Building Bridges Between Parishes and Movements

Interview With the Director-General of Regnum Christi

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By Jesús Colina



ROME, JULY 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Although the relationship between bishops and movements at times can be difficult, with the collaboration of both, the Church will achieve unity and new apostolic impetus, says the director-general of the Catholic lay Regnum Christi movement.

Legionary of Christ Father Álvaro Corcuera spoke with ZENIT about the relationship between movements and local Churches, and the progress gained in that relationship since Pope John Paul II's meeting with movements 10 years ago.

Regnum Christi, a lay movement recognized by the Holy See, has close to 70,000 members. Father Corcuera is also the director-general of the Legionaries of Christ.

Q: Recently the Pope exhorted bishops to welcome "with much love" the various ecclesial movements that have arisen within the Church over the past decades (cf. address to bishops attending a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity). How do you think the movements should interpret these words?

Father Corcuera: We must thank Benedict XVI for these words. They reaffirm our conviction that the ecclesial movements, which the Holy Spirit has inspired within the Church, are not a problem but a gift. Therefore, we should all welcome them with gratitude and pastoral charity, so that with their lifestyle and characteristic apostolic thrust, the new ecclesial movements may contribute effectively and orderly to the common task of preaching the Gospel to the man of today.

To welcome the movements with love means to help them to be faithful to the Church, to walk in step with the Church, not before or behind it. Finding an open heart in the pastors that Christ has placed at the head of the Church will help members of the ecclesial movements to be woven peacefully, with their own charism, into the fabric of the local Churches.

Q: How can one understand that the existence of ecclesial movements is compatible with the unity of the Church?

Father Corcuera: The fact that there is a diversity of spiritual gifts is one more sign of the richness and variety with which the Holy Spirit wills to embellish the one Church of Christ. Unity has no quarrel with the variety of charisms; rather, it manifests that in Christ's mystical body, every member has a specific function, which contributes to the wellbeing of the whole body.

Moreover, the Church is the great family that God the Father has formed with all those who believe in Christ and have received his Spirit. And, as in all families, the different members that make it up have different missions, different sensitivities and different qualities. However, no one is better or worse. Simply all make up the family of God.

In the Church, the Holy Spirit works with wisdom and love and, given that every man and woman is unique, he leads each one on a different spiritual path, toward his or her fulfillment in Christ. The movements, of course, have their own spiritual style and attract people of different sensitivities. However, far from breaking unity, this diversity -- lived with humility and sincere love of the Church -- enables the Bride of Christ to preach the Gospel to all men of all cultures and sensitivities.

Q: If the Pope posed the questions of unity and acceptance it is because at times there have been misunderstandings and disagreements in the relationship of these movements with the local Churches. How should one respond to these situations?

Father Corcuera: The first thing that comes to mind is that the misunderstandings and disagreements that can emerge between movements and local Churches must not discourage us. Rather, they are an opportunity to reflect and exercise the virtues necessary to achieve complementarity in harmony and in joint endeavors.

Reflecting further, I see that the history of the Church shows the wonderful presence of Providence. On studying this history, one discovers with astonishment how God leads his Church by the hand to her fullness, and how he has not ceased to inspire charisms that he has considered necessary in every moment to go out to meet his children, so that the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel is a "performative" communication, which entails deeds and changes life, as Benedict XVI says in his encyclical on hope.

The Gospel commits us to exercise attitudes and conduct that build the necessary unity. "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). The fruit of this truth of the mystical body of Christ is communion in love, which is our definitive vocation. And love leads all of us to accept what each one has received, so that together we can fulfill the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples and nations.

As Pope John Paul II recalled in his message to the 1998World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, "the movements were inspired by the Spirit of Christ to give new apostolic impetus to the whole ecclesial community." The movements take on this mission with a sense of responsibility, seeking to grow to be able to serve more and better. However, it is not growth for the sake of growth but as a loving response to the Person loved.

Q: How do you assess the experience of ecclesial movements in their relationship with their bishops and dioceses in the course of recent years?

Father Corcuera: In general, especially after the great meeting of movements with John Paul II in 1998, we can speak of a positive experience. A good integration of ecclesial movements has been achieved in numerous dioceses. In some cases, human difficulties and misunderstandings continue; however, they can be overcome with patience, much dialogue and, above all, love of the Church and its mission. In addition, exchanges and collaboration between different ecclesial movements have increased notably, and this fact is of great importance to be able to offer an effective service to the local Churches and their pastors.

Now that almost a year has passed, I am recalling the message given to us by Cardinal Franc Rode, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It was in July of last year, in the framework of the Youth and Family meeting organized by Regnum Christi in Atlanta, Georgia. He told us that wherever there is a Regnum Christ member -- and the same can be said for the members of any other ecclesial movement -- there is profound communion with the Vicar of Christ and all other pastors, that communion with the Pope and with the Church is our guarantee for apostolic fruitfulness.

He encouraged us to continue in this way, working hard in local Churches, cooperating with the bishops, the parish priests and the religious. He reminded us that the Church is our house and home, and invited us to make it always the environment of our work and our commitment.

I don't think I can explain better than the cardinal what we hope our love for the Church and our obedience to bishops and pastors to be. We are committed to making this call come to life, putting our whole heart and strength into it. To do so, we know that the best means is to be formed in a profound spirit of prayer, in a lively, joyful and transforming reception of the sacraments, in a solid living of the theological virtues, which implies molding our heart to be meek and humble like Christ.

Q: What is Regnum Christi doing to foster unity and further its work within local Churches?

Father Corcuera: First of all, it continues to foster -- as has been true since the days of our foundation -- a real experience of love of Christ, of the Church and of the Pope and bishops in the Legionaries of Christ and members of Regnum Christi. It must be a passionate and faithful love, obedient and motivated, willing and joyful. This must be the real motor and meaning of any action.

And, needless to say, we want the members of Regnum Christi to be fully inserted into their local Churches. To be part of the Regnum Christi Movement entails a commitment to authenticity in Christian living in all environments -- family, work, friendships -- and not less so in parishes and dioceses. Far from distancing the members from diocesan and parish life, their membership in Regnum Christi commits them to a more active participation, putting their personal talents as well as the richness of the movement's charism at the service of their pastors. They are also committed to being active faithful in their parishes, apostles who know their pastors, pray for them, welcome their teachings, know their needs and support their pastoral plans.

As a movement, we seek to cooperate in the pastoral plans of dioceses and parishes by contributing our spirituality and apostolic style. We also seek to inform the bishops regularly about the activity we wish to carry out in their dioceses and, in a special way, we seek to obey them always with an attitude of service.

We must not forget either that the first way of serving the Church is fidelity to our own charism, because it is a gift and responsibility. In this connection, to live charity and to pay attention especially to the Church's priorities and urgencies is the specific way that Regnum Christi has of serving the local Churches.

Q: Allow me to add a question about the situation in North America, where parish life is very organized and the role of the ecclesial movements is not yet well defined. Sometimes, the impression can be given that the movements "compete" with parish activities or create parallel structures. Recently, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore intervened, asking for concrete information and setting certain norms that Regnum Christi should fulfill in its pastoral work. How has it taken up these guidelines?

Father Corcuera: I have known Archbishop O'Brien since he was the rector of the North American College here in Rome. The first thing I sought to do was to make contact with him so that there could be dialogue and we could clearly understand his concerns, and those of the Baltimore clergy. In our meeting at the beginning of June, the archbishop explained his concerns to me and what he expected from us.

The meeting helped me a lot, and of course, we always have points that we have to keep working on. After all, our mission has no meaning except within the Church, and at the service of the Church.

Later, Archbishop O'Brien invited the Regnum Christi members of his archdiocese for a frank and constructive exchange. Since then, we have already given him all the information that he asked for, and we have also made contact with the parish priests where there are Regnum Christi members or activities. One of the factors that most impresses me about Regnum Christi in Baltimore is that more that 70% of the members work in at least one apostolate in their respective parishes.

When we begin with our work again in September, we will keep up personal contact with [the parish priests] to invite them to our meetings and to place our teams and our activities at their disposal in their parishes and the life of the archdiocese.

I trust that in communion with the archbishop and the local clergy, we are going to be able to overcome all difficulties and misunderstandings.