1 January 1977
Cardinal Raúl Silva Henriquez of Santiago, Chile and Bishop Bernardo Cazzaro of Aysén, Chile recently issued pastoral letters encouraging the growth of the Charismatic Renewal in their respective dioceses. This is the first time that members of the hierarchy in Chile have officially commented on the Charismatic Renewal in their country since it was introduced there in 1972.
In the preface of his letter, Cardinal Silva said that the Pope Paul VI gave his approval and encouragement to the Charismatic Renewal during the 1975 International Conference on the Charismatic Renewal in Rome “so that this spiritual current might contribute to the Renewal of the Church”. For this reason, Cardinal Silva urged that “the directives of the Holy Father should be noted and constantly re-examined and urgently applied both by those who belong to this spiritual current and by those who have the responsibility of guiding it according to the feelings of the Church”.
Cardinal Silva noted that the Charismatic Renewal has been progressively growing in the Archdiocese of Santiago. At the present time, there are more than 60 prayer groups in the city.
In the first part of his letter, Cardinal Silva made several doctrinal clarifications on the Charismatic Renewal. In the second part, he praised the Charismatic Renewal because in it many people were finding a renewed spiritual life, especially in the areas of prayer, scripture and community. In the third part of his letter, Cardinal Silva cautioned members of the movement against possible risks and deviations. Cardinal Silva ended his letter with two pastoral recommendations. First of all, he asked all parish pastors and all assistant pastors “to work with their bishops in the mission of strengthening the ties of the Church with renewal groups that meet in their pastoral territory”.
“We recommend to priests in general to duly inform themselves on this spiritual current and to take an interest in it”, the Cardinal wrote. “The particular charism of the priest can help in an appropriate way in the task of discerning the spirits and of guiding the life of the renewal to the service of the total mission of the Church”.
His second recommendation, aimed at people active in the Charismatic Renewal, expressed his desire that ”the brothers and sisters who participate in the Charismatic Renewal recognize and experience the importance of the community’s celebration of their faith in the Eucharist”. Cardinal Silva encouraged his people “to give preference to the proper biblical texts of the liturgical season in order to better experience the Paschal Mystery of Christ in union with all the Church”.
According to bishop Cazzaro, who is the apostolic vicar of an area of Chile noted for its beauty, expanse and isolation, “the Charismatic Renewal has been growing both in number and in quality” in his diocese. In order to learn more about the Charismatic Renewal, Bishop Cazzaro attended a charismatic retreat that was held in his diocese and listened to the testimony of many people whose lives had been transformed by the Charismatic Renewal.
In his letter, Bishop Cazzaro pointed out the general characteristic of the Charismatic Renewal. First of all, he noted that “it answers a profound need of contemporary man who aspires to prayer”.
Secondly, he said that it provides a convenient way for people to acquire doctrinal formation”. Bishop Cazzaro observed. “To this we must add the teaching that frequently forms part of this prayer session as well as the instructive reading that each person is attracted to with new interest”.
Thirdly, Bishop Cazzaro rejoiced at the community spirit that the Charismatic Renewal tends to foster. “The spirit of love leads to the service of others within the Church structure whatever it may be; it leads to the service of those in need and to remedying the deep rooted evils of our society” he said. “The same spirit also awakens in many people a call to total commitments that can take on distinct forms: a vocation as a priest or religious, dedication as lay people to distinct ministries, the formation of local communities of lay people, etc.”
The fourth characteristic of the Charismatic Renewal that Bishop Cazzaro noted is the personal commitment of many of the people who are active in the movement. “Prayer groups help people discover the immense riches and the variety of gifts of the Spirit, gifts that every Christian receives as a seed in Baptism, but of which we have to become conscious. The Christian feels like he is invited to receive with growing openness and docility this work of the Holy Spirit and to commit himself, as a result, to the service of God”.
Lastly, Bishop Cazzaro acknowledged that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of those people whom he knows in the Charismatic renewal: “Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you shall know them’. In this case, the fruits of conversion and of commitment to God are clear signs of a divine work”.
At the same time. Bishop Cazzaro warned members of the Charismatic Renewal to be on their guard against attitudes that could easily quench the work of the Holy Spirit such as an unusual desire for the extraordinary, sensationalism, emotionalism, and elitism.
In the second part of his letter, Bishop Cazzaro gave his personal reflections on the Charismatic Renewal. Noting that many religious practices have fallen into disuse over the years, Bishop Cazzaro observed at the same time a growing desire among Christians for prayer. “Every Christian is called to apostolic work”, he wrote, “and prayer is the heart of apostolic work. Interior conversion cannot be a fruit of our own human efforts but a gift of God. We can take an active role in organizing pastoral strategy-in studying the best way to plant and water. But we must be convinced that only the Lord can make it grow. Without being united to him in prayer, we will do nothing”.
Bishop Cazzaro said that he considers the Charismatic Renewal “a great gift from the Lord”. Since the renewal was introduced in his diocese over a year ago, Bishop Cazzaro observed that it has contributed to “a new life and vigor in many already existing prayer groups as well as to the appearance of many new ones – all full of the enthusiasm and joy of the Lord”. He went on to say, “All this is reason for great rejoicing. We can only encourage these groups and support them. We bless them and we recommend them; we desire that they spread to all parts, that they multiply, and that they bear fruit”.
As regards the orientation of Charismatic Renewal prayer groups in his diocese, Bishop Cazzaro recommended that a priest or experienced layman guide each group in order to avoid possible dangers. He also asked that “everything be done with the seriousness, the simplicity, and with the spontaneity that are characteristic of their meetings while avoiding all exaggerations”.
Finally, Bishop Cazzaro examined the relationship of the Charismatic renewal to organizations that already exist in the diocese. “The relationship with other groups must be studied locally case by case”, he concluded. “Our suggestion, which is warmly recommended, is that each group can renew itself with the breath of shared prayer which is the source of so much vitality and which pours out God’s blessing on everything they do”.
Speaking particularly to the Basic Christian Communities that have been formed in his diocese as throughout all of Latin America, Bishop Cazzaro warned that “if we want to form authentic communities of faith, hope and love, if we want to give them strong internal cohesion, and if we want to prepare them to confront the difficult environment in which they normally are formed and from which they must be freed, they will have to be ‘vested with the power’ of prayer through the work of the Holy Spirit”.
Taken from the ICO Newsletter, January 1977