Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – The Congregration for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life celebrated their plenary assembly reflecting on the current state of consecrated life in the Church, fifty years after the Conciliar documents “Lumen gentium” and “Perfectae caritatis”. The theme chosen was “New wine in new wineskins”, and Pope Francis, who received eighty participants in audience this morning, based his discourse on the multiple meanings of this phrase.
“In the part of the Lord's vineyard selected by those who have chosen to imitate Christ more closely through the profession of evangelical counsels, new grapes are matured and new wine is obtained”, said the Holy Father. “In these days you have been offered the chance to discern the quality and ageing of the 'new wine' that has been produced during the long season of renewal, and at the same time to evaluate whether the wineskins that contain it, represented by the institutional forms present today in consecrated life, are adequate to contain this 'new wine' and to favour its full maturation. As I have recalled many times, we must not be afraid of setting aside the 'old wineskins': of renewing those habits and those structures that, in the life of the Church and therefore also in consecrated life, we realise no longer respond to what God asks of us today to further His Kingdom in the world: the structures that give us false protection and that condition the dynamism of charity; the habits that distance us from the flock to which we are sent and prevent us from hearing the cry of those who await the Good News of Jesus Christ”.
“You do not hide those areas of weakness that it is possible to find today in consecrated life (such as the resistance to change of certain sectors, the diminished power of attraction, the not insignificant number of those who abandon the vocation, the fragility of certain formative itineraries, concern for institutional and ministerial tasks at the expense of spiritual life, the difficult integration of cultural and generational diversity, and a problematic balance in the exercise of authority and the use of goods), but you wish to continue to listen for signals from the Spirit, that opens up new horizons and leads to new paths, always starting out from the supreme rule of the Gospel and inspired by the bold creativity of your founders”.
The Pope went on to list the criteria to follow for guidance in the “arduous task of evaluating the new wine and testing the quality of the wineskins”: the evangelical originality of the choices, charismatic fidelity, the primary of service, attention to the least and most fragile, and respect for the dignity of every person.
He encouraged those present to “continue to work with generosity and resourcefulness in the Lord's vineyard”, to obtain “that generous wine that will be able to reinvigorate the life of the Church and to bring cheer to the heart of the many brothers and sisters in need of your care”, and he underlined that “even the substitution of old for new wineskins … does not take place automatically, but requires commitment and ability, to offer the suitable space for welcoming and bringing to fruition the new gifts with which the Spirit continues to embellish the Church, His spouse”. He concluded, “do not forget … to carry on the process of renewal that has been initiated and to a great extent accomplished in these fifty years, examining every novelty in the light of the Word of God and in listening to the needs of the Church and of the contemporary world”.