Charismatic Renewal at Ease With the Church Movements

Interview With Allan Panozza, President of ICCRS

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In "a world that has lost the vision of God," the mission of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is to make the essence of its experience known: knowledge of Jesus Christ.



So says Allan Panozza, president of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS), in this interview with ZENIT at Castel Gandolfo.

From Sept. 20-25, more than 1,000 delegates of Catholic Charismatic Renewal took part in a retreat here, led by Papal Household preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, president and secretary, respectively, of the Pontifical Council for the Laity were among the guests at the event called by ICCRS.

Q: From ICCRS' perspective, what is the present situation of Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the world?

Panozza: I believe that Charismatic Renewal is a work of God. More than 100 million Catholics have lived through the experience of the effusion or baptism in the Spirit within the Renewal. God's work never fails, and the Spirit of God is at work.

The majority of Catholic Charismatics are in Latin America. It is estimated that around 60 million people are actively involved in Charismatic Renewal in that part of the world. However, in other countries, especially in Africa and Asia, Charismatic Renewal is strong and growing rapidly. In my country, Australia, Charismatic Renewal is very active.

I think the growth of Charismatic Renewal is due to the fact that it arose from the heart of the Church and we believe that heart is Jesus Christ. The most important grace of baptism in the Spirit is that it leads us to a more profound relation with the Lord. Jesus is the living heart of the Church and Charismatic Renewal is at the heart of the Church, where Jesus is.

Charismatic Renewal greatly appreciates the Holy Father. Moreover, ICCRS is working very closely with the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Q: After these days of meeting and retreat with more than 1,000 delegates from all over the world, what challenges do the participants see for Charismatic Renewal in the world and in the Church?

Panozza: I think it is akin to what it was in the early Church, when Jesus worked miracles and the Holy Spirit was felt. Many people did not understand it, and sometimes what is not understood is queried.

One of the problems facing Charismatic Renewal refers to the nature of charisms: because of their spectacular nature, many Catholics do not know what to make of Charismatic Renewal; they are uncertain.

They often ask me: "What does the Church think of Charismatic Renewal?" "What does the Pope think of the Renewal?" "What is ICCRS?"

The Vatican gave ICCRS its statutes in 1993, with a mandate of the Holy See: to serve Charismatic Renewal throughout the world. It is the reason for our existence. We have relations with Charismatic entities in 220 countries.

And although Charismatic Renewal is strong, there is always an element of uncertainty within the Church due to lack of understanding of this "current of grace." This is also true of priests. If a priest realized the power that the effusion of the Spirit has in baptism ...

I often say to priests: "The best audience you will have are the Charismatics, because they are very open, they are hungry, they love the Church enormously and are very supportive of priests."

The world has lost the vision of God. Because of this, I think that the other great objective of Charismatic Renewal is to bring the world to a knowledge of Jesus. Although this is the Good News, the world to a great extent does not want to know it.

In regard to evangelization, two-thirds of the world have never heard the name of Jesus. We have a great task before us in Charismatic Renewal and in the Church.

Q: Does ICCRS work with the ecclesial movements?

Panozza: The majority of movements have arisen in the Church since Vatican Council II, although there are exceptions, as is the case of the Focolare Movement, which started in 1943. Charismatic Renewal has started to work very intensely with the movements to serve the Church.

To my mind, the Catholic flag is flying. We are living at a time when the Catholic Church and the priesthood are under intense attack. And the movements give us a very powerful antidote.

For the past four years, in Australia, my country, we and the Focolares have gathered all the movements of the Church at Pentecost. This year, we had 35 different movements cooperating and working together to present each one's view of the charisms, all varied but combined in a Church in action. I think the movements are, in fact, the Church in action.

Q: Does ICCRS have ecumenical perspectives in its work?

Panozza: Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been in the vanguard of relations with Pentecostal movements. For the last 19 years we have had annual ecumenical meetings, not only with the principal Movements, but also with Pentecostal denominations for great celebrations on the feast of Pentecost.

Through the Renewal, and especially through love of the Word of God, we have found a common ground to agree on what unites us -- which is Jesus -- as opposed to what divides us, which is doctrinal. Eventually, when we become centered in Jesus -- in God's time, not ours -- I think the Church will be one.

According to the documents of Vatican Council II, it is the responsibility of Catholics to take the initiative. We cannot wait for separated brothers to come to us and say: "We want what you have." It must be our initiative, and the Holy Father says so. And, in fact, we do in our Church with those who have lost the faith. First, Jesus must be presented, and then the sacramental life in order to attract them once again to the Church.

Q: What was the atmosphere like in this international retreat of Catholic Charismatic Renewal?

Panozza: More than 1,000 people from 73 countries participated in this meeting. I think that the joy and spirit of unity and love experienced was contagious. And we want to spread this love of Jesus throughout the world.