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The Spirit is the source of ministries

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 5 August 1998 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The New Testament testifies to the presence of charisms and ministries inspired by the Holy Spirit in the various Christian communities. The Acts of the Apostles, for example, describe the Christian community of Antioch in this way: “in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1).

The community of Antioch appears as a living reality in which two distinct roles emerge: that of prophets, who discern and announce God’s ways, and that of doctors, that is teachers, who properly examine and expound the faith. In the former, one might recongize a more charismatic aspect, in the latter a more institutional tone, but in both cases the same obedience to God’s Spirit. Moreover, this interweaving of the charismatic and institutional elements can be perceived at the very origins of the Antioch community — which came into being after the death of Stephen and following the dispersion of the Christians — where several brothers had even preached the Good News to pagans, bringing about many conversions. Hearing of this event, the mother community of Jerusalem had delegated Barnabus to pay a visit to the new community. Furthermore, says Luke, when he saw the grace of the Lord, “he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:23-24).

In this episode clearly emerges the twofold method with which the Spirit of God governs the Church: on the one hand, he directly encourages the activity of believers by revealing new and unprecedented ways to proclaim the Gospel, on the other, he provides an authentication of their work through the official intervention of the Church, represented here by the work of Barnabus, who was sent bythe mother community of Jerusalem.

2. St Paul, in particular, reflects deeply on charisms and ministries. He does so especially in chapters 12-14 of his First Letter to the Corinthians. On the basis of this text, one can gather certain elements in order to set out a correct theology of charisms.

Primarily the fundamental criterion of discernment is established by Paul, a criterion which could be described as “Christological”: a charism is not genuine unless it leads to proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. 12:1-3).

Paul then goes on immediately to stress the variety of charisms, and the unity of their origin: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (12:4). The gifts of the Spirit, which he distributes “as he wills” (12:11), can be numerous, and Paul provides a list of them (cf. 12:8-10), which obviously does not claim to be complete. The Apostle then teaches that the diversity of charisms must not create divisions, and for this reason compares them to the various members of the one body (cf. 12:12-27). The Church’s unity is dynamic and organic, and all the gifts of the Spirit are important for the vitality of the Body as a whole.

3. Paul teaches, on the other hand, that God has established a hierarchy in the Church (cf. 12:28): first come the “apostles”, then the “prophets”, then the “teachers”. These three positions are fundamental and are listed in order of importance.

The Apostle then warns that the distribution of gifts is diversified: not everyone has this or that charism (cf. 12:29-30); each has his own (cf. 7:7) and must accept it with gratitude, generously putting it at the service of the community. This search for communion is dictated by love which continues to be the “best way” and the greatest gift (cf. 13:13), without which charisms lose all their value (cf. 13:1-3).

4. Charisms are therefore graces bestowed by the Holy Spirit on certain members of the faithful to prepare them to contribute to the common good of the Church. The variety of charisms corresponds to the variety of services, which can be temporary or permanent, private or public. The ordained ministries of Bishops, priests and deacons, are permanent and publicly recognized services. The lay ministries, founded on Baptism and Confirmation, can receive from the Church, through the Bishop, official or only de facto recognition.

Among the lay ministries we recall those instituted with a liturgical rite: the offices of lector and acolyte. Then there are the extraordinary ministers of Eucharistic Communion and those responsible for ecclesial activities, starting with the catechists, but we should also remember the “leaders of prayer, song and liturgy; leaders of basic ecclesial communities and Bible study groups; those in charge of charitable works; administrators of Church resources; leaders in the various forms of the apostolate; religion teachers in schools” (Encyclical Redemptoris missio, n. 74).

5. In accordance with the message of Paul and of the New Testament, often recalled and illustrated by the Second Vatican Council (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 12), there is no such thing as one Church according to a “charismatic model” and another according to an “institutional model”. As I have had the opportunity to stress on other occasions, opposition between charism and institution is “extremely harmful” (cf. Address to participants in the Second International Conference of Ecclesial Movements, 2 March 1987, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 March 1987, p. 12).

It is the task of Pastors to discern the authenticity of charisms and to regulate their exercise in an attitude of humble obedience to the Spirit, of disinterested love for the Church’s good and of docile fidelity to the supreme law of the salvation of souls.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

J'accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française, notamment les religieuses ici présentes, et je leur souhaite de bien profiter de toutes les richesses de Rome, spirituelles, humaines et artistiques. A chacun d'entre vous, mes chers amis, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.
I extend a special welcome to the many pilgrims present with the Maltese Union for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malta and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Unter ihnen heiße ich die Gruppe der jungen Redemptoristen aus Bayern besonders willkommen. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.
Saludo con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española; en particular, a los peregrinos venidos de España, México, Argentina, Venezuela y otros países Latinoamericanos. Al agradeceros vuestra presencia aquí, os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.
Saúdo agora as paróquias portuguesas de Nossa Senhora de Fátima, em Viana do Castelo, e de Candal, e também os diversos grupos vindos do Brasil. Para vós e demais peregrinos lusófonos aqui presentes, vai a minha saudação fraterna, com votos de uma boa viagem de regresso às vossas terras e famílias, que vos esperam transfigurados pela graça desta romagem penitencial aos túmulos dos Apóstolos. Também eu vo-lo desejo, ao dar-vos, propiciadora de abundantes graças celestes, a Bênção Apostólica.
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua neerlandese

Carissimi pellegrini belgi e neerlandesi!

Auguro che il vostro pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli sia una fonte di ispirazione per la vostra fede personale e il vostro impegno cristiano nella Chiesa e nel mondo.

Di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca

Cordialmente saluto i pellegrini slovacchi da Bytca, Lednické Rovne e Nitra.

Domani la Chiesa celebra la festa della Trasfigurazione del Signore. Gesù si è rivelato sul monte ai discepoli Pietro, Giacomo e Giovanni nella sua gloria. E Pietro, colmo di gioia, ha esclamato: “Signore, è bello per noi stare qui!”.

Cari pellegrini, rinnovando la vostra fede, anche voi diventerete felici solamente con Gesù. Impegnatevi, dunque, a conoscerLo meglio, ad amarLo e testimoniarLo con coraggio davanti agli uomini.

Con queste intenzioni vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ungherese

Vi saluto cordialmente cari pallegrini ungheresi!

Con affetto imparto a voi qui presenti, ai vostri familiari e a tutta la vostra Patria la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua lituana

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini lituani.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, vi auguro che i momenti di questo vostro pellegrinaggio diventino per voi la fonte di una rinnovata dedizione a Cristo e alla sua Chiesa.

Con questi voti imparto a voi tutti e ai vostri familiari la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ucraina

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto al gruppo di professionisti e studenti ucraini di Lviv, di Kyiv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Mukaciv, Odessa e Cernyhiv.

Carissimi, vi ringrazio per la vostra visita ed invoco ben volentieri su di voi, sul vostro impegno professionale e sui vostri cari copiose benedizioni dal cielo.
Rivolgo, ora, un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, al gruppo di seminaristi che a Frascati partecipano all'incontro estivo sul tema "La fraternità sacerdotale nella spiritualità del presbitero diocesano e la sua fondazione nella vita del seminario". Esprimo l'augurio che questo loro incontro accresca in tutti la reciproca conoscenza e lo spirito di comunione fraterna.

Saluto, poi, i giovani che prendono parte al campo-scuola promosso dall'Opera per la Gioventù "Giorgio La Pira" sul tema "Il lavoro", ed invoco copiosi doni dal cielo, perché essi siano rafforzati nei propositi di generosa testimonianza cristiana.

Il mio pensiero si dirige, inoltre, come di consueto, ai giovani, agli ammalati ed agli sposi novelli.

Oggi, memoria liturgica della Dedicazione della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, la liturgia ci invita a volgere lo sguardo a Maria, Madre di Cristo. Guardate sempre a Lei, cari giovani, imitandola nel seguire fedelmente la volontà divina; ricorrete a Lei con fiducia, cari ammalati, per sperimentare nel momento della prova l'efficacia della sua protezione; affidate a Lei, cari sposi novelli, la vostra famiglia, perché sia sempre sorretta dalla sua materna intercessione.

Con grande dolore, vorrei infine ricordare che un altro sacerdote è stato assassinato lunedì scorso. Si tratta del Reverendo Padre Jean Pierre Louis, dell'Arcidiocesi di Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Dinanzi a tale nuovo, deprecabile episodio di violenza, vi invito a pregare perché il Signore riceva nel suo Regno questo nostro fratello, sostenga la cara Nazione di Haiti e l'intera umanità nell'impegno per il rispetto di ogni vita umana.

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