CETTINA Marraffa
(Schaffhausen, April 30, 2011)

Church, what are you?



The Church in postmodern Europe

The modern world is characterized by continuous processes of differentiation and by a considerable complexity [1]. It is in itself pluralistic and complex. After the failing of the Christian faith as connective tissue due to modern secularization, numerous independent systems of rules, guidelines and meanings have developed: the spheres of public and private life, the spheres of work and leisure, the sphere of culture, art, science, politics and economics. Therefore, religion and the churches have become only one of the many fields of modern life, in addition to these spheres of culture and specialization that affirm their own autonomy. In turn, each of these spheres is in itself extremely differentiated, complex and pluralistic. There is no longer the truth, but the truths. Who defends the truth is immediately suspected and accused of fundamentalism. What distinguishes the post-modernity is relativism, skepticism, even nihilism. Post-modernity is defined as a “weak thought” [2]. Nevertheless, even the field of religion has become pluralistic. Not only do Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims and members of traditional Asian religions live side by side, but there are also new religious movements.
The Church in the European framework of pluralism
It is natural to ask what the place reserved for the Church in a pluralistic Europe is. This place can be described by the image of the Church “bent toward man,” according to the logic of serving instead of being served. The Church in this dynamic of service, must proclaim the Word of God in truth, and with the help of grace must increasingly see and hear herself as a safe “port” in which the human person finds that supernatural refreshment, which makes itself integral promotion and salvation of all of her being. In the words of John the Evangelist in his gospel, only the truth sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32). A Church “toward” man, a Church (we can call it) Samaritan means a Church that defends and proclaims the truth of the gospel in all her power of salvation, in which human dignity and history itself find their authentic dimension. Of course, in all this we can only look at the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. I make my own the words of Cardinal Kasper pronounced in one of his speeches by the title of The Church and Europe faced with the challenge of pluralism. In it, the cardinal shows how Christ presents himself as the Way, Truth and Life, in a socio-cultural and ecclesial context similar in some respects to ours: “He claimed the truth in a completely unique and unprecedented way, considered scandalous by his opponents. In the antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount, he repeats several times: “But I say to you” (Mt 5, He asserts to be truth in his person, “I am the way, the truth and the life ‘” (Jn 14.6). At the same time, Jesus is among his disciples “as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). It is at the service of others; come not to dominate but to serve and to give his life as a ransom “for many” (Mk 10:45). A song of the origins dedicated to Christ says: “As one who subsists in the nature of God, he is attached to it as to a booty, but he lowers himself, and becomes obedient as much as a servant until death on the cross. Jus as this he undresses himself to death, he is lifted and made Lord of the universe ” (cf. Phil 2:6 11). He is consumed and offered to the end through his service, Christ becomes Lord of the world: he becomes the new world law of love.”
Love without truth, even tolerance without truth, are false, empty and superficial. This message takes seriously the individual in his individuality and his personality, but also in his interaction with society. It does not confuse him with the mass, in an undifferentiated way, within a global system. The single is not a number among many. At the same time, the individual does not even run the risk of being isolated and estranged from the rest; a risk , instead, inherent in pluralism that can lead to a situation of coldness and isolation of human relationships. In fact, isolation is one of the hallmarks of our time. In contrast, love unites and holds together. It is supportive and protects from individualistic selfishness. It is concerned with the common good, defending and ensuring the good of the individual. It is not against globalization in itself, but it is not satisfied with the globalization of the giants of the economics of international financial markets, it wants a globalization of solidarity. Therefore, it does not build a Chinese wall around the house Europe, but it is committed in favour of the poor and most disadvantaged countries.

Ecclesial movements and their place in the Church in the postmodern context

The fervour and zeal, but also the joy with which the members of ecclesial movements live their faith and show it others, trying to convey the message of hope of the Gospel of OL Jesus Christ; is emphasized by the future Pope Benedict XVI in his speech at the opening of the 1 Congress of Ecclesial Movements. In particular, he recalls how in the 70’s of last century, the emergence of these new ecclesial realities, under the action of the Holy Spirit, represented a new springtime in the Church and the approach to the faith of so many brothers and sisters. There is no doubt that seeking to harmonize the emerging groups and movements with more traditional ecclesiastical realities such as dioceses and parishes, was an important and challenging task; however, the then Cardinal Ratzinger points out how the papacy, although it never founded or established any movement, was always committed so that these could integrate actively and profitably within the church structure. To describe the abundance of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that also flow into the Church through the movements, the future Pope Benedict XVI creates a comparison between these new realities and monasticism. As monasticism has not been configured as an alternative and parallel structure to the Church, so the movements are born with the aim of setting off the people of God to following the Gospel in obedience to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Although, they get in the Church and live in complete fidelity to the Magisterium and Tradition, ecclesial movements maintain their distinct identity, their charisma and qualify as a school of life and communion in which the Christian faith is reinforced and transmitted.
The positive contribution of the movements in the life of the church is also emphasized in the message to participants at the Second World Congress of Ecclesial Movements “The beauty of being Christian and the joy of communicating it.” The beauty is the unity, love, joy witnessed by the women and men who have met Christ. Such testimony creates a stream, puts one in “movement”, so the founders and initiators of movements, that said “yes” to the call of Christ, have paved the way for all those who, in their wake, have joined to one charisma or the other. On the occasion of the second meeting, Pope Benedict XVI entrusts a mission to the movements, “Bring the light of Christ to all social and cultural environments you live in. Missionary zeal is the verification of the radical experience of ever renewed fidelity to your charisma, which leads beyond any tired and selfish makeshift upon the self.” In this perspective, it is understandable then that the movements as signs of the beauty of Christ and of the Church and an instrument of pastoral action must be open with force and momentum to the mission. In this direction lies the exhortation to the bishops participating in the Seminar on the Ecclesial Movements, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, to welcome the movements as the Lord’s gifts that enrich the Church. The task of the bishops, according to the directions of the Supreme Pontiff, is that of accompanying the members so that they can put to use within the ecclesial community the various gifts and charismas which the Holy Spirit has aroused in them: the missionary action, charity, education, the testimony of obedience to the church. Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI recalls that there are new emerging communities: even to these Bishops must pay attention, trying not to choke the new realities and diversity of charismas that the Holy Spirit awakens. Therefore, the attention of the bishops must be aimed at gaining acceptance and supporting the specificity of the charismas of the various movements, which despite their independence remain faithful and obedient to the bishops and the Pope himself.

The Apostolic Movement

In the light of what we have said so far it is right, for my part, to point out that the Apostolic Movement promotes a solid theological and spiritual formation, favouring an intense union between faith and truth, faith and life, for a more effective and meaningful work of evangelization. Just zeal for evangelization, combined with the commitment to training, makes the mission in the Church and in the world to become authentic, working effectively in the living tissue of the Christian community in the parish, in its structures of participation, in communion with all other combinations Church.

St. Paul to the Corinthians 12

There are varieties of gifts, but the Spirit is one.

There are varieties of ministries, but the Lord is one,

There are diversities of operations, but God is one who works all in all.

[1] Niklas Luhmann, Social complexity and power, Il Saggiatore, Milano 1979; How is the social order possible, Laterza, Bari 1985; Social systems: foundations of a general theory, Il Mulino, Bologna 1990.

[2] Gianni Vattimo, The weak thought, Feltrinelli, Milan 1990.