Cardinal Eduardo MARTINEZ SOMALO
(Prefect of the Congregation for 
the Institutes of Consecrated Life and 
the Societies of Apostolic Life
Vatican City)


Reference which Instrumentum Laboris makes to consecrate life is important for intensity and clarity of concepts rather than for the number of pages.

1) In particular, nowadays when in some parts of Western culture one notices trends which would like to mitigate observance of Evangelical Counsels as if this was a forced imposition for modern mentality and practically for Africa, real doctrine appears to be strictly reconfirmed - a doctrine which defines the authenticity of consecrated life, and it is opportune to quote Lumen Gentium (n. 42).

(a) "The evangelical counsels of chaste self-dedication of God, of poverty and of obedience - they are a gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord and which by His grace she always safeguards" (LG 43) (Instrumentum Laboris, n.30).

(b) Stress is also put on the words of the Holy Father in "Redemptoris Missio" on virginity for love of the Reign which is translated in rich and fruitful spiritual maternity, consecrated to the love of God and of one's neighbour and which becomes an evangelical sign for the peoples and cultures where woman still has a long way to go for her promotion and liberation (cf. RM 79) (Instrumentum Laboris n. 32).

2) Reference to the monasteries of contemplative life are also very significant, including their secret Apostolic fecundity, renovating the invitation of the Council Decree "Ad Gentes" (n.40) to found houses in mission areas (Instrumentum Laboris, n. 30).

3) We are greatly satisfied to read (n.30) the right acknowledgement of the apostolate that consecrated life has carried out for evangelisation in Africa and that is generously continued today.

In addition to work they carry out in catechesis, parish pastoral work, and teaching they also carry out a mission of charity in over 30,000 care centres.

4) In addition to this one must add the providential vocation reawakening for consecrated life with 1,141 male novices and 2,852 female novices, plus 2,373 students in Philosophy and Theology.

5) No doubt there are problems. There is the need for:

a) serious vocational judgement establishing procedures and criteria to be applied without concessions, fear or preferences (n. 28).

b) Forming a sufficient number of formators, who are qualified and suitable as it was also stated in this hall.

c) Avoid excessive multiplication of diocesan congregations which in turn seem to lack their own charisma and spirit.

6) In reports which are sent to the Dicastery one can notice some mutual complaints on the part of religious brothers and Bishops: too much independence in the ministry and little respect for specific charisma. For both it is necessary to refer to the Perfectae Caritatis and Mutuae Relationis.

7) "What needs to be done to inculturate religious life". The essential elements of religious consecration such as vows and fraternal life in a community must be ensured, and formed an irremissible condition before any form of inculturation. These are Evangelical Counsels: universal and eternal.

Stemming from this basic element and constant respect of this, consecrated life is called to discover and take on religious values of specific cultural tradition. Religious life can be enriched by a sense of deep spirituality, impregnated in a wisdom, and joy that distinguishes the peoples of Africa (Instrumentum Laboris, 69-70).

Charisma is a gift which, by its nature, can be offered to all cultures; it can be experienced "according to the genius and nature" of each culture with its real values, following the criteria of Redemptoris Missio (nn. 52-62).

8) I consider it providential that this Synod precedes the one on consecrated life. Today unfortunately there are some ideas and claims that concern an ambiguous "modernisation" of religious life, presented as a need for inculturation. To insist therefore on principles and criteria of a serious and weighed inculturation will be good thing for the Synod on consecrated life, for the whole Church and not only for the African continent.

Original text: Italian



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