In May 1998 the Pontifical Council for the Laity convened the World Congress of the Ecclesial Movements (the proceedings of which are being published here), with the aim of promoting a better knowledge of these organizations that in various ways are enriching the life of the Church today. On the one hand, the Congress was intended to deepen theological reflection on the specific nature of these aggregations of the faithful. On the other, it was intended to foster an exchange of experiences between the representatives of the various movements and between them and some Bishops and other participants engaged in different forms of life and of Christian witness. This was a way of responding to the invitation of John Paul II, who had asked the movements to make a gesture of “joint witness” in the year dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
During the Congress it was repeatedly emphasised that the vocation of the movements is missionary. One of the speakers said: “When the charism is tied to mission, everything else is fine”. The report of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on the other hand, showed how closely the movements are tied with the universal mission of the Church. In this sense a deeper consciousness of the one common vocation that links them all is developing among the movements: the vocation of proclaiming the Gospel to all mankind. Communion and mission in the life of the movements are so closely linked as to be identified with each other, as James Francis Card. Stafford to form one thing, just as the being of Jesus is identified with his mission as to be inseparable from the trinitarian mission of being sent by the Father.
This volume is naturally addressed in the first instance to the members of the movements. The contributions presented in these pages might also be read with interest by the Pastors of the Church who have the responsibility to accompany and guide the movements: they may find in them valuable guidance on the nature of the movements and on the place they have in the Church. The publication of the proceedings of the Congress that preceded the great meeting of the Pope with the movements is also intended to assist all those who still do not sufficiently know the movements and who—perhaps after the great rally of 30 May 1998—wish to gain a better knowledge of this phenomenon that has emerged in the life of the Church over the last few decades. John Paul II’s message to the Congress and his address in St. Peter’s Square offer the most authoritative teaching in this sense. In fact, the contributions presented to the Congress, and published below, now appear, in the light of these interventions by the Holy Father and after the Meeting of 30 May, almost as an anticipation of a reflection that needs to be further developed on the basis of these words and that event. It is hoped that the present volume may also represent a stimulus in this direction."
From the preface by Card. James Francis Stafford
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
Movements in the Church, World congress of ecclesial movements, 27-29 May 1998 (€10). Available in English and Italian only.