Meeting promoted by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

On Thursday, September 16, Pope Francis received in audience at the Vatican the participants of the meeting of moderators of associations of the faithful, ecclesial movements and new communities, summoned by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. The encounter’s theme was “The responsibility of governance in lay groups: an ecclesial service.”

Marianne Mertke, the General Leader of the Schoenstatt Apostolic Women’s Federation, participated as a member of the Schoenstatt Movement. The Women’s Federation is an international association of lay women within the structure of the Church. Fr. Alexandre Awi, Schoenstatt Father, who participated in the organization of the event for the Dicastery, was also present.

Marianne Mertke

The Holy Father thanked the participants for their presence, despite the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented some people from traveling due to restrictions in many countries. He also greeted and thanked those who participated online.

The true ecclesial mission
Pope Francis said that “in recent months, you have seen with your own eyes and touched with your own hands the suffering and anguish of many men and women because of the pandemic, especially in the poorest countries, where many of you are present. I thank you for your solidarity, your help and your evangelical testimony, even in the most difficult months, when the number of infections was very high. In spite of the restrictions due to the necessary preventive measures, you did not give up, on the contrary, I know that many of you multiplied your commitment, adapting yourselves to the concrete situations you had to face, with the creativity that comes from love, because he who feels loved by the Lord loves without measure.”

He added: “As members of associations of the faithful, international ecclesial movements and other communities, you have a true ecclesial mission. I am thinking especially of those who, being on the existential peripheries of our societies, experience abandonment and loneliness first-hand and suffer many material needs as well as moral and spiritual poverty. It will do us all good to remember every day not only the poverty of others, but also and above all our own.”

According to the Holy Father, associations of the faithful, ecclesial movements and new communities “are also, despite the limitations and sins of every day, a clear sign of the Church’s vitality: they are a missionary force and a prophetic presence that gives us hope for the future. A future that must be prepared here and now, learning to listen and discern the present time with honesty and courage and with the will to have a constant encounter with the Lord, a constant personal conversion. Otherwise, they run the risk of living in a parallel world, distilled, far from the real challenges of society, culture and all the people who live next to them and await their Christian testimony.”

First challenge: not to shut oneself up in an iron barrel
According to the Pope, “belonging to an association, a movement or a community, especially if they refer to a charism, should not lock us in an iron barrel, it should not make us feel safe, as if there were no need to respond to challenges and changes. All of us Christians, we are always on our way, always in conversion, always discerning in order to do God’s will.”

Speaking of the exercise of governance within associations and movements, the theme of this meeting, the Pope remarked that “the cases of abuses of various kinds that have occurred in these realities always have their roots in the abuse of power. The Holy See has often had to intervene in recent years, initiating difficult processes of rehabilitation. I am thinking not only of these very bad situations, which make a lot of noise, but also of the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses its capacity for attraction.”

Second challenge: the desire for power
The Pope then cited two obstacles that a Christian can encounter on his path and that prevent him from being a true servant of God and of others: the desire for power and disloyalty:

“Our desire for power expresses itself in many ways in the life of the Church, for example, when we feel, by virtue of the role we have, that we have to make decisions about all aspects of the life of our association, diocese, parish, congregation. We delegate to others the tasks and responsibilities of certain areas, but only in theory! In practice, delegation to others is undermined by the desire to be everywhere. This desire for power overrides all forms of subsidiarity. This attitude is ugly and ends up emptying the ecclesial body of strength. It is a bad way of ‘disciplining’.”

Third challenge: disloyalty
The other obstacle, disloyalty, “we find it when someone wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord. It’s a bit like double-crossing! We say in words that we want to serve God and others, but in fact we serve our ego and give in to our desire for appearance, to obtain recognition and appreciation. Let us not forget that true service is gratuitous and unconditional, it knows no calculation or pretense,” the Pope said.

And he continued: “We fall into the trap of disloyalty when we present ourselves to others as the sole interpreters of the charism, the sole heirs of our association or movement; or when, deeming ourselves indispensable, we do everything possible to occupy life-long positions; or also when we pretend to decide a priori who should be our successor. No one is master of the gifts received for the good of the Church; no one should suffocate them. On the contrary, each one, wherever he is placed by the Lord, is called to make them grow and bear fruit, confident that it is God who works everything in all and that our true good bears fruit in ecclesial communion.”

“We are living members of the Church and, therefore, we need to trust in the Holy Spirit, who acts in the life of every association, of every member, acts in each one of us. Hence the trust in the discernment of the charisms entrusted to the authority of the Church. Be aware of the apostolic power and prophetic gift that is given to you today in a renewed way,” Francis concluded.

Source: Schoenstatt Brasil

With information from Mariangela Jaguraba – via