Archbishop Velasio De Paolis of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo has been asked by the Pope to govern the congregation in his name "during the time necessary to complete the path of renewal."
The 74-year-old Italian prelate is the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The Legion of Christ is being guided by the Church in a renewal, following the discovery that its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, fathered children and was guilty of other crimes.
Last Saturday, Archbishop De Paolis visited the Legion's headquarters in Rome, entrusting its superiors with the papal letter naming him delegate, and a personal letter of that date in which he expressed his own thoughts and recommendations for the Legionaries.
In the Italian-language note, he affirmed Benedict XVI's intention that the papal delegate work as a "tangible witness of [his] closeness." And he noted the Pope's awareness of the "great number of members" of the congregation who show "sincere zeal" and a "fervent religious life."
Gift of a vocation
The archbishop said the Church, inspired not by human criteria but by those of the Spirit, "contemplates the beautiful reality that you are, that your congregation is."
"The Pope, through me," he said, "now wants to accompany you on this path, so that without allowing yourselves to be discouraged by the tragic events behind you, you can find joy in your current [reality], in the gift of the religious, priestly and missionary vocation that you have received."
Archbishop De Paolis affirmed that the Legionaries' vocation comes from the Heart of Christ and his love. And he invited the priests and seminarians to give thanks to God "for the work that he has accomplished in such a way" and "for his goodness, his mercy and his fidelity."
The papal delegate outlined the "path of renewal" that the Holy Father has indicated: "principally to reconsider the charism of the institute, and more concretely, the constitutional norms that are its expression and guarantee."
An extraordinary general chapter will be held, the prelate explained, in order to approve a new text of the constitutions.
"The path or renewal," the archbishop said, "is not to call into question one's vocation, but rather to deeply ponder it anew and renew one's adherence to it with a new spirit and a more intense participation."
Archbishop De Paolis said it is understandable that some Legionaries are "going through difficult moments, that some have already thought of a different path."
But he suggested that the "vocation is something too serious to be able to make a decision about it in a moment of disorientation."
Instead, the prelate recommended "recovering serenity of spirit and soul."
"Let's be patient," he said. "Let us walk this path of renewal with humility and faith."
"Your vocation, like your congregation, is in your hands, is entrusted to your responsibility," the prelate stated. "The Church accompanies you; the Lord is merciful and generous: He gives his Spirit without measure. His grace goes before you, it accompanies you, and it brings you to the goal."
Archbishop De Paolis concluded by calling the Legionaries to mutual support in prayer and entrusting them to the Mother of God.
He explained that more details are forthcoming about how the delegate is to concretely fulfill his role. "Awaiting these guidelines," he wrote, "we can already begin our journey, sustained by trust and prayer, and by the blessing of the Holy Father and so many good souls who esteem you and appreciate your work in the Church."