VATICAN CITY - John Paul II encouraged those involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal to be "living signs of hope" witnessing to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The papal message, published Saturday by the Vatican Press Office, was sent to the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, attending a congress in Rome, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the phenomenon. The congress runs through Wednesday.
The Catholic Fraternity (www.catholicfraternity.net), as it is generally known, came into being in 1990 at the initiative of several charismatic communities of Australia and elsewhere.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity has recognized it as a "Private Association of Faithful." It has some 50 communities with 30,000 members around the world.
It is part of the Catholic charismatic movement, which today has some 80 million Catholic followers worldwide.
"Your contribution to the life of the Church, through your faithful witness to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, has helped many people to rediscover in their own lives the beauty of the grace given to them at baptism, the gateway to life in the Spirit," the Pope explained in the message written in English.
"It has helped them to know the power of the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit conferred at confirmation," he wrote. "I join you in praising the Most Holy Trinity for the work of the Spirit who continues to draw people more fully into the life of Christ and to render their bonds with the Church more perfect."
Referring to the topics of the congress -- family life, youth and human promotion -- John Paul II said that these "cannot fail to open your hearts and minds to the needs of humanity as it struggles to find purpose in a world too often troubled by a 'crisis of meaning.'"
Given the situation, John Paul II stressed the urgency of an "evangelization of culture, in order that life may be marked by hope rather than by fear or skepticism."
He encouraged members of Catholic charismatic movement to be "living signs of hope, beacons of Christ's good news for the men and women of our time."
This means that they must be "authentic witnesses to the truth and vision of life entrusted to and proclaimed by the Church," he added. "Communion in faith and life, in heartfelt union with the successors of the apostles, is itself a powerful witness to the anchor of truth which the world so needs."
The charismatic communities also have the great challenge that the new millennium poses the Church: to be "the home and school of communion," the Pope said.
By H. S. Lee