Charisms help the Church answer life's challenges – Vatican doctrine chief

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Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at the presentation of Iuvenescit Ecclesia, June 14, 2016. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The new letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was issued to help the Church in her mission of providing answers in the face of difficulties, the congregation's head said on Tuesday.“The Church must give answers to the big challenges of the world of today … We have so much isolation in the youth, broken families, and so it is good to have these new movements,” Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, told EWTN News Nightly June 14.

He was speaking following the  presentation of Iuvenescit Ecclesia, a letter from the congregation on the relationship between the hierarchal and charismatic gifts in the life and mission of the Church.

The document is meant to show the theological and ecclesiological elements that will help groups of the faithful, ecclesial movements, and new communities to participate fruitfully in the Church's mission and communion.

Cardinal Müller cited new forms of communication, social networks, globalization, “the question of peace and freedom,” and a “terrorism that says 'we are sent by God'” as challenges to which “we must give answers.”

The new movements, and their charisms, are good ways of responding to such challenges, he said. Parishes, religious orders, bishops, and priests should all “go together” with these new movements to meet the challenges of today.

Reflecting on the document's title, which means “The Church rejuvenates”, Cardinal Müller said the Church “is always young because we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therefore death cannot overcome us.” He added that the grace of the sacraments is necessary “for the renewal of our lives.”

Iuvenescit Ecclesia notes that the Holy Spirit builds up and renews the Church through both hierarchical and charismatic gifts, and focuses on the new realities which “fill the heart of the Church with joy and gratitude and are called to relate positively with all of the other gifts present in ecclesial life.”

It notes that in the New Testament, there is no “opposition between the diverse charisms … The antithesis between an institutional Church of the Judeo-Christian type and a charismatic Church of the Pauline type, affirmed by certain reductive ecclesial interpretations, in reality lacks a foundation in the texts of the New Testament.”

The letter stresses that the hierarchical gifts – Holy Orders, especially that of the episcopacy – and the charismatic gifts – given “so that sacramental grace may be fruitful in Christian life in different ways and at every level” – are both essential for the Church.

The bond between the two kinds of gifts has “its deepest roots … in the relationship between the divine incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit.”

“The hierarchical and charismatic gifts, therefore, appear united in reference to the intrinsic relationship between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit,” Iuvenescit Ecclesia notes.

The document notes that while many charisms need no regulation, when “a gift presents itself as a 'founding' or 'originating charism', this requires a specific recognition” which is the task of ecclesial authorities.

This recognition is a process of discernment, which has eight criteria which the document listed – the first of which is the primacy of the vocation of every Christian to holiness.

The relationship between the hierarchical and charismatic gifts must be one of mutual reciprocity, the letter says. This requires that “diverse groups recognize the authority of the pastors in the Church” and that pastors “cordially receive that which the Spirit inspires within the ecclesial communion, being mindful thereof in pastoral activities and esteeming their contribution as an authentic resource for the good of all.”

The CDF's letter took the opportunity to note that “the Church of Christ, as we profess in the Apostolic creed, 'is the universal Church, that is, the worldwide community of the disciples of the Lord, which is present and active amid the particular characteristics and the diversity of persons, groups, times and places'. The particular dimension is, therefore, intrinsic to the universal and vice-versa; there exists a 'mutual interiority' between the particular Churches and the Universal Church.”

It concludes by noting that there must be on the one hand a “respect for the particularity of individual charismatic groups” such that “one avoids the danger that the various charisms might be considered as undistinguished resources within the Church”.

Secondly, there should be a “respect for the fundamental ecclesial regimen, this way favoring the effective insertion of the charismatic gifts into the life of both the particular and universal Church.”

“Thus, any danger that the charismatic entities might be considered in some way as running parallel to the ecclesial life or not ordered in relation to the hierarchical gifts is avoided.”

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