CHICAGO — Cardinal Francis George called on members of new ecclesial movements and communities to establish higher profiles in his Archdiocese of Chicago and the universal Church in order “to bring the world through Mary and through the Church to Christ.”
After addressing some 500 representatives of the new movements at a meeting in River Forest, Ill., Cardinal George told the Register that many bishops and pastors are open to the movements but are unfamiliar with them and concerned about their potential for dividing the Church into camps.
He said the work of converting the world to Christ has been entrusted to the laity by the Second Vatican Council and by Pope John Paul II's New Evangelization.
The new movements serve that goal by forming “genuine friendships” that lead others to Christ and his Church.
Movements and communities participating in the Chicago meeting included Charismatic Renewal, Communion and Liberation, Cursillo, Focolare, L'Arche, Marriage Encounter, Militia of the Immaculata, Neo-catechumenal Way, Regnum Christi and Schoenstatt.
Cardinal George observed that the movements are yet to be “fully received, not entirely active and visible. That's why I want you to become more visible in this local Church of Chicago.”
Asked by the Register if his fellow bishops share his positive view of the new movements and communities, Cardinal George said he senses “curiosity and openness,” but said that many bishops are wondering if the movements will divide or unite their dioceses.
“Bishops are a sacrament of unity in their dioceses and so must be a point of unity.”
Cardinal George also told the Register that he has not made a point of promoting the movements with his pastors because the groups must first grow and become more visible.
“The pastor, like the bishop, is the point of unity in his parish,” Cardinal George said, “so pastors have many of the same questions as the bishops.”
The cardinal's meeting with groups active in the archdiocese was held in response to Pope John Paul II's call for bishops to get to know and take advantage of what the new movements have to offer.
The Pope conducted a worldwide gathering of more than a quarter million leaders and members of the movements in St. Peter's Square at Pentecost 1998. At the Holy Father's urging, similar meetings have since been held in dioceses throughout the world.
He urged the movements to press ahead in the following of their unique vocations because it's “not just individuals turning away from Christ, but whole societies, whole cultures, once Christian, that reject the Gospel because it is no longer ‘good’ for them and it is no longer ‘news’ for them.”
Cardinal George outlined five areas in which he hopes the movements will help the Church: building unity among Catholics, providing Christian formation for adults, strengthening marriages and families, bringing Christ to the workplace, and ecumenism.
• Unity: For the movements to build the Church, they must reach out “to know each other well and be at each other's service.” They must refrain from any “sense of competition,” he said.
“The cardinal is 100% right,” said Larry Chapman, who is active in the Neo-catechumenal Way in Joliet, Ill. “We can't get caught up in our individual groups and miss out on the big picture,” said Chapman.
“As each movement goes deeper into its own charism, the more we find we come together,” said Tiziana Cova of Chicago, a member of Communion and Liberation.
• Adult formation: Since the 1960s, the cardinal noted, “we have a generation that is not truly catechized.” With the laity called to evangelize, he said, “ignorance of Christ and his Church paralyzes the mission.”
He said many in the Church stopped teaching Christian apologetics, believing that, following Vatican II, “We had no enemies, but that's not true.” He called for a new apologetics to engage not only those who “don't like us,” but those who “don't like Christ either.”
John DeRoche, a member of Regnum Christi, said he found the cardinal's words “inspirational,” especially for some of Regnum Christi's apostolates, including door-to-door parish missions and small faith-sharing groups that give parents an in-depth understanding of the Church's teachings.
• Marriage and family life: The cardinal described marriage and family life as experiencing “a greater crisis than what's facing the priest-hood or religious life.”
He said “the division between life and love is the sin of our age. It makes people deaf to the word of Christ, for Christ is love, and love means to give your life for others.”
“He's calling us to teach the love and wisdom of the Church,” said John Welch, a Focolare member from Indianapolis. “He doesn't mince words. He understands everything.”
• The workplace: On the call for members of lay movements to be “the leaven of Christ,” Cardinal George called on the movements to maintain their sense of mission and not to become inward-turning organizations that exist for their own preservation, as often occurs in other sectors of the Church, including diocesan chanceries.
• Ecumenism: The cardinal urged the movements not to accept a false or superficial unity with others. “We must suffer the pain of division so unity will be the unity of truth.”