On May 18 and 19, Catholic movements and lay associations will meet with Pope Francis in Rome during the Year of Faith. The idea was born some months ago when Benedict XVI was still Pope, and has been kept by his successor, Francis. Reflecting on this, the different organizations decided to propose not just a “meeting” but a true “pilgrimage.” So, the two days will become a pilgrimage to the roots of the Catholic faith: Peter the Apostle and the living Peter, the Pope. The title of the event is: “I Believe! Increase the Faith Within Us.”
On Saturday, May 18, the pilgrims will visit the tomb of the Apostle from 7 to 12 noon. About 12,000-15,000 people will be able to enter the Vatican Basilica — representing all the groups — and will walk a path four abreast. The next appointment is that afternoon in St. Peter’s Square, starting at
4 p.m. There will be three hours of prayers, reflections, music, and testimonies. Among the proposed texts there will be reflections by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the movements, reflections by Benedict XVI and Francis on faith, and some passages from the Fathers of the Church and the Scriptures. At 7 p.m., the Pope will meet the movements and the lay associations for the first time. After that, some churches and basilicas near the Vatican will remain open overnight. On Sunday, the appointment is in St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m. for Holy Mass with Pope Francis. We asked the leaders of some movements and associations to tell us what this meeting means to them and what they are hoping for.
Communion and Liberation
“The idea of the meeting as a pilgrimage convinced us all. It will be a gesture inspired by prayer and silence. After Benedict XVI’s resignation, it will also be the first occasion to meet the new Pope all together, and for the Pope to meet all of us. For us, this pilgrimage will allow us to return to the deep roots of our faith. We will be celebrating the new Pope, but also asking him to confirm our faith. We will be asking him to water and nourish the faith of his people. We will lean upon him as upon a rock, which he is.”
Italian Catholic Action;
Argentina Catholic Action
“The title chosen for the meeting is an effective expression of our desire to commit ourselves so that this time can be a privileged opportunity to share what our dearest treasure is as Christians: the Lord of Life. The meeting will be a moment even more beautiful and special, because for the first time we will meet Pope Francis in the Year of Faith that Pope Benedict gave us. Joining all together in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday is a precious opportunity to confirm our faith and to bring to all people the proclamation that from the beginning was the mission of the first disciples. Our vocation to evangelize, to bear witness to the Gospel with words and works to the ends of the earth, expresses itself in gratitude to the Lord for the joy of life he gives us and in the commitment to be fully Christian men and women. We can’t miss this meeting, where all together we will express our gratitude to the Lord, who never failed in his support and love for his Church. We think our faith needs to be brought to mind every day, and lived with more and more certainty, enthusiasm and bravery, so that a word of hope and a look of love are never lacking to those who cross our path.”
Federation of Guides and Scouts of Europe
“The meeting with the Pope is first of all a tribute to his fatherhood and his role of guidance in the Church and in the world, that cannot be renounced. Moreover, it is a celebration of fraternity among all the Catholic people who are committed to different paths inspired by the Holy Spirit within the Church. We invited all our groups, especially from Rome, to be present with others, with dedication and reserve: we are not used to ‘demonstrations’; our charism expresses itself in the nature and outdoors, far from urban settings. We will carry our flags and symbols and we will live each moment of the meeting with the joy and simplicity Pope Francis teaches us. We are waiting for the Pope to call us to follow Jesus Christ and bring him to our boys and girls. We don’t need particular changes or ‘reforms’; instead, we feel in full harmony with the evangelical spirit that the new Bishop of Rome spread in the first month of his pontificate: more than structures, we are interested in the word of the Gospel.”
“From the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the charismatic profile of the Church has been coming to light in his person and gestures, meaning simplicity, service, dialogue, communion. This is added to the proper institutional aspect.
“The image of the Church that appears is not pyramid-shaped — with an exaggerated verticalism — but it’s communion, with a center around which gather all the gifts that God gave to his Church through the charisms.
“Regarding the upcoming meeting, we would like to offer him something more than receiving anything from him. We want the Pope to feel that there are thousands of people whose only yearning is to testify to the vitality of the faith, the richness of God’s gifts, the capacity to face the most important challenges of our time, through the different charisms that movements and associations bear within themselves. As the Focolari Movement, we would like the Pope to feel our complete willingness to be instruments of unity, serving the Church-communion, which is what humanity is waiting to see.”
Renewal in the Spirit
“Is there still space for a ‘New Pentecost’ in the Church and in the lives of each of its members? And what role are we ready to assign to the Holy Spirit, who is the real key player of the ‘new evangelization,’ the only one who can solve so many and such profound crises with a new and powerful effusion of love and charismatic gifts? For more than 45 years, Renewal in the Spirit has been seeking to testify to the experience of the Holy Spirit in daily life, as a gift for suffering people, in search of God. There is great anticipation for this upcoming meeting between the ‘lay associations’ and the successor of Peter, Francis, who in his pastoral career always accompanied and valued the path of the movements. We will be in St. Peter’s Square to pray, with one voice, with one heart: ‘Come, Holy Spirit!’”
Alvaro de Juana
“We are very happy that the Pope called us for a meeting in St. Peter’s Square, together with other ecclesial groups, on the eve of Pentecost Sunday. It will be a good opportunity to show the communion among us and to renew our loyalty to the Holy Father. Our charism grew out of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, in response to the Second Vatican Council, so it will be very important to yet again gather around the Pope. Furthermore, it will be the first meeting we’ll have all together with Pope Francis. This encounter is a source of joy for all. We hope the Pope will once again underline the need for a new evangelization and urge the proclamation of the Gospel all over the world. We are in a time of great changes, to which the Church must be able to respond.”