These observations were on the agenda in Rome today as the Pontifical Council for the Laity greeted representatives of 56 lay movements, at a conference that will last through the weekend. The conference was opened today by Cardinal James Stafford, and the delegates heard a message from Pope John Paul. The conference will close with a meeting with the Holy Father in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, May 30.
The Pope's message emphasized the "encouragement" which the new lay movements provide for Catholics all around the world. He said that the healthiest communities, while diverse in their individual aims, share a solid foundation in baptism and a common interest in spreading the faith.
In his own talk to the Rome conference, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger echoed the Pope's warning against setting up a false opposition between "institutional" and "charismatic" elements in the Church. At the same time, he said, the faith is strongest when there is greater reliance on the Holy Spirit, and less on organizational structures.
The group, the Society of St. John, has five young priests, including a 34-year-old superior general, and 10 seminarians. According to their founding document, they hope to build an "elite corps of men to serve the Church," with a focus on creating schools and evangelizing college students.
Currently, members of the group operate St. Gregory's Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, a boys boarding school with about 60 students in grades 8 to 12.
Father Daniel Fullerton, a member of the society, said the new group is the first organization of Catholic clergy founded in the United States devoted to restoring the solemn traditional Roman liturgy and reviving classical education.
Bishop James C. Timlin read the decree establishing the society at a pontifical Latin Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter. About 650 people attended the Mass, mostly young families with children. Many of the women wore lace mantillas, traditional head coverings.
Presiding at the Mass was a highly public move for a United States bishop to make, as the new group is devoted to the pre-Vatican II form of liturgy and was formed by four priests who last year left the Society of Pius X, an order founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the 1970s in reaction to changes in the Mass. Ten years ago, John Paul II declared that Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated after he consecrated bishops without permission of the Vatican.
Bishop Timlin read the formal decree approving the Society of St. John during the Mass. In it, he stated that he requested and received permission from Rome for the establishment of the group.
In addition, Father Carlos Urrutigoity, superior general of the new order, addressed the congregation. "We stand on the shoulders of giants-- first, on the shoulders of Catholic tradition, but also on a millennia of great men who produced the greatest civilization this earth has seen," said Father Urrutigoity, 34. He said the group was one of the many new seeds being planted amid the confusion of the modern age.
"The faithful have suffered through decades of commotion and confusion. But, suffering borne in humility and faith always bears fruits and our society is one of those fruits," he said.
"Our struggle is not behind us but is ahead of us," he continued. "We commit our souls to the Church of the present, and to the future generations. We want to fight for you to make the road for you a bit easier."
At a reception hosted by Bishop Timlin at his residence after the Mass, the bishop said in an interview that he did not see his support of the society as a controversial move, but simply a fulfillment of his duties.
"We are the beneficiaries, to have these fine young priests among us. We are delighted to welcome them here, and to help them in any way we can," the bishop said.
Afterwards, the bishop attended a larger reception with more than 500 people at St. Gregory's Academy.
Many US bishops have been slow to grant permission for the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, despite a 10-year-old decree by John Paul II mandating that the pre-Vatican II form of liturgy, specifically the missal of 1962, must be "widely and generously" available. In his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, issued in 1988, the Pope said the desire to worship at the older form of Mass is a "rightful aspiration."
Bishop Timlin has already welcomed three other new traditional groups to his diocese. One, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a group established 10 years ago by the pope, has outgrown the seminary it opened in a suburb of Scranton in 1993, and is planning to move to a larger facility in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.
The second is an order of women religious founded three years ago in Scranton, the Oblates of Mary, Queen of Apostles. The sisters wear traditional habits, maintain the old ways of religious life, and attend the Latin Mass. Currently, the order has six women, including four novices. Bishop Timlin said he plans to receive their vows of profession at the cathedral in August during a Traditional Latin Mass.
The third is an order of men, The Carmelite Recollects of the Sacred Heart, consisting of one priest and three brothers who began a traditional monastic community in the Scranton diocese four years ago.
However Cardinal Roger Etchegary, the president of the Jubilee committee, cautions that plans for the celebration in the Holy Land remain unclear because of the political situation there. Pope John Paul has frequently voiced his desire to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee year, but no such plans are currently on the schedule. In fact, the only date fixed on the schedule for a celebration there is the observance of the feast of the Annunciation, which is to take place at Nazareth on March 25, 2000. Cardinal Etchegaray told reporters that other events would be fixed on the calendar if and when developments in the Middle East offered better prospects for a peaceful celebration.
In his encyclical Tertio Millennio Adveniente, Pope John Paul called for an assembly of all Christians, to take place during the Jubilee year in the land where Jesus lived. That event has not yet been scheduled-- although the official calendar does note a pan-Christian assembly at Assisi, to take place in October 1999. There is also a plan for an ecumenical day of prayer at St. Peter's Basilica on Pentecost Sunday, 2000.
Ash Wednesday (March 8) of 2000 is designated as a "day of pardon"-- a date that will be used by the many Catholics suggesting the forgiveness of financial debts as well during the Jubilee. Also listed on the calendar are special days for children (January 2), consecrated life (February 2), the sick and health-care workers (February 11), artists (February 18), permanent deacons (February 20), the Roman Curia (February 22), craftsmen (March 20), migrants and refugees (April 10), workers (May 1), the clergy (May 18), scientists (May 25), the diocese of Rome (May 28), journalists (June 4), prisoners (July 9), university students (September 10), bishops (October 8), families (October 15), athletes (October 29), public- affairs workers (November 5), farmers and agricultural workers (November 12), police and military officers (November 19), and entertainers (December 17).
There will also be a series of major conferences in Rome: a study session on Vatican II (February 25-27), a Eucharistic Congress (June 18-25), the World Youth Day (August 5-20), Marian congress (September 15-24), the Pope's encounter with families (October 14- 15), and a world congress on lay apostolate (November 24-26).
Finally, the calendar includes a number of major liturgical celebrations, in the different rites of the Church: Chaldean and Malabar on January 28, Maronite on February 9, Coptic on August 14, the Acathist Hymn of the Byzantine rite on October 1, the Ambrosian rite on November 4, the Syrian-Malankar rite on November 21, and others.
The calendar stresses the universal character of the Jubilee celebration, but at the same time insists that the Roman calendar is not the only list of events for the Jubilee, but that each diocese should have its own calendar. The Holy See, organizers say, will seek to provide leadership and inspiration for local initiatives.
In Rome, the formal celebration will begin on Christmas Eve, when the Pope opens the holy door to St. Peter's and the other major basilicas of Rome-- except St. Paul-outside-the-walls, where the holy door will remain closed until the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in a gesture indicating the importance of the ecumenical element of the Jubilee. A door will also be opened in one of the basilicas of the Holy Land, although that detail-- like so many others touching that region-- remains undisclosed.
The Jubilee will also see a concerted effort to update the Church's martyrology-- the complete list of those who have given their lives for the faith since the first days of Christianity. The Vatican has already begun preparing dossiers for 8,000 cases which could merit beatification.
Bishop Mario Rios Montt is the brother of Efrain Rios Montt, an army officer who seized power in a March 1982 coup and was overthrown in August 1983 and who was accused of numerous human rights abuses. However, Bishop Rios Montt's appointment has been welcomed by most major human rights groups who view him as a good administrator and a strong proponent of human rights.
Bishop Gerardi was murdered on April 26, two days after issuing a report accusing the army of committing most of the killings during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.