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One In Spirit: Catholics, Pentecostals Celebrate Pentecost With Pope

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One In Spirit: Catholics, Pentecostals Celebrate Pentecost With Pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ very public friendship
with and overtures to Pentecostal and evangelical leaders is a high-profile
reflection of a relationship that already existed at the grass roots between Catholic
charismatics and some of their Spirit-filled neighbors, leaders of the renewal said.

While some Pentecostals in some parts of the world,
especially in Latin America, have a reputation for trying to convince Catholics
to leave the church, the reality of the Catholic-Pentecostal relationship is
much more varied.

In many places, they share praise, worship, music and Bible
studies with Catholic charismatics, and they set out together to proclaim to
all that Jesus is Lord and work alongside each other to feed the poor and
defend the unborn.

Pope Francis invited some 300 Pentecostal and evangelical
leaders to Rome to join an estimated 30,000 Catholic charismatics in
celebrating Pentecost and marking the 50th anniversary of the Catholic
charismatic renewal.

Introducing the celebrations, which were to take place May
31-June 4, Salvatore Martinez, president of Italy’s Renewal in the Holy Spirit,
called the charismatic and Pentecostal movements “the greatest spiritual
awakening of the 20th century,” and noted how similar movements of the
Spirit impacted the Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Recognizing that “it is precisely the Holy Spirit who
heals divisions,” he said, Pope Francis wanted an ecumenical celebration.

In fact, many charismatic communities have a mixed,
ecumenical membership, said Michelle Moran, president of the Vatican-based
International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services.

In addition to shared prayer and action, she said, Catholic
charismatics have been involved in the official theological dialogue with
Pentecostal Christians.

The Vatican-sponsored dialogue with Pentecostals and evangelicals is somewhat different than its other ecumenical dialogues, which
are working toward a restoration of full unity, including in doctrine, ministry
and the sacraments.

“Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and mainline
Protestants all come from the same tradition and historical experience of the church
of the first millennium and more,” explained Bishop Brian Farrell,
secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

“Pentecostals and evangelicals,” he told Catholic
News Service, “come from a very different historical experience; they have
an entirely different understanding of church, sacrament, ministry, mission.
The aim of dialogue, then, has to be different.

“With these new religious groups the ecumenical goal is
greater mutual understanding and cooperation in witnessing the Christian
message,” he said, noting that with many of them the Catholic Church
agrees on “fundamental moral and ethical issues,” which gives room
for practical cooperation in defending and promoting the biblical vision of human
person and society.

While some Pentecostals have an “exclusivist and
anti-ecumenical, sometimes especially anti-Catholic” attitude, many others
focus on shared faith in Jesus and a shared experience of the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit, Bishop Farrell said.

“Where dialogue is possible,” he said, Pope
Francis “is ready and willing.”

And, he said, when other groups are attracting Catholics, the
first question should be “What is lacking in our pastoral care? Are
Catholics sufficiently attentive to the word of God in the Scriptures? Do they
have a positive image of God and a positive experience of life in their local
church? In their parish and neighborhood, do they build a real, operative
community in solidarity and mutual care?

“The fact that so many Catholics and Protestants are
drawn to the new religious groups is a call for a sincere examination of
conscience and much hard work,” the bishop said.

Where the Catholic charismatic relationship with
Pentecostals is positive, it provides an example of “spiritual
ecumenism,” which is less about agreement on theological points and more
about common prayer.

But the relationship also is an example of what is called
“receptive ecumenism,” the process by which divided Christians
recognize that each other has gifts they can benefit from, too.

Catholics have much to offer Pentecostals, starting with the
liturgy and its mystery and sense of sacrifice, Martinez said. But also, with
such a strong focus on reading the Bible, Pentecostals also benefit from the
writings and reflections of the early church theologians. “They are an
inestimable treasure for all Christians,” and offer important guidance for
reading and understanding the Scriptures.

From the Pentecostals, Martinez said, the first thing
Catholics can learn is “love for the Holy Spirit, who remains the great
unknown for Catholic theology.”

Another thing, he said, is the sense of fraternity and
community Pentecostals experience, even in their megachurches. “In our
parishes and churches we sometimes can feel anonymous. In evangelicalism in
general, one sees this focus on the individual and on spiritual accompaniment
as a great grace.”

For Bishop Farrell, Pentecostals often excel at the kind of
joy and enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel that Pope Francis constantly

“The direct experience of God’s saving grace is the
perfect antidote to a faded, weak faith and to that kind of cultural
Catholicism that too often prevails,” the bishop said. “Personal
engagement in evangelization, involvement in genuine actions of service to
others, a sense of thankfulness to God for every blessing and even for every
trial in life. This is what we can learn right away from our charismatic
brothers and sisters. And it is not something secondary and incidental.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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