Pope Francis appoints delegate to oversee Communion and Liberation’s consecrated laity

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis appointed Friday a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay consecrated branch of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy, will temporarily assume the governance of the association “in order to safeguard its charism and preserve the unity of the members,” the Vatican announced Sept. 24.

In addition, the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life maintains its appointment of Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., as the pontifical assistant for canonical matters relating to Memores Domini.

Ghirlanda, a specialist in canon law, was previously appointed by the dicastery in June 2020 to guide the revision of the association’s statutes.

Fr. Luigi Giussani, Communion and Liberation’s late founder, helped to establish the Memores Domini in 1964 for lay members dedicated to “living the Gospel in the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the Memores Domini as an international association of the faithful in 1988.

Four female members of Memores Domini worked in Benedict XVI’s papal household and also moved with him to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his retirement.

Archbishop Santoro will take over governance of the association starting Sept. 25, when the current general government of the association will be dissolved.

Thirty-seven years ago, Santoro was asked by Giussani to help Communion and Liberation in Brazil as a fidei donum priest, a diocesan priest sent to carry out a temporary service.

Santoro then became responsible for Communion and Liberation in Latin America from 1988 to 1996.

Benedict XVI later appointed Santoro as the metropolitan archbishop of the southern Italian city of Taranto, Puglia, in 2011.

Since then, the 74-year-old bishop has also taken on a leadership position in the Italian bishops’ conference as president of the bishops’ social justice commission.

Italian media reported in 2015 that Santoro wrote to Pope Francis after the pope gave a speech to Communion and Liberation members in which he spoke about what it means to be faithful to one’s charism.

“Faithfulness to the charism does not mean ‘to petrify it’ -- the devil is the one who ‘petrifies,’ do not forget. Faithfulness to the charism does not mean to write it on a parchment and frame it,” Francis said.

“Fr. Giussani would never forgive you if you lost the liberty and transformed yourselves into museum guides or worshippers of ashes. Pass on the flame of the memory of that first encounter and be free,” he said.

After the speech, Santoro reportedly replied to the pope in a letter that thanked him for his words on charisms, with the comment that the “Jesuits have made more mistakes in their admirable history as missionaries and saints than us.”

Pope Francis met with representatives of lay Catholic associations, movements, and new communities last week at the Vatican, and gave a speech warning that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that could hinder their call to serve the Church.

More in Vatican

The pope underlined that governance in the Church is “nothing but a call to serve.”

He highlighted the Vatican decree issued on June 11 that set term limits for the leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities. The pope said that it was implemented because “the reality of the last few decades has shown us the need for the changes.”

“The exercise of government within associations and movements is a theme that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering ... the cases of abuse of various kinds that have also occurred in these realities and which always find their root in abuse of power,” Pope Francis.

“Not infrequently the Holy See, in recent years, has had to intervene, starting not easy processes of reorganization. And I think not only of these very bad situations, which make noise; but also to the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses the capacity of attraction.”

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.