A Thanksgiving Day Gift

Last week I reported on what took place in Rome while it was Thanksgiving week in America. But I left out an event that was in some ways the most moving.

On Nov. 30, John Paul II invited priests of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi members in Rome to a special audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

“I am happy to meet with all of you,” the Pope told us in his address, “in the climate of joy and gratitude to the Lord for the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder and superior general of your young and meritorious religious family.”

The Pope was close to the Legionaries during that week in many ways. First, he gave his personal and definitive approval of Regnum Christi Statutes (See below). He issued an apostolic letter motu proprio (on his own initiative) to entrust to the Legion-aries the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, an institution of the Holy See in the Holy Land.

The Holy Father addressed a personal letter to Father Maciel for the 60th anniversary of his priesthood, Nov. 26, and sent him several gifts: a papal blessing and the chalice and vestments the Pope used for Corpus Christi.

“You are Peter,” more than 7,000 people sang in Spanish as John Paul II entered from the back of the audience hall at 11:50 am.

The Pope was visibly happy. He smiled and stretched out his hands to let himself be touched by as many people as possible. The crowd waved yellow scarves to greet him.

From the center of the hall, the Pope paused for pictures with those present: 1,200 Legionary priests and seminarians, the 1,000 Regnum Christi consecrated women, the 1,000 boys and girls from Legionary schools in Rome and Caserta (Naples), and the 4,000 friends and members of the movement who came from Europe, the Americas and Oceania.

He spoke in Italian. “In this significant meeting,” he said, “I am pleased to repeat to you what I said to you at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000:? There is a need today more than ever for a confident proclamation of the Gospel which, casting aside all crippling fears, announces with intellectual depth and with courage the truth about God, about man and about the world.’”

The Bishop of Rome linked the Legion of Christ's and Regnum Christi Movement's Christ-centered spirituality to the recently inaugurated Year of the Eucharist. “Remain united around the Eucharist!” he said. “Faithful to the charism that distinguishes you, continue your evangelizing mission, nourishing yourselves on Christ and becoming his intrepid witnesses.”

After giving his blessing, the Pope greeted Father Maciel and some of the first Legionary cofounders. Bishops Jorge Bernal and Pedro Pablo Elizondo were among them.

Robert and Stephanie Donner, Regnum Christi members from Atlanta, Ga., expressed what many of us felt. “These days have been a constant outpouring of God's graces,” said Robert, and Stephanie added, “We've been spoiled by God.”

Decree Approving Regnum Christi Statutes

Here follows the text of the papal approval of the Regnum Christi Movement of apostolate. The Holy Father's approval was publicized by Archbishops Franc Rodé, and Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti, prefect and secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life:

The Regnum Christi Movement is the specific instrument of apostolate of the Legion of Christ, with which it is indivisibly united. Its purpose is to establish the Kingdom of Christ among all people by the growth in holiness of its members in whatever state and condition in life God has called them to, and through individual and organized apostolate at the service of the Church and her shepherds. With the guidance and spiritual support of the Legionaries of Christ, Movement members — in the full exercise of their freedom — join together to help each other fulfill their baptismal commitments.

Its specific charism is the same as the Legion of Christ's and consists in knowing, living and proclaiming the commandment of love that Jesus Christ the Redeemer came to bring us by his incarnation. Indeed, the work that the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement members undertake in building a civilization of Christian justice and love is well-known.

The founder of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi presented to the Apostolic See the Statutes of the Regnum Christi Movement of apostolate and requested their definitive approval. The Supreme Pontiff, with fatherly affection, has accepted this petition and by his supreme authority has approved the Statutes.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, informed by the Secretariat of State (in Prot. N. 568.021) of this approval, by this present Decree makes it public and known to all. …

The Apostolic See warmly recommends that these Statutes, faithfully followed by Regnum Christi Movement members, be a further effective means to extend the Kingdom of Christ in the world.