From 20 to 22 November 2014, the Third World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities will be held in Rome at the International Pontifical College Maria Mater Ecclesiae. The theme of the congress will be “The joy of the Gospel: a missionary joy…” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 21). The participants invited by the Pontifical Council for the Laity will be delegates of large international associations, including those with official recognition and those in ongoing dialogue with the Dicastery.
The previous editions of the World Congresses, respectively in 1998 and 2006, were held in conjunction with meetings of the ecclesial movements and new communities with the Pope -- John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2006. The themes of those gatherings were focussed on central issues like the identity and mission of associations of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world.
On the occasion of the Year of Faith, at Pentecost 2013 Pope Francis addressed the ecclesial movements and new communities at the Regina Coeli prayer. His words resounded: “You are a gift and a treasure in the Church! This is what you are […] Always convey the power of the Gospel! Do not be afraid! Always feel love and enthusiasm for communion in the Church!”.
Subsequent to that gathering at Pentecost 2013, the Holy Father issued an important document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. This document can certainly serve as a vademecum for ecclesial movements and new communities. It emphasizes the need for a new phase of evangelization that is characterized by joy, “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (cf. n. 9). Pope Francis regards this to be a priority for the journey of the Church today.
Starting from these ideas, the Dicastery thought it would be opportune to organize a moment of dialogue and common reflection to better understand the words of the Holy Father and to read them again in the light of experiences and challenges that ecclesial movements and new communities face every day. For many associations, born as a fruit of the Second Vatican Council (of which we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary), these are times in which they are approaching ecclesial maturity.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity hopes that the November Congress will encourage the joyous adherence of ecclesial movements and new communities to answering the pressing invitation of the pope to enter into a “dynamism of missionary outreach”.
The organization of the gathering has already gone through various stages. First of all, on 27 June 2013, many international associations met on the premises of the Dicastery to start a common reflection on the theme “A new pope, a new beginning”. The Pontifical Council for the Laity wanted to consult ecclesial movements and new communities regarding the main topics to be chosen, and the organization and the logistics to be dealt with during the World Congress. Enthusiasm and readiness could be seen in their replies.
Meanwhile the registration phase has started. Delegates to the Congress will arrive from all over the world. They belong to more than eighty ecclesial movements and new communities. Among the participants are registered fifty five founders or international moderators of various associations. Also some bishops coming from dioceses and the Holy See offices will take part in the gathering, a true sign of ecclesial communion.
The senior staff of the Pontifical Council for the Laity decided to dedicate the yearly meeting with ecclesial movements and new communities to the preparation of the November 2014 event. This took place on 27 June 2014. It opened a debate among the more than fifty participants regarding the program and methodology of the upcoming World Congress.
The title of the yearly meeting was: “Together towards the Third World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities”
After a moment of prayer, recited together, Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who presided the meeting, greeted the delegates on behalf of the Dicastery’s President, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, and thanked the participants for being numerous and always ready to collaborate.
In his address, Bishop Clemens referred to the two previous editions of the World Congress, 1998 and 2006, and stressed as a guideline for the preparation of the present upcoming event the invitation of Pope Francis to build a Church that goes forth and reaches out. The part played by ecclesial movements and new communities is important because “basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sections. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed”. (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 29). For this reason, he continued, our November Congress is intended to be a clear and significant contribution to the missionary impulse of the whole Church.
Then, Monsignor Antonio Grappone, Head of Office at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, presented the program of the congress and explained the choice of topics to be treated. They all go back to the original need for conversion and renewal on the part of all Christians and of the Church. Everyone is called personally. In Evangelii Gaudium number 130, the Pope speaks specifically about all those gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to the heart of the Church in our times, “a new era of group endeavours” (cf. Christifideles Laici, n. 29).
A new prayer has been composed for the November Congress by the Dicastery. It was recited together during the meeting. Then the debate opened and the staff of the Pontifical Council for the Laity listened carefully to the many varied contributions made by those present. It was clear that there is a deep awareness on the part of associations regarding their role in this program of conversion and reform. It is hoped that the November Congress will be a catalyst for each charism to mature in communion with the Church and others, and for their commitment to work for this project advocated by Pope Francis.
At the conclusion, Bishop Clemens stressed that the character of the meeting will be that of mutual listening, sharing and dialogue. The gathering will not be a special academic meeting where speakers demonstrate their knowledge to an audience, but rather a meeting where the reflections and experiences of the participants will be the core of the event. There will be many opportunities provided for this. The final greetings and reciprocal thanks showed the readiness of the ecclesial movements and new communities to answer the call of Pope Francis.
The last phase of preparation for November 2014 is currently underway.