Eighty leaders from 17 countries participated in the Bi-annual meeting of the National Service Committees of Europe that met last September in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
These included Bishop Dembowski from Poland, a member of ICCRS, who spoke about the importance of maintaining close links with the Church. Fr. Bill Thomas, an American priest working in Germany, gave an overview of the new document which will soon be published by the Pontifical Council of the Laity, giving pastoral and theological guidelines for the Renewal. Also present for the first time was the newly appointed secretary to the Pontifical Council of the Laity, Mgr. Stanislaw Rylko, the successor of Bishop Paul Josef Cordes. He said that, “a meeting such as yours, has a deep ecclesial dimension. It is important to place experience of the Charismatic Renewal in the context of the universal Church and of the local Church”. He continued to underline the high regard in which the Pope holds the Charismatic Renewal and the other movements in the Church.
Different countries concentrated on different things in their reports. In these there were discernible trends. In Western Europe there was the frequent complaint of falling numbers and aging memberships in prayer groups, and lack of use of the charisms. On the positive side, however, there were many fruits in the form of people and communities in active service of the Church, particularly in the areas of youth, healing, evangelization and ecumenism.
These reports tend to validate Nikol Baldacchino’s thesis of bell curve development in Charismatic Renewal. Nikol, who is the ICCRS member for South Europe, felt that after the initial expansion of the 70’s, the Charismatic Renewal in Western Europe was now on the inevitable downward curve. This could be halted, he felt, if those in the Renewal, instead of clinging to the forms that had worked in the past, were open to the new things God was doing, and which were in their expansionist phase.
These he underlined as the new impetus among young people in Western Europe, the development of the Charismatic Renewal in the newly opened countries of Eastern Europe, the flourishing of schools of evangelization, the ministry to the family, and joint programs between countries and evangelistic youth initiatives like Europe Arise.
He commented, “I believe the role of NSCs is not just to organize national conferences but to see where Spirit is leading us. Our primary role should be discernment rather than organization. I believe we need to be pro-active building bridges between different facets of charismatic renewal, old and young, communities and prayer groups, between different theological emphases and between East and West”.
This – it transpired from the reports – was already happening in small ways, and it was shared how Sweden had supported youths from Latvia to attend a school of evangelization in Poland, while the Italian Renewal had supported 100 delegates from eastern Europe to attend Europe Arise in Italy last year. There were also stories of joint enterprise particularly among the young in different countries.
Taken from the ICCRS Newsletter, Janruary-February 1997.