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The Bishops of the Netherlands have issued a pastoral statement on the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Netherlands in late 1988. After many years of existence of the Renewal in the Netherlands the bishops write: “We feel time has come for us as Bishops of the Netherlands to express our opinion about it. With this statement we want to encourage the community of the faithful to become acquainted with the Charismatic Renewal. We hope that the words of Pope Paul VI, who called the Charismatic Renewal an opportunity for the Church and the world, may also become a reality in our country”.
Describing the Charismatic Renewal, the bishops said that the Charismatic Renewal recaptured the founding event of the Christian faith. “It is not, however, merely a recapturing. By opening themselves up to the timeless coming of the Spirit, people experience anew the descent of the Spirit; a renewed experience of Pentecost. We think that this experience is something very important which is why we want to bring it to the attention of the community of the faithful. In what follows we will describe some of the characteristics of the Charismatic Renewal, not only to supply information, but in order to put into words what we as Church are called to be. It is not all simple to define the Charismatic Renewal. It is not so much a movement within the Church, as Church on the way.”
After noting the scriptural foundations of the Renewal and its beginnings in Anglican and Protestant circles, they wrote: “The Charismatic Renewal also owes a lot to the Pentecostal Movement and it is difficult to say where the one ends and the other begins although there are practical and theological differences between the two.
The bishops went on to say that because of the worldwide character of the Renewal an office to coordinate the Catholic Charismatic Renewal called “ICCRO” was created.
In the Netherlands there is a National Service Committee which emerged from a Protestant and Old-Catholic initiative to gather leaders from the Flemish and Dutch speaking areas of the Roman Catholic Renewal. “This Protestant and Old-Catholic initiative formed, with Cardinal Suenens’ initiative, an important stimulus for the origin of the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Netherlands. At this moment there are in this country more than 2,000 people meeting regularly in 150 different Roman Catholic prayer-groups.
“Very early a National Service Committee was formed in the Netherlands with the task to give countrywide support to the Roman Catholic prayer-groups: it is called “Building At a New Earth” (BANA). It is the official association for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Netherlands. The first aim is to coordinate and support the 150 prayer-groups connected with it.”
The bishops listed special characteristics of the Charismatic renewal : a personal bond with the Risen Lord, a greater familiarity with the Scriptures, witness to the Spirit in the lives of ordinary people, healing services, and formation of a community of love. The bishops then went on to speak of the aim of the Charismatic Renewal. It “is not a new organization, among other church organizations. It wants to be the work of the Spirit Himself. Proceeding from religious experience, people want to contribute to a renewal of life in Church and society. Starting point here is the opinion that this is ultimately a vocation for all the faithful. They do not want to be an organization within an organization, they want to be leaven in bread.
“The foundation of the renewal is faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, Redeemer of the world, by whose death and resurrection everything has been born again to a new life. So one does not primarily try to fulfill personal needs for warmth, affection, security, group identity on transcendence in the risen Lord. Being a Christian is to be a follower of Christ.
The bishops conclude: “The Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal is not yet known everywhere in the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands. When people come across it, they react to it in different ways: some reject it, others believe that a new era has dawned for the Church. Who knows but there really could be a new era and a new opportunity for the Church and the world! We should at least look with hope and respect at the possibilities that the Renewal offers. Already the Apostle Paul showed that charismata do not work separately, but only within the community. To integrate the charismata into the community is a permanent challenge to the entire community of the faithful. This task has two sides. The community is called upon to accept members of the charismatic prayer-groups, and they in their turn are called upon to turn to their own local community.
“We make this statement and hope that all who in anyway get in touch with the Charismatic Renewal will get more closely acquainted with the special gifts that are found there. We ask those who are part of the Renewal to maintain (their relationships) in their own community and to deepen the bonds with it. Finally we want to give expression to our esteem for the values that are more often and more clearly found in the Renewal”.
The support of the hierarchy which issued this statement in the Netherlands is another sign of the esteem that the Renewal has won in different parts of the world.