Spaniard who oversaw -- and, to a great extent, reinvented -- the Pope's media shop over 22 years in the post.

While the ad providentiam assistants function as Father-General's top lieutenants in overseeing the church's largest and most-storied community of male religious, Nicolás has indicated a preference for decentralization since his election as the Jesuits' 30th head last month. As a result, sources say Lombardi will continue in his role as papal portavoce, in addition to his even longer-standing commitments as director of Vatican Radio and Vatican TV.

Among the other general assistants named yesterday was 56 year-old Fr James Grummer, the former Wisconsin provincial. The delegate for the Jesuits' Roman works, Basque Fr Ignacio Echarte, was tapped as the new secretary of the Society.