.- In a letter made public today by the Vatican, Pope Benedict praised the role of Consecrated men and women in the Church saying that, "there is no human or ecclesial field where they are not present, often silently but always active and creative." The Holy Father wrote the letter to participants of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It is addressed to Archbishop Franc Rode, prefect of the congregation.
In it, the Pope reflected on how, throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has enriched the faithful, not only with gifts of wisdom, prophecy and sanctity, but by "giving her ever new forms of evangelical life through the work of founders and foundresses who transmitted their charism to a family of spiritual sons and daughters."
He called monasteries and centers of spirituality "oases of contemplation and schools of prayer, of education in faith and of spiritual guidance." The Pope wrote that above all, consecrated men and women today "continue the great work of evangelization and of bearing witness on all continents."
Expressing thanks on behalf of the entire Church, Pope Benedict noted that, "at the beginning of the new millennium, consecrated life has formidable challenges before it, challenges it can face only in communion with all the people of God, with its pastors and its faithful."
Turning to more specific details of the plenary assembly, the Holy Father then went over the themes to be discussed.
"The first", he said, "concerns the exercise of authority, a precious and necessary service to ensure a truly fraternal life. ...Only if the superior lives in obedience to Christ and in sincere observance of the rule can the members of the community clearly see that their own obedience to the superior is not only not contrary to the freedom of the children of God, but brings it to maturity in conformity to Christ Who obeyed the will of the Father."
On the proposed second theme of the assembly, namely, criteria for the discernment and approval of new forms of consecrated life, the Pope highlighted the words of the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen gentium" which, referring to charismas says: "Judgment as to their genuineness and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good."
On the assembly's third theme, monastic life, Pope Benedict wrote that, "On the basis of situations that are contingent but that nonetheless call for specific, wise and incisive action, you aim to let you gaze range over the vast horizon (of monastic life), which has had and continues to have such significance in the history of the Church. You are seeking appropriate ways to relaunch, in the new millennium, the monastic experience of which the Church still has need today."
The Holy Father concluded his message, signed in Castelgandolfo on September 27, noting that the plenary assembly coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree "Perfectae caritatis," on the renewal of religious life.
Lastly, he expressed his hope "that the fundamental indications given then by the council Fathers for the progress of consecrated life, may continue today to be a source of inspiration for those who commit their lives to the service of the Kingdom of God."