Summer 2002

Ecclesial Movements: A New Framework for Ancient Charisms

Antonio Maria Sicari

“There can be no ‘refoundation of the religious life’ that does not begin with a new proclamation . . . based on the anthropology revealed by the evangelical counsels.”

Within the Church we find many kinds of services, functions, ministries, and ways of stirring up Christian life. Think of the “ecclesial movements,” with their missionary thrust, whose development has been a major novelty in not a few Churches. When they enter humbly into the life of the local Churches and are cordially welcomed by bishops and priests into their dioceses and parishes, the movements are a true gift of God for the new evangelization and for missionary activity in the full sense. I recommend, then, that they be defended and utilized in order to give new vigor, especially among the young, to Christian life and to evangelization, with due respect for pluralism in their modes of association and self-expression.1

Pope John Paul II’s judgment of the “new movements in the Church,” which occurs in an encyclical (Redemptoris Missio) devoted to the Church’s missionary task, is but the most authoritative among a whole host of similar judgments, pronounced more en passant, that one
could gather from other contexts.

It is not enough, however, simply to record this judgment. It is crucial to point out that there is a theology undergirding the Pope’s conviction that the movements are “one of the most important fruits of the springtime of the Church foretold by the Second Vatican Council.”2


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1. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 72.

2. “Message to the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements,” 29 May 1998.