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1 January 2001
Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone Says: “Media Reporting Was Distorted”
The recent publication of the “Instruction on Prayers for Healing” by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has stirred up public opinion due to the arbitrary interpretation by some of the mass media. Since this matter is so significant for the whole of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, I think it is necessary to publish – without any further comments – an excerpt of Vatican Radio’s interview (
The Vatican is concerned about the way in which some media sources have reported the publication of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “On Prayers to Obtain Healing from God.”
Therefore, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the congregation, which published the instruction with John Paul II’s approval, tried to clarify, over Vatican Radio, the misunderstandings caused by the media.
Question: In many cases the media has interpreted the instruction as a “stop” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the “charismatic” prayer group meetings to obtain healing. Is this the case?
Archbishop Bertone: This interpretation is not right. Generally speaking, the document has a very positive introduction on prayers for healing in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Church’s tradition and also at present.
Because of this, I would like to specify: In order to avoid automatism, we have not said “healing prayers” in the document but “prayers to obtain healing.” This specification is important because a necessary and unavoidable healing is not automatically connected to prayer, with the risk of very great disappointment, or even desperation, if healing doesn’t take place.
The groups of Renewal in the Spirit (Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which are very many and have been approved by the Church, naturally in keeping with statutes and rules of life that include a fully ecclesial identity card — the famous criteria of ecclesiality — have greatly helped the people of God, believers and baptized, in recent years to recover the taste for prayer, not to be defeated by the boredom of prayer, and not to neglect prayer.
Consequently, there is no desire to strike at the Renewal in the Spirit (Catholic Charismatic Renewal) groups: There is an intention to give rules of conduct that, as can be seen in the document, make clear distinctions between liturgical and non-liturgical celebrations, individual prayers and communal prayers.
Question: The document states that it “would be completely arbitrary to “a charism of healing” to any category of participants, for example, to the directors of the group; the only thing to do is entrust oneself to the free decision of the Holy Spirit, who grants to some a special charism of healing in order to show the power of the grace of the Risen Christ.” Could you clarify this concept, which seems crucial?
Archbishop Bertone: Another problem arises here, which is a real problem of our time. In every period of the Church, there have been miracle-working men and women of God, who have effected healings, including prodigious ones and real miracles. Let’s think of Don Bosco, Blessed Padre Pio and other saints who have adorned the path of the Church.
Certainly today also there are persons who are gifted with this healing charism, because the Spirit acts in his immense and total sovereign freedom. However, discernment is always the work of the Church’s authority, as St. Paul said in the first Letter to the Thessalonians: the discernment of charisms.
Moreover, we cannot canonize people before their time, we cannot give a miracle-working investiture to certain people, for example, leaders of groups ... as if they were automatically invested with a healing charism, and not give the Spirit the freedom to act also through other people.
Archbishop Bertone: The problem consists in distinguishing between the real charism of healing, which must be examined by the authority of the Church, and mythologizing, virtually the idolizing of persons, as we have seen recently including on some television transmissions, the exaltation of certain persons who allegedly had carried out thousand of cures, of “miracles.”
This is inconceivable in the Church, precisely because the Spirit must be allowed to blow where he wills. It is important not to mythologize, not to favor certain meetings exclusively and, instead, to promote prayers to obtain healing, which is what the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith hopes to achieve. In this way, a void can also be filled, a lacuna that emerged especially after the council.
Taken from the ICCRS Newsletter, January-February 2001