Ethiopian Charismatics Strengthen Catholic Ties
Church Welcomes Movement Members, Offers Catechesis
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, JULY 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Faced to growing numbers of charismatics in Ethiopia, Catholic leaders are expressing openness to welcome this movement, and offering catechesis to strengthen ties with the Church.
The charismatic movement has been drawing in an increasing number of young Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, especially in Addis Ababa, and the leaders of the different churches are reacting in variant ways.
Aid to the Church in Need has been working with Catholic leaders, especially in the Addis Ababa Archdiocese, to reach out to the young charismatics by planning programs to offer Catholic teaching, including a special emphasis on the Eucharist, Confession and Marian devotion.
Bishop Lesane-Christos Matheos, an auxiliary of that archdiocese, told the aid agency that the charismatic, or neo-Pentecostal worship style "attracts young people, gives them direction and challenges them -- it helps cultivate the life of young people to live their faith."
However, he noted that some of the Catholic groups -- the communities tend to follow ecumenical lines -- lacked thorough grounding in Church teaching, since few priests or catechists have been involved with the movement members.
The prelate said that "some [priests] are suspicious of the charismatic renewal because of similarities with Pentecostal groups."
The Pentecostals of the early 20th century were known for splitting off and forming new denominations, whereas current charismatics tend to stay within their churches.
The bishop expressed the belief that "it doesn't help" to abandon Catholics who join the charismatic movement, as this "would bring a great negative impact." Rather, he said, "we need to embrace it."
He noted that leaders from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the largest Christian denomination in the country, have recently clamped down on involvement with this movement. However, the aid agency reported that the Orthodox Church has seen declining numbers as more people seek out the Pentecostal worship style.
Bishop Matheos said that the Catholic Church, which only has some 800,000 members in Ethiopia, is developing new initiatives to reach out to the charismatics.
He explained that steps are being taken so that "it grows as a proper movement of the Catholic Church."
The aid agency is supporting a specific program to train leaders of the Charismatic Renewal.
The prelate noted that through the new programs implemented by the archdiocese, the young people are being more integrated with the Church.
The archdiocese developed a five-year pastoral plan that includes sending lay Church leaders to other countries such as Uganda or India "to see the authentic charismatic movement," the bishop said.
He added that charismatic groups will be invited to teach leaders to reduce some of the "unhealthy spirituality" that can be found in members.
Bishop Matheos explained that a potential problem is "over-emotionalism: Emotion is not bad, God communicates through emotion, but we don't want just emotion; we also need to involve the mind."
He said that another problem is that "some people have the feeling that only charismatics are saved -- it is an extreme way of thinking."
"The charismatic renewal movement mustn't become a ghetto," the prelate said. "It needs to be inclusive."
Bishop Matheos affirmed: "Sometimes the Spirit reveals itself in the charismatic way, but it also works in another way. They have to open their eyes to see the spirit leading the church in other lay activities."
The aid agency reported that a revised and expanded version of the Life in the Spirit seminar -- a basic Catholic charismatic teaching course -- which includes teaching on areas where there may be doubt, such as the Eucharist, is now being used by some groups in Ethiopia.