The Charismatic Renewal and the Catholic Church | Alessandra Nucci | Catholic World Report
A look at the history and future of the sometimes-controversial movement
When the newly elected Pope Francis appeared at the window before the cheering crowd in St Peter’s Square, and promptly bowed down asking the people to pray for him, most of the public at large was charmed, but puzzled. Pope Benedict too had asked the people to pray for him from the outset, but without the bowed head. To some spectators, however—including the members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and their counterparts in the Protestant and Orthodox worlds—the gesture came as something surprisingly familiar. In the “charismatic” galaxy, prayer is offered and asked for in this way by people of all levels—specifically, prayer for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
There is a photograph available on the Internet that shows Pope Francis, while still archbishop of Buenos Aires, on his knees with head bowed as a group of evangelical pastors and Catholic priests and laymen pray over him. As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Pope would celebrate Mass on a monthly basis for the Charismatic Renewal of Buenos Aires. And despite the conflicts between Catholics and Pentecostals in Latin America, word has it that Pentecostal pastors rejoiced at the election of the new Catholic pope.
Pope Francis’ frequent mentions of the Holy Spirit—whom he has described as someone who “annoys us” and “moves us, makes us walk, pushes the Church to move forward”—as well as his unprecedentedly frequent references to the devil (rather than to a generic “evil”), indicate his affinity for the Charismatic Renewal. The election of such a back-to-basics man as Supreme Pontiff provides us with an opportunity to look at the road traveled by the Charismatic Renewal and to “hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).
Despite the openness of its approach, for many the Charismatic Renewal is either undecipherable or a clear-cut deviation into “modernism.” Having made its appearance in the Catholic world after Vatican Council II, with spectacular aspects such as prophecies and miracle-healings, it was obviously lumped in with the many other challenging and controversial novelties that surfaced at the time under the banner of “renewal.” Yet the Charismatic Renewal in its Catholic expression is generally painstaking in its strict adherence to the Church and to Catholic doctrine, a fact which, in itself, can cause controversy and sometimes alienates Pentecostal, Evangelical, non-denominational, or other ecumenical counterparts.