by Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
NEW YORK — At the request of Pope Francis, the Vatican has established a new body to oversee the global Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which launched Dec. 8, creating a single group in Rome for a movement almost defined by its lack of most official structures.
The new body, known as CHARIS (Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service), will function within the Vatican Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life, headed by U.S. Cardinal Kevin Farrell.
According to Bishop Peter Smith, an auxiliary in Portland, Ore., who’s been appointed to represent North America on the newly formed CHARIS committee, their work will have a two-pronged focus of leadership and service.
Unlike many other movements within the Church, the new body, which will represent an estimated 115 million Catholic charismatics around the world, is meant to serve as a point of reference rather than a formal, hierarchical structure.
Bishop Smith told The Tablet that unlike other ecclesial movements, such as Communion and Liberation or the Focolare, Catholic charismatics are not tied to a particular founder or structure.
Bishop Smith cited a phrase first used by Pope Paul VI and repeated often by Pope Francis, that the movement is a “current of grace” within the Church, where its ministries and programs are not explicitly defined by their openness to the Holy Spirit. Those ministries and programs often take the form of spiritual retreats, prayer meetings and days of ministry, and the style of worship is often effusive, sometimes marked by speaking in tongues, healings, and other traditional “gifts of the spirit.”
The 20-member committee, which will be headed by Belgian Jean-Luc Moens of the Emmanuel Community, will meet together for the first time in Rome next year at Pentecost. The new committee will serve a three-year term, and effective on Pentecost, CHARIS will replace two previously existing Charismatic organizations – the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.
In June of 2016, Pope Francis joined over 50,000 pilgrims from 120 countries to mark the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which traces its roots back to a religious awakening first started in Duquesne, Penn., and has now spread across the globe.
Bishop Smith told The Tablet that while different popes have enjoyed close relationships with various ecclesial movements, Pope Francis has come to have a particular affinity for charismatics.
“He was initially skeptical of it, but then he saw its impact on the lives of people close to him, and over time, he has become very fond of it,” Bishop Smith said.
“The pope has often underlined the impact that the charismatic movement has on people’s lives,” said Paolo Maino, head of the Communità Via Pacis. He will represent Italy and Europe for CHARIS. “CHARIS plans to bring the love of God in the heart of every man,” Maino continued, “which is in the DNA of charismatics.”
Contributing to this article was Crux’s Clairè Giangravè.