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Benedict XVI underlines contributions of religious life to the Church

04/12/2010: General House

On 5 November 2010, the Pope received the bishops of the South Region 2 of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brasil, who were in Rome to make their « ad limina » visit. In his exhortation to the bishops, many of whom are religious, Benedict XVI emphasised the role of consecrated persons in the Church and charged them with passing on his « lively gratitude » to religious men and women. Venerable brothers in the Episcopate,« May the God of hope bring you such joy and peace in your faith that the power of the Holy Spirit will remove all bounds to hope » (Rm 15:13) to guide your people towards the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ. I cordially greet each one of you, dear pastors of Region 2 on your visit ad limina Apostolorum, and I thank you for the words addressed to me by your president, Dom Moacyr, making himself the interpreter of the sentiments of communion which unite you to the successor of Peter. I am grateful to you for it. This house is also yours: feel welcome! In it you can experience the universality of the Church of Christ which extends even to the ends of the earth.In the same way, each of your individual Churches, dear Bishops, is the point of confluence of the universal mission, the flourishing « here and now » of the universal Church. In this case, the just relationship between « universal » and « particular » is confirmed, not when the universal recoils before the particular, but when the particular is open to the universal and allows itself to be drawn and valorized by it. In the divine idea, the Church is one: the Body of Christ, the Spouse of the Lamb, the heavenly Jerusalem, the definitive City which is the deepest objective of creation, wished for as the place where God’s will is accomplished and earth becomes heaven. I recall these principles to you, not because you do not know them, but because they help us to situate consecrated persons in their correct place in the Church. In fact, in her breast unity and plurality are not only not opposed but enrich each other in the measure they contribute to the building up of the single Body of Christ, the Church, thanks to « love: it is the perfect bond.» (Col 3 :14)Elect portion of the People of God, consecrated persons « have the appearance of a plant with many branches, which sinks its roots in the Gospel and brings forth fruit in abundance in all ages of the Church. » (Vita consecrata, 5). Charity being the first fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5 :22) and the greatest of all the charisms (1Co 12 :31), the religious community enriches the Church, which is a living part, above all by its love: Christ loves his particular Church, enriches it with his gifts and opens it to a more universal dimension. » The delicate relationship between the pastoral demands of the particular Church and the specific charism of the religious community has been touched on in the document Mutuae relationes, which treats the idea of the isolation and independence of the religious community in respect to the local Church and the idea of its practical absorption into the context of the local Church as equally foreign. « Just as the religious community cannot act independently of or in competition with, still less in opposition to the directives and the ministry of the local Church, in the same way the latter cannot dispose as it pleases, in accordance with its needs, of the religious community or certain of its members» (Vie fraternelle en communauté, 60).Faced with the diminution of active personnel in numerous institutions and with their ageing, an obvious fact in certain parts of the world, many ask themselves if consecrated life is still today an attractive proposition for young men and women. We well know, dear Bishops that (…) the consecrated life, such as it is, takes its origins from the Lord himself, who chose for himself this virginal, poor and obedient form of life. For this reason, the consecrated life will never fail nor disappear in the Church: it was willed by Jesus himself as an essential part of his Church. Whence the call to a general commitment to the ministry of vocations: if the consecrated life is a good for the whole Church and which concerns the whole world, then the very ministry which aims to promote vocations to the consecrated life should be a commitment felt by all: bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity. As it is said in the Conciliar decree Perfectae caritatis, « the suitable renewal of religious communities depends very largely on the training of their members » (18). The question is a fundamental affirmation of all forms of consecrated life. An Institute’s capacity for formation, in its initial phase and in all subsequent phases, is at the heart of the whole process of renewal. « In fact, if the consecrated life is in itself «a progressive appropriation of the sentiments of Christ», it seems obvious that this path can only be followed for the whole of existence, to engage the whole person (…) and make it like the Son who gives himself to his Father for humanity. Thus conceived, formation is not only a period of pedagogy in preparation for the vows, but represents a theological way of thinking about consecrated life, which constitutes in itself a formation never finished, a participation in the action of the Father who, by the Spirit, develops in the heart the sentiments of the Son » (Repartir du Christ, 15).By the means which seem most appropriate to you, venerable brothers, transmit to your communities of consecrated persons, independently of the role they perform, the lively gratitude of the Pope, who remembers each one in his prayers, especially the aged and sick, those who are living a crisis or even alone, those who are suffering and feel demoralized, and even the young men and women who come today to knock at the door of their houses and ask to be able to consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ in the radicality of the Gospel. Now, invoking the heavenly protection of Mary, perfect model of consecration to Christ, I repeat my fraternal esteem and grant you my apostolic benediction, including in it all the faithful confided to your pastoral care.

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