The Holy Spirit and Ecumenical Dialogue.

Theological and Practical Dimensions

Cardinal Walter Kasper

Let me first express my profound felt thanks and gratitude for the honour your gave to me in this celebration. What else could be the adequate theme in my lecture on this occasion then a lecture about the Holy Spirit, especially here at Dusquesne University, who’s motto is “It is the Spirit who gives life". And what else could be the point of reference then the issue of ecumenism, which corresponds to my present responsibility and which figures among the priorities of this university.

In the present situation for understandable reasons most people are more interested in the interreligious and intercultural dialogue then in ecumenical dialogue. But how the Church can stand for reconciliation and peace in the world, when not even Christians are able to come to reconciliation an communion among themselves. So both kind of dialogues, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, are inseparable and belong together. Not the last. They belong together, because it is the one Spirit, who will bring us closer together and bring about peace in the world.
In this lecture we will discuss this pneumatological approach especially with regard to the recent phenomenon of Pentecostalism. What I want to say goes back to seminars for Bishops and theologians our Pontifical Council held on this issue in the last year in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

I. Christological and pneumatological foundation of ecumenism

The relation between the Holy Spirit and the ecumenical dialogue is essential though not usual. Normally the problems of ecumenism are addressed from a christological point of view. One emphasises then, that Jesus Christ wanted and founded only one Church, that on the eve of his death he prayed “that all may be one” (Jo 17:21) and that we all confess in the Apostle’s creed the “one holy Church”. So the divisions within the Church contradict Christ’s will; they are sin and a scandal for the world.

No doubt, all these statements are correct; they are a call and a challenge for praying and working to overcome the scandal of division especially on the table of the Lord and to reach visible unity understood as full communion in faith and love, in sacramental life and in mission.

But this christological approach, as important it is and remains, reflects on the same time a weakness and a deficit in Western ecclesiology often criticised by orthodox theologians. One of the main pioneers and masters of modern ecumenical theology, Yves Congar, in his three volumes “Je crois en l’Esprit saint” (I believe in the Holy Spirit) (1) made clear, that this critic is valid only for the mainstream of post-tridentine theology, but that the Second Vatican Council made efforts to overcome these constraints and started a new departure for a balanced christological and pneumatological approach.

This is not only a theoretical and a speculative problem but has also an enormous practical impact. For a unilateral christological approach with oblivion of the pneumatological dimension leads easily to a one-sided institutional ecclesiology and to a subordination of the charisma to the institution, of the prophetic to the juridical, of mysticism to scholasticism, of joint priesthood to hierarchic priesthood.

The Second Vatican Council leant from the Biblical and patristic resourcementin the first half of the 20th century and tried to overcome such shortcomings and made its own a more pneumatological and charismatic view of the Church: it called the Spirit the source of life unity and renewal of the Church and compared the function of the Spirit with the soul in the human body (LG 7). So it initiated so a renewal of the charismatic dimension within the Church (cf. LG 2; 4; 7f; 13; 21; 49f and others) (2).

This approach had consequences for the Council’s view of the ecumenical dialogue. According the II. Vatican Council Holy Spirit and the ecumenical dialogue belong inseparably together. The Decree on ecumenism starts with th the statement, that in recent times “the Lord of Ages” “fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit” a movement for the restoration of unity among all Christians.” (UR 1). Thos statement seemed to the Council’s fathers so important that they repeated it saying: “Today, in many parts of the world, under the influence of the grace of the Holy Spirit, many efforts are being made in prayer, word and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires” (UR 4).

Thus, according the Council there cannot be any doubt, that the ecumenical movement is not the result of the spirit of liberalism or relativism but the fruit of an impetus of the Holy Spirit. The Council goes still a step further. The Holy Spirit is not only the impetus of the ecumenical movement, on its beginning, as the principle of unity (UR 2; cf. LG 7; 8; 13) he is its innermost soul and its dynamic principle. At the same time he is the presupposition of ecumenism, which makes possible the ecumenical process, because he is present also outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church “by his gifts and graces” (LG 15). “For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them (i.e. the separated Churches and communities) as means of salvation” (UR 3). Thus we are with them already now in real but not full communion. Also the way from incomplete to full communion is guided by the Holy Spirit; we as human beings cannot “make” or organise unity; unity will be a gift of the Spirit a new outpouring of the Spirit, a renewed Pentecost.


II. The Emergence of Pentecostalism

On this basis since the Second Vatican Council, fruitful dialogues and friendly relations have also been undertaken with the oriental churches, the oriental orthodox churches and the Byzantine orthodox churches as well, and with the traditional Protestant Communities, the so-called Protestant mainline Churches (3). As Pope John Paul II stated, the main fruit are not the documents, but the rediscovery of Christian brotherhood; other Christians are no longer considered as strangers or enemies but as brothers and sisters (UUS 42).

However, since the last decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the new century the ecumenical scene has been changing very rapidly. We find new ecumenical challenges emerging everywhere. The main problem is no longer the Protestant mainline Churches, but the old and new sects and especially the Pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical movements. Only four years ago a bestseller of Philip Jenkins entitled The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (4) described the vast and rapid worldwide emergence of evangelical and charismatic movements, especially in the Southern hemisphere, and the decline of the Protestant mainline Churches. Jenkins writes: “We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide.” (5)

All Bishops’ Conferences have expressed great concern regarding this phenomenon during their ad limina visits to Rome over the past 20 years. Pope John Paul II gave particular attention to this issue in many of his addresses over the years. Pope Benedict XVI is aware of the situation as well and expresses the same concerns. The aggressive proselytism and the immediate attractiveness of these groups has meant that the Catholic Church, in common with all the traditional Churches, continues to lose many faithful every year. The instruments and purposes of these movements are often by and large not as spiritual as they may seem, and indeed are sometimes far removed from Christian origin and spirit. Undoubtedly, these groups represent an urgent pastoral problem and an ecumenical challenge.

Already the Ecumenical Directory (ED) of 1993 offered a differentiated analysis of the new landscape and the very diversified new situation. First it referred to an interim report of an interdicasterial study of 1986, “which draws attention to the vital distinction that must be made between sects and new religious movements on the one hand and Churches and Ecclesial Communities on the other” (ED 35). This means that even when these groups call themselves Protestant they are not to be identified with the mainline Protestant Ecclesial Communities. After this important distinction the Directory continues: “The situation in regard to sects and new religious movements is highly complex and differs from one cultural context to another. In some countries sects are growing in a cultural climate that is basically religious. In other places they are flourishing in societies that are increasingly secularised but at the same time credulous and superstitious. Some sects are non-Christian in origin and in self-understanding; others are eclectic; others again identify themselves as Christian and may have broken away from Christian Communities or else have links with Christianity” (ED 36).
Because of this differentiated background and character we must be prudent and cautious with the term sect. The use of the term ‘sect’ generally has a negative and derogatory connotation. However, It should be borne in mind that the term sect cannot be defined only in a quantitative way and applied to all small groups; sect has a qualitative meaning and implies normally an exclusive self-understanding connected with fanatic, fundamentalist, and aggressive behaviour, which makes dialogue normally impossible. Proselytism and proselytistic methods are part of the main characteristics of sects and a pastoral challenge with regard to Pentecostalism. (6)

Before we go to the theological and pastoral Problems let’s first briefly reflect on the emergence and the history of this new movement. Within the Reformation tradition the appearance of ‘revivalist’ and ‘pietistic’ movements with an accent on ‘freedom of the Spirit’ (Free Churches) goes back till the beginning of the Reformation. In particular we have the Methodists (Wesleyans), Quakers, Mennonites, Baptists, etc. Partly they were a reaction to the development of Protestant Churches, which became quickly institutionalised, established and overly doctrinal. What matters for these groups is not orthodoxy but religious experience, personal piety and sanctification. We have regular contacts and official dialogues with some of these communities.

In the 20th century we are confronted with a new Christian revival; new movements have arisen such as the Pentecostals and other charismatic groups. The Pentecostal movement emerged with an experience of ‘baptism in the Spirit’ in the context the Wesleyan Holiness movement linked with glossolalia around 1900. It exploded in 1906-1909 in Azusa Street in Los Angeles, which is seen as the birth place of the global Pentecostal movement (7). Very early it spread out to many cities in the US, many European countries, to India, China, West and South Africa, Latin America, especially Brazil and Chile. However, more recent research has made clear that not the whole movement can be derived from the US. In many Third World countries similar experiences independently occurred, so that the Pentecostal movement from its very beginning is a transcultural and a diversified phenomenon.

Pentecostals represent a new kind of being Christian, which differs notably not only from the Catholic but also from the traditional Protestant type. After the Christianity of the first millennium (Catholics and Orthodox) and the Ecclesial Communities tracing their origin to the Reformation of the 16th century (mainline Protestantism), they represent a third type of Christian communities and are referred to as the third force of Christianity. The Pentecostal movement understands itself as a revival of the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 and lost in the later history of Christianity (8).

Today worldwide Pentecostals (including Catholic charismatic renewal) number about 600 million Christians, and they are still growing very fast. By virtue of such numbers alone, these communities should not be called sects. On the other hand, they also cannot be called churches in the sociological sense of the term, because each assembly is independent and there is no representative body which can speak for the entire Pentecostal movement. Thus we should speak simply of “Pentecostals” or “Charismatic communities.”

There are different groups within the Pentecostal movement, with the largest being the Assemblies of God Church (about 51 million), followed by the Church of God in Christ, the United Pentecostal Church, the Foursquare Church, the Oneness Church, etc. For all of them the experience of personal Pentecost, i.e., the baptism in the Spirit, is constitutive; spontaneous prayer, personal witness, holistic emotional and bodily expression, healing, prophecy, glossolalia and especially a strong participatory lay involvement are characteristic. There was no formal education at the beginning, with the emphasis placed on the emotional and exalted forms of communication. In the third generation we find not only established institutional forms, but also Bible colleges and other educational institutions and a more conceptual expression of faith. With some of these classical Pentecostals a fruitful ecumenical dialogue has become possible (9) whereas others have remained rather suspicious and even hostile to the ecumenical movement, which they accuse of being a merely human effort to organise institutional unity.

From the late 1950s onwards a second wave of the Spirit, the charismatic movement, starting in North America, began to flourish in the Protestant mainline Churches (10). Following the experiences at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) in 1966 and at Notre Dame University (South Bend) in 1973, the charismatic movement found its way into the Catholic Church.

Through the charismatic movement, through which the Pentecostal movement found its way into the Catholic Church. In contrast to the free Pentecostal movements outside Catholicism, the Catholic charismatic movement remains within the sacramental and institutional structure of the Church; it therefore has the possibility to instil an invigorating effect into the Church. Worthy of particular mention in this context are the spiritual movements, which are characteristic of post-Conciliar Catholicism and constitute a hope for the universal Church (11).

By the 1990s a third wave of neo-charismatic or non–denominational Pentecostals emerged. Unlike classical Pentecostals, who formed distinct Pentecostal congregations or denominations, this neo-Pentecostalism with independent congregations diverged from strict Pentecostal doctrine and tended to diminish the emphasis on baptism in the spirit. They are inclined to a more eclectic and syncretistic type of Pentecostalism, sometimes adopting or imitating also specific Catholic forms of piety and worship, and thus becoming increasingly less identifiable and difficult to survey. In many neo-Pentecostal congregations the spiritual experience has turned into a worldly one, i.e., into the promise of worldly happiness and success, and has sometimes become a business, which in time disappoints many of its members. A clearly recognisable theology is only developing, and therefore a theological dialogue in the strict sense up to this moment on some places, where it seems possible, is only in its first beginnings.

III. Socio-cultural and Theological Background of Pentecostalism

How has this enormous and unprecedented growth and spread of Pentecostalism been possible? A first hint for an answer may be the fact that the Pentecostal movement flourished firstly among the poor and uneducated, often among the poorest of the poor and in multiracial, mostly black milieus. It found a fertile soil in the enormous social and economic changes which have taken place practically in all parts of the world, particularly in the Southern hemisphere, with urbanisation and the emergence of huge urban conglomerations with large depressed areas, with industrialisation, migration, extreme poverty, AIDS, etc.

These developments have created a cultural, ethical and spiritual void, where traditional religious values, behaviours, customs and structures break down. The uprooted individual in such situations feels powerless and helpless, and finds in the Pentecostal congregations a sphere of freedom, new orientation, participation, support and consolation, thus becoming easily susceptible to emotional religious expressions as a form of compensation, substitution, surrogacy and escapism. The Pentecostal congregations correspond exactly to these needs; they give uprooted individuals inner support and a new feeling of belonging. Furthermore, due to the fact that in the meantime more or less all social sectors have been affected by the social, economic and cultural changes, also many educated middle class people are attracted to the Pentecostal and charismatic groups and congregations.

In such a sociological situation of breakdown of traditional structures religious individualism and the possibility and even necessity of the immediate individual experience of the Holy Spirit becomes understandable. This brings us to the theological background of Pentecostalism. Immediate experience of the Spirit is the characteristic mark of all groups and of all charismatic movements. Therefore, the fundamental theological problem that the Pentecostal movement raises is the need for a renewed but serious theology of the Holy Spirit, especially of the gifts (charismas) of the Spirit, of spiritual experience and of discernment of the spirits. The rules for the discernment of the Spirit, founded already in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor 12:3.10.28; 1 Thess 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1-3) and further developed in the spiritual tradition (especially by St Ignatius of Loyola) become important and acute.

There are especially two aspects which are crucial for a Catholic Pneumatology. Firstly, there is the understanding of the Sprit as the Spirit of Christ, therefore maintaining the internal link between Christology and Pneumatology. This means that the gifts of the Spirit have to be tested according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of St Paul, who affirms that it is not glossolalia and miracles but love which is the highest gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 13). According to St Paul the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). The second aspect to highlight is the not only individualistic but essentially communal and ecclesial dimension of the Spirit and of the gifts of the Spirit. “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).

In this sense the renewal of the charismatic dimension within the Catholic Church was initiated by the Second Vatican Council. Both he and Pope John Paul II saw the charismatic movement as an opportunity for the Church and for the world (12). In his speech on the vigil of Pentecost on May 30, 1998 to the participants at the meeting with ecclesial movements and new communities Pope John Paul II stated: “The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution” (13) . In 2000 the John Paul II spoke of a “springtime of the Spirit” and repeated the warning of the Apostle: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything and hold fast what is good” (1 Thess 5:19-21) (14).

This means that in contrast to the Pentecostal movement outside the Catholic Church, the Catholic charismatic movement remains inside the sacramental and institutional structures of the Church. In this way, the charismatic movement offers the possibility of holding people not only in a local community but in the universal community of a worldwide Church; and at the same time it has a dynamic and stimulating effect on the Church as a whole. In some parishes and congregations one may even speak of a certain ‘pentecostalisation’ of the Catholic Church, manifested in the way the liturgy is celebrated with the maximum participation of all the faithful and the inclusion of emotional elements, especially popular songs, healing ceremonies, etc.

After this brief overview on the background to the Pentecostal and charismatic movements we can state that these developments represent a new stage in the ecumenical movement which cannot be overlooked. It presents an enormous challenge, but it cannot be seen only in a negative and critical perspective; despite all its ambiguities it must be seen not only as a pastoral challenge but as a pastoral opportunity as well. These movements are part of a religious renewal which is more or less going on the whole globe is going on. This situation is profoundly ambiguous; while undoubtedly it has negative and dangerous aspects, it offers also promising new pastoral opportunities. It is a kairós and it depends on us, and on what we, with the help of God’s Spirit, make of it. Thus, in the third part of our reflections we have to ask ourselves how we can respond to this new situation.

IV. Pastoral Perspectives

1. Self-critical Dialogue of Love and of Life

It is obvious that what follows cannot be a pastoral prescription. I can only remind you of some basic pastoral principles, which must be adapted in a practical way by the local bishop and priest. As a general guide, the main pastoral response to the new ecumenical situation cannot be different from the general recommendation and rule for the ecumenical commitment. The answer the Second Vatican Councils gives us, is: dialogue. This means that our response cannot be in the form of a polemical approach. Limiting ourselves to condemning the activities of Pentecostal groups as proselytism or referring to them as sects is not constructive and could even be counter-productive. Our answer remains: dialogue.

At first glance this answer may appear naïve. Though dialogue with some classical Pentecostals has borne good fruits and should go on, theological dialogue with neo-Pentecostals at the present stage in some places, where it seems possible, is only in its still modest beginnings. But dialogue is not at all limited to theological dialogue in the strict sense. We have to distinguish between the dialogue of love and the dialogue of truth. Both are internally linked with each other. Love without truth is dishonest; truth without love can be cold and repelling. But both forms of dialogue can and should happen on different levels, and both presuppose the dialogue of life, or more exactly: the dialogue of daily life. For this form of dialogue of daily life exist many possibilities; it is more or less a question of imagination, of good will and of sensibility to discover and to implement them.

Catholics and Pentecostals live and work together in many ways on a daily basis, as neighbours and colleagues; they meet when they are shopping, jogging, as partners in sport and holiday activities and so on. There can be joyful and happy or bad and sad events in the family or community, where they can and should express solidarity. There are opportunities where pastors meet or can meet, express congratulations or condolences, and extend birthday, Christmas and Easter greetings. For a dialogue understood as exchange – not only of ideas but of gifts, perhaps in the beginning of small gestures – is possible in many ways. Perhaps at first the partner does not respond, but that is no reason not to try a second time.

A second distinction is also important. There is not only an ecumenism ad extra but also an ecumenism ad intra. When there are problems with the Pentecostals, at least some reasons may be also on our side. Our first reaction must be a critical examination of our pastoral conscience. In a self-critical way we should ask ourselves: Why do some Catholics leave our Church and become victims of non-Catholic groups and congregations? We should not limit ourselves to asking: What is wrong with the so-called sects? We should also ask ourselves: What might be wrong with us? What do people feel is lacking in our Church and what do they expect to find in these other movements and groups? Why do these Catholics change their religious affiliation? Could we learn something from the pastoral methodologies applied? What do we need to avoid? Where and how can we improve our pastoral methods?

The reasons why Catholics leave our community can be manifold. Speaking to the Bishops of Ghana during their ad limina visit in 1993, Pope John Paul II made a remark which merits further reflection; he explained that “the attraction of these movements sometimes lies in their apparent success in responding to the spiritual needs of the people – the hunger of their hearts for something deeper, for healing, consolation and contact with the transcendent” (15). Our main question should therefore be whether we provide this spiritual help and support that people should expect from us, and whether we give them enough spiritual food to satisfy their hunger and thirst for God. Is the form in which we celebrate our liturgy attractive and appealing? Do our sermons answer their deeper existential questions? Our response to spiritual revivalism, as ambiguous it may be in many cases, can only be our own spiritual renewal.

2. Emphasis on Spiritual Ecumenism
The last remarks about how to respond to the new situation bring us back to what we already affirmed as the very heart and core of ecumenism: spiritual ecumenism (UR 8; UUS 15-16; 21-2). Motivated by the last Plenary of our Council we will puiblish in the next weeks a so called Vade mecum of spiritual ecumenism. This fundamental concern matters in a particular way in this context since the heart of the matter with the Pentecostals is in the ultimate analysis a spiritual problem and a spiritual task. Without spirituality all our other activities – as good, necessary and useful as they may be – become a soulless machine.

I well appreciate that spirituality is an ambiguous and often misused term (16). Today there is the danger of a purely subjectivist spirituality of emotions without content, which becomes arbitrary, relativistic, syncretistic and in the end empty and void. Spirituality as it is understood in our sense does not disregard the objective message of the Gospel, but makes it one’s own and like Mary treasures it and ponders it in one’s own heart (Lk 2:19.51) and realises it with one’s whole heart and one’s whole life. Spirituality, which is in essence the contemplative and Marian dimension of Christian life, is not without the discernment of the spirits, for which the person and the message of Jesus Christ is the main criterion (cf. 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Jn 4:1-3).

Reading, studying and meditating on the Bible is fundamental for Christian spirituality. The Second Vatican Council recommended especially the renewal of the Lectio divina, i.e., the prayerful reading of Scripture (DV 25); it is the best basis for the ecumenical formation of the faithful and of the clergy. Ultimately, the objective of ecumenism is to join the priestly prayer of our Lord for the unity of his followers: “Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me” (Jn 17,20-21).

3. Priority of Evangelization and Catechesis
The sacraments are sacraments of faith, but faith comes from hearing the message (Rom 10:17). This is why the Popes after the Second Vatican Council again and again emphasised the priority of evangelisation and proclamation of the Gospel. Paul VI called this the very identity of the Church (17).

Indeed, one reason why so many of our faithful leave the Church and join Pentecostal or other charismatic groups is simply a question of ignorance about the Catholic faith and of ingenuousness towards sectarian propaganda. Most of the people affected tend to be Catholics living in rural areas or the urban poor whose faith roots are not deep. Our response to this challenge must be new catechetical efforts in order to deepen the understanding of faith in such a way as to enable Catholics to respond to this propaganda and to the accusations against the Church. Better faith formation of the faithful is needed, particularly of less educated and rural Catholics (18). If there is one thing that our faithful can learn from the Pentecostals, then it is to speak about their faith and to give personal witness to it.

In order to meet the challenge of proselytism it is necessary first of all to have a pastoral plan and a programme that helps the Catholic faithful to deepen their faith so that they can appreciate and value their own condition as Catholics, so that they really understand and love their Church. I refer here to the task of evangelisation in general and especially to an on-going catechesis at all levels, but more particularly for the youth in primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education, where aggressive student groups, such as the Campus Crusade, tend to be very active. Pastoral programmes for this purpose need to include an ecumenical dimension that helps to form the faithful with an open Catholic identity that welcomes other Christians rather than rejects them or speaks negatively about them. The faithful need to be formed in such a way that their identity enables them to meet other Christians in a mature manner, deeply convinced and proud to be Catholic.

The task of catechesis implies the preparation of well–formed catechists who can train others in faith formation. The Ecumenical Directory underlines the importance of such formation and offers detailed suggestions (ED Chapter 3). It outlines the means of formation, the settings or places of formation (the parish, schools, groups, associations, ecclesial movements, etc.) Similarly, the same Directory underlines the importance of doctrinal formation for those engaged in pastoral work, drawing attention at the same time to formation in institutions of higher learning. In this connection, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has also published a document that offers concrete useful direction for the formation of those in theological studies, in order to prepare them for future pastoral activity at various levels (19).

4. To feel at home within the Church
In the same way as the gift of the Spirit is not only an individual one but has always an ecclesial character, so also faith has this dual dimension. This cannot be only an abstract affirmation. People want and must feel at home in the Church. They cannot be only the object of pastoral care; they increasingly want to be subjects; they want a Church understood as communion, where they can actively participate. “Ecclesial communion implies that each local Church should become a ‘participatory Church’, a Church, that is, in which all live their proper vocation and perform their proper role” (EA 25). This normally is possible through parish life. “The ecclesial community, while always having a universal dimension, finds its most immediate and visible expression in the parish. It is there that the Church is seen locally. In a certain sense it is the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” (20)

Unfortunately parishes in some parts of the Third World are often so large that our faithful do not feel at home, and may even feel abandoned and neglected, whereas they feel at home, accepted, approved of and welcomed in the small communities of the sects. The answer may then be to build up a family climate in our parishes through small communities, prayer groups, groups for young people, etc., and to train lay people to lead such groups.

In this perspective, the post-synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia stated: “In every Diocese, the parish remains the ordinary place where the faithful gather to grow in faith, to live the mystery of ecclesial communion and to take part in the Church's mission. Therefore, the Synod Fathers urged Pastors to devise new and effective ways of shepherding the faithful, so that everyone, especially the poor, will feel truly a part of the parish and of God's People as a whole. Pastoral planning with the lay faithful should be a normal feature of all parishes. The Synod singled out young people in particular as those for whom the parish should provide greater opportunity for fellowship and communion ... by means of organized youth apostolates and youth clubs. No one should be excluded a priori from sharing fully in the life and mission of the parish because of their social, economic, political, cultural or educational background. Just as each follower of Christ has a gift to offer the community, so the community should show a willingness to receive and benefit from the gift of each one” (EA 25).

“The presence of these small communities does not do away with the established institutions and structures, which remain necessary for the Church to fulfil her mission.” The same is true for “the role of renewal movements in building communion, in providing opportunities for a more intimate experience of God through faith and the sacraments, and in fostering conversion of life. It is the responsibility of Pastors to guide, accompany and encourage these groups so that they may be well integrated into the life and mission of the parish and Diocese. Those involved in associations and movements should offer their support to the local Church and not present themselves as alternatives to Diocesan structures and parish life. Communion grows stronger when the local leaders of these movements work together with the Pastors in a spirit of charity for the good of all (cf. 1 Cor 1:13)” (EA 25).

To build up such family-like parish life with small communities, groups, movements etc. where people feel at home, can be also the answer to the often heard argument that people leave the Church because they find themselves at home in the small communities of the sects. Often there may also be a materialist aspect, the promise of material help, with people being bought or purchased, and naturally in time being betrayed and disappointed. Indeed, often these groups dispose of funding that comes sometimes from abroad, which we simply do not have. However, let us leave aside in any case that we do not want to buy the faithful. Let us focus on the fact that it may not be simply a question of money, but perhaps also a lack of sensitivity and attention to basic social needs, a question of social and charitable care. Often Pentecostals find access to our people when there is a tragedy, an accident, a case of extraordinary need and so on. The question is then: Why are they aware and why are they there and we are not? That’s not primarily a question of money but of attention and sensitivity.


Ecumenism is one of the essential building blocks of the Church of the future, of a Church which among the conflicting cultures and nations is a sign and instrument of reconciliation, peace and unity. To be the sacrament of dialogue between God and man and between human beings as well does not only pertain to the nature and the mission of the Church in the future, but it is also the reality of the current new phase of the ecumenical pilgrimage in the encounter with the new Christian communities, which understand themselves as the outpouring of the Spirit.

Pope John Paul II was clear-sighted enough to see not only the negative aspect of the problem. In his encyclical on the missionary mandate of the Church Redemptor hominis (1990) he saw the new situation and its challenges in the context of an ongoing ‘religious revival’. He wrote: “Our times are both momentous and fascinating. While on the one hand people seem to be pursuing material prosperity and to be sinking ever deeper into consumerism and materialism, on the other hand we are witnessing a desperate search for meaning, the need for an inner life, and a desire to learn new forms and methods of meditation and prayer. Not only in cultures with strong religious elements, but also in secularised societies, the spiritual dimension of life is being sought after as an antidote to dehumanisation.” He added: “This phenomenon - the so-called ‘religious revival’- is not without ambiguity, but it also represents an opportunity.” (RH 38)

Thus, in our situation the Church faces many challenges but she experiences also a kairós. She has the opportunity to realise more fully and more deeply her own very nature as dwelling, building and temple of the Holy Spirit, where people, women and men, young and elderly people can feel at home and find space for true and fulfilled human life. Let me conclude with the wish, that in this sense a university as yours may be a school not only of knowledge but of human life.


  1. Y. Congar Je crois en l’esprit saint, Paris 1979-1980. Cf also W. Kasper, That they may be one. The call to unity today, London 2004, 96-121.
  2. Cf. Y. CONGAR, ibd. particularly vol. 2, 187-26; W. KASPER, Jesus the Christ, London-New York 1976, 230-274.
  3. The international ecumenical dialogues are collected in Growth in Agreement: Reports and Agreed Statements of Ecumenical Conversations on a World Level, Vol. I-II, Geneva 1984/1992.
  4. P. JENKINS, The Next Christendom. The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford–New York 2002.
  5. Ibid. Cf. Sects and New Religious Movements - An Anthology of Texts from the Catholic Church 1986-1994, edited by the Working Group on New Religious Movements, Vatican City. English Edition by the United States Catholic Conference, Washington DC 1995.
  6. Different studies have been undertaken on the issue of proselytism; e.g., the study document of the Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches “The Challenge of Proselytism and the Call to Common Witness” in Information Service N.91 (1996/I-II) 77-83; and the joint study of the Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue “Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness. The Report from the Fourth Phase of the International Dialogue 1990–1997 between the Roman Catholic Church and Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders” in Growth in Agreement, op.cit., 753–779 and also in Information Service N.97 (1998/I–II) 38–56.
  7. Cf. M. ROBECK, Azusa Street. Mission and Revival. The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement, Nashville, Tennessee 2006.
  8. For a first overview cf. P. HOCKEN, “Pentecostals” in Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, op.cit., 900-902. Important texts: H. COX, Fire from Heaven, The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century, London 1996; W. J. HOLLENWEGER, Pentecostalism, Peabody MA 1997; C. M. ROBECK, A Collection of Pentecostal Writings on Ecumenical Issues, Pasadena CA 2000.
  9. CATHOLIC–PENTECOSTAL DIALOGUE: Final Report 1972-1976, in Growth in Agreement II, 713-720; Final Report 1977-1982, in Growth in Agreement II, 721-734; Perspectives on Koinonia (1985-89), in Growth in Agreement II, 735-752; Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness (1990-97), in Growth in Agreement II, 753-779.
  10. P. HOCKEN, “Charismatic movement” in Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, op.cit., 164-167; K. MCDONNELL, The Holy Spirit and Power, New York 1975; K. MCDONNELL, Presence, Power, Praise, 3 vol., Collegeville MN 1980.
  11. M. Camisaca-M. Vitali, I Movimenti nella Chiesa, Milano 1981; P. J. Cordes, Mitten in unserer Welt, Freiburg i. Br. 1987; Den Geist nicht auslöschen, Freiburg i. Br. 1990; Enzyklika, „Christifideles laici“ (1988).
  12. Paul VI in his speech of May 1, 1975 to the Third International Congress of Catholic charismatic renewal and John Paul II in his speech of May 7, 1981 to the Fourth International Leaders’ Conference of the charismatic renewal. Cf. Encyclical Dominum et vivificantem (1986), 26 and “Redemptoris misso”, 72.
  13. Cf. J. RATZINGER, Nuove irruzioni dello Spirito. I movimenti nella Chiesa, Milano 2006.
  14. Cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 46.
  15. Address to the Bishops of Ghana on their ad limina visit, 23 February 1993.
  16. For clarification cf. W. KASPER, “Spiritual Ecumenism”, in That They May All Be One. The Call to Unity, op.cit., 155-172.
  17. PAUL VI, Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1975) 14; cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Redemptor hominis (1990).
  18. About the importance of catechetical instruction cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae (1979). Of particular importance is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) and the Compendium of the Catechism (2005).
  19. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY, Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of those Engaged in Pastoral Work, Vatican City 1998.
  20. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles laici, 26.