Vatican News (VN): On 8 December 2018, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life instituted a new unified service for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This service is called CHARIS, an acronym for Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service. What are its objectives?
Fr. Awi: CHARIS is called to serve all who express this “stream of grace”. Its statutes will enter into force on 9 June 2019 on the Solemnity of Pentecost. That same day, the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships (known as Catholic Fraternity) and ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) will terminate their activities. It is important to note that CHARIS is not a merger between these two organisations, but rather a new service that initiates a new phase for the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I believe that after Pentecost this innovation will gradually become more evident. It should also be noted that CHARIS is not a governing body but a Service of Communion in accordance with the explicit desire of the Holy Father.
VN: How is this new service structured?
Fr. Awi: CHARIS is under the responsibility of a moderator who is assisted by a council called the International Service of Communion, which is composed of 18 people from all over the world. Some represent the continents and others represent the different kinds of entities in the Charismatic Renewal. For this first mandate all have been appointed by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
The first Moderator is Jean-Luc Moens, a married layman and father who has been committed to the Charismatic Renewal for over 45 years. The first Ecclesiastical Assistant, following the desire of the Holy Father, is Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM cap., Preacher to the Papal Household.
The Pope wanted CHARIS to be established by the Holy See so that those in the Charismatic Renewal and the whole Church would know that the Charismatic Renewal belongs fully to the universal Church.
One of the essential points emphasised by the Holy Father is the importance of communion, that is, of unity in diversity. CHARIS serves all the charismatic communities in the world, and none of them has priority over the others. In no country can a community, group, organisation or movement claim leadership of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
VN: At the local level in different countries, what changes will it imply? Will the current local structures of the Charismatic Renewal change?
Fr. Awi: The statutes of CHARIS stipulate that each country will have a National Service of Communion that will bring together as much as possible all the charismatic groups in the country where none will have predominance over the others. In some countries, the establishment of this service will be a real novelty. Until now there have been various forms of the Charismatic Renewal coexisting that have never cultivated real communion with each other. Sometimes they have even been ignoring or mutually excluding each other. In other countries, the existing structure is already one of true communion. In these cases, no changes need to be applied. It will be up to CHARIS to organise these different national services.
VN: Jean-Luc Moens, what was your reaction when you heard about the creation of CHARIS and the fact that you were appointed Moderator?
Jean-Luc Moens: My reaction was twofold. I felt joy and thanksgiving for this new ecclesial recognition received for the Charismatic Renewal, 52 years after the Holy Spirit awakened this stream of grace in the Church. I was also quite astonished at my appointment. I did not expect it at all.
VN: The Charismatic Renewal is presented everywhere as a “stream of grace”. Can you explain where this expression comes from?
Jean-Luc Moens: It was Pope Francis himself who used the expression “stream of grace” during his meeting with the Charismatic Renewal in Rome's Olympic Stadium in 2014. Our Pope adopted the expression used by Cardinal Léon Joseph Suenens, the first cardinal delegate for Charismatic Renewal, appointed by Pope Paul VI. For Cardinal Suenens, whom I had the honour of knowing personally, the Charismatic Renewal should not be considered a movement, but a stream of grace called to revitalise the whole Church. This expression also better reflects the great diversity of components of the Charismatic Renewal: prayer groups, communities, schools of evangelisation, ministries, publishing houses, television channels, etc. We all share the same grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
VN: CHARIS is a new service. Can you explain what it brings that is new?
Jean-Luc Moens: As Fr. Awi said earlier, it is the place that the Charismatic Renewal occupies in the Church through the establishment of CHARIS by the Holy See.
The CHARIS Statutes emphasise three dimensions: the spread of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the unity of Christians and service to the poor. These dimensions are at the service of evangelisation, to which the Renewal is called by the Holy Father and to which it is committed.
The spread of baptism in the Spirit may not seem new. This is what the Charismatic Renewal has been doing since its birth. But what is new, really new? It is that today the Pope himself asks that baptism in the Holy Spirit be known throughout the Church. He did so on several occasions in a very clear way. This is a new step for the Charismatic Renewal, a challenge that must be carried out in the service of the universal Church.
Pope Francis also calls for the Charismatic Renewal to return to its ecumenical roots, that is, to work proactively towards Christian unity. This is something that was very much present at the birth of the Charismatic Renewal and which, in many places, was gradually set aside. The Pope asks us to put it back in the forefront.
Neither is service to the poor an innovation. What is new, however, is how “charismatics” are explicitly encouraged to serve the poor and needy. This should not surprise us because the Holy Spirit is love. It is normal for those who want to depend totally on God to be witnesses of love. That is why service to the poor is central to the Renewal.
The three dimensions that I have just emphasised are naturally included in the call to evangelisation that is addressed to the whole Charismatic Renewal. Baptism in the Spirit is the experience of Pentecost that set the apostles on a mission. Compassion and charity give new strength to evangelisation because “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). Christian unity is also part of the challenge of mission because Jesus calls us to it: “that all of them may be one ... so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
Also for the first time, the CHARIS International Communion Service includes a young woman under 30 years of age who represents young people from all over the world. Young people are also active players in the International Charismatic Renewal. And they are a priority for CHARIS.
VN: What activities is CHARIS planning to carry out first?
Jean-Luc Moens: On 6 and 7 June we will hold a world conference of servant leaders of the Charismatic Renewal in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City. Registrations are open. We are expecting about 500 leaders from all over the world.
On Saturday 8 June, also in Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis will be present with us. We will listen to him and pray with him for a new Pentecost. All are welcome (register at www.charis.international). We will also participate in the Pentecost Vigil prepared by the Diocese of Rome in Saint Peter’s Square.
Of course, on Sunday 9 June, Solemnity of Pentecost, we will be in Saint Peter’s Square for Mass and the blessing.