Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the members of the executive committee of the International Union of Superiors General, telling them that “when communities have chosen to return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit of the founder,” they see positive signs of renewal.
The religious superiors were gathered at the Vatican to discuss "some particularly relevant and important aspects of consecrated life."
The Holy Father launched into some of the most pressing problems for religious communities. "We are all aware how, in modern globalized society, it is becoming ever more difficult to announce and bear witness to the Gospel", he said. "The process of secularization which is advancing in contemporary culture does not, unfortunately, spare even religious communities.”
"Nonetheless", the Pontiff encouraged, "we must not be discouraged, because if (as has been said) many clouds are gathering on the horizon of religious life today, there also exist (indeed they are constantly growing) signs of a providential reawakening which gives rise to consolation and hope.
"The Holy Spirit blows powerfully throughout the Church, creating a new commitment to faithfulness, both in the historical institutes and, at the same time, in new forms of religious consecration that reflect the needs of the times. ... What characterizes these new forms of consecrated life is a shared desire ... for a radical form of evangelical poverty, for faithful love of the Church, and for generous dedication to the needy with particular attention to that spiritual poverty which so markedly characterizes the modern age," the Pope noted.
He also addressed the situation within "the orders and congregations with a long tradition in the Church," pointing to how they have suffered a "difficult crisis due to the ageing of members, a more or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and charismatic 'weariness'".
Although describing this crisis as "worrying", Benedict XVI highlighted certain positive signs, "especially when communities have chosen to return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit of the founder. In almost all recent general chapters of religious institutes the recurring theme has been precisely that of rediscovering the original charism, to then incarnate it and renew it in the present."
In parting, the Holy Father explained to the religious superiors that returning to their roots "has helped give institutes a promising new ascetic, apostolic and missionary impulse" and that "It is along this road that we must continue, praying to the Lord to bring to full fruition the work He began."