From staff and wire reports
Two local Catholics took the stage in Rome’s Circus Maximus to share their faith on June 3.
The occasion was a Pentecost vigil to mark the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal. Pope Francis led the vigil.
The local couple who shared their testimony in front of more than 50,000 people from 128 countries around the world was Andrés Arango, Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry and Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Camden, and member of the Council of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services; and Kathia Arango, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and National Coordinator for the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the United States and Canada.
The jubilee celebrations began in Rome May 31 with prayer meetings, a youth festival, meetings for theologians and workshops.
Andrés and Kathia shared their testimony as a family, taking turns speaking.
The charismatic renewal is “a current of grace,” Pope Francis told the crowd at the Circus Maximus. “It is a work that was born — Catholic? No. It was born ecumenical,” with similar results in many denominations and with Pentecostals providing support and education to new Catholic charismatics.
“It was born ecumenical because it is the Holy Spirit who creates unity,” the pope said. The Holy Spirit drew Catholics and Pentecostals together to profess that Jesus is Lord and “to proclaim together the Father’s love for all his children.”
In ancient Rome, Pope Francis said, Christians were martyred in the Circus Maximus “for the entertainment of those watching.” He urged the crowd to remember how many Christians are being killed for their faith today and to recognize that their murderers are not asking them their denomination, just whether or not they are Christian.
If those who want to kill Christians believe they are one, he said, it is urgent that Christians be “united by the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer and in action on behalf of those who are weaker.”
“Walk together. Work together. Love each other,” Pope Francis told them.
Being baptized in the Spirit and knowing how to praise God, he said, “are not enough” if Christians don’t also help those in need.
An Italian Pentecostal pastor, Giovanni Traettino, a friend of Pope Francis’ since they met at an ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006, told the crowd that as Christians grow in their love for God, they should simultaneously grow in love for one another.
“The movement of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Pentecostal movement, has in its DNA — its life in the Holy Spirit — the vocation to build Christian unity,” he said.
Pentecostals and Catholic charismatics have not always gotten along, Traettino said. But “the election of Pope Francis clearly opened a new season, especially in relations with us.”
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, offered a reflection also focusing on the ecumenical vocation of the charismatic renewal.
How many of the divisions among Christians “have been due to the desire to make a name for ourselves or for our own church more than for God,” he asked. “A renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not be possible without a collective movement of repentance on the part of all Christians.”
Tens of thousands of people gathered for hours of song and prayer before the pope arrived.
Pope Francis celebrated Pentecost Mass June 4 in Saint Peter’s Square, concluding the five-day celebration.
In his homily at the Mass, the pope said Christians can block the unity in diversity desired by the Holy Spirit by focusing on their differences rather than on what they share.
“This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others,” he said.