.- Pope Benedict XVI met with more than 400,000 representatives of new ecclesial movements and communities during a Saturday evening celebration of the Vigil of Pentecost in St. Peter’s Square.
Prior to the meeting’s beginning, the Pope traveled through St. Peter’s Square and down the Via della Conciliazione in an open-top popemobile, greeting and blessing the crowds as he went.
Prior to the praying of Vespers, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, gave a brief welcome and Chiara Lubich, founder of the Work of Mary (the Focolari Movement), offered a few remarks.
During Vespers the reading of the psalms was interspersed with reflections by Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, Kiko Arguello, founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, and Msgr. Julian Carron, president of the Communion and Liberation movement.
The Holy Father then gave his homily which he began by recalling Pope John Paul II, who in held the first meeting with movements and communities in 1998. "That great evangelizer of our time," Pope Benedict told the crowds, "defined your associations and communities as 'providential'."
Pentecost, said the Holy Father, "is not only the origin of the Church and, therefore, in a special way, her feast; Pentecost is also the feast of the creation. The world does not exist of itself; it comes from the creative Spirit of God. ... Those who, as Christians, believe in the Creating Spirit are aware of the fact that we cannot use and abuse the material world as a simple instrument to enact our desires."
"God approaches us through creation," said the Pope. "Nonetheless, the good creation of God, over the course of the history of mankind, has been covered with a deep layer of filth that makes it, if not impossible, at least difficult to recognize therein the reflection of the Creator."
After highlighting how "life and freedom" are "the things we all long for," Benedict XVI stressed that "life is only to be found by giving it, it is not to be found by seeking to possess it. This is what we must learn from Christ, and this is what we are taught by the Holy Spirit, Which is a pure gift, Which is God's giving of Himself."
"The ecclesial movements," he went on, "want to be, and must be, schools of freedom, of this true freedom. ... In this world, so full of false freedoms that destroy the environment and mankind, we, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, wish to learn authentic freedom together," and show people "how beautiful it is to be free in the true freedom of the children of God."
The Pope continued: "The Holy Spirit, granting life and freedom, also grants unity. These three gifts are inseparable from one another. ... Looking at this gathering here in St. Peter's Square, we realize how He always generates new gifts; we see how different the groups He creates are, and how, ever anew, He works corporeally."
In Him, "multiplicity and unity go together. He blows where He wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places and in previously unimagined forms. ... Multiformity and unity are inseparable. He wants your multiformity, and He wants you for the one body, in union with the lasting orders - the joints [of the body] - of the Church, with the successors of the Apostles and the successor of St. Peter."
The Holy Father called upon those present "to participate in the building of the one body. Pastors will ensure that the Spirit is not extinguished, and you will not cease to carry your gifts to the entire community."
The Pope also sought to encourage the "missionary drive" of the movements and communities. "Those who have found something true, beautiful and good in their own lives - the only real treasure, the precious pearl - hurry to share it with everyone: in the family, at work, in all areas of their lives."
"Dear friends," he concluded, "I ask you to collaborate even more - much more - in the Pope's universal apostolic ministry, opening the doors to Christ. This is the best service of the Church to mankind and, in a special way, to the poor, so that the life of individuals, a more just ordering of society and peaceful coexistence among nations may find in Christ the 'corner stone' upon which to build a true civilization, the civilization of love."
Following the Pope's homily, a renewal of the Sacrament of Confirmation took place with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the profession of faith.
After the singing of the Magnificat, two representatives from ecclesial movements - Luis Fernando Figari of the Christian Life Movement and Patti Gallagher Mansfield of Catholic Charismatic Renewal - expressed thanks to the Pope.