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Iuvenescit Ecclesia: hierarchical gifts and charismatic gifts, “coessential” to the life of the Church

Hierarchical gifts (those given by the Sacrament of ordination: episcopal, priestly and diaconal) and charismatic gifts (those freely handed out by the Holy Spirit) are “coessential” to the life of the Church, “because together they concur in bringing the mystery of Christ and His salvific world into the world”. This has been reiterated in the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “Iuvenescit Ecclesia”, about the relationship between hierarchical gifts and charismatic gifts in the life and mission of the Church. The publication of the Letter – dated 16th May 2016, the Day of Pentecost – was ordered by Pope Francis on 14th March in the audience granted to cardinal Müller. The intention of the document, 32 pages split into five chapters and 24 paragraphs, including the foreword and the conclusion, is to “recall, in the light of the relationship between hierarchical gifts and charismatic gifts, those theological and ecclesiological features the understanding of which may promote a fruitful and orderly involvement of the new associations in the communion and mission of the Church”. So, the text first describes “some of the key points of the doctrine “on charismas contained in the New Testament as well as those of the magisterial reflection on such new situations”, and then, “prompted by some systematic theological principles, it provides some of the distinguishing traits of the hierarchical gifts and charismatic gifts, along with some criteria for the discernment of the new ecclesial associations”. The starting point of the document – that widely mentions the Council’s texts and the texts of St John Paul II’s magisterium – is Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium: “The call to be an ‘outgoing’ Church – the letter states in the foreword – requires a rereading of all Christian life from a missionary perspective. The evangelising task concerns all the areas of the Church: ordinary pastoral care, the announcement to those who have left the Christian faith, and above all to those who have never been touched by Jesus’ Gospel or who have always rejected it”. In this “essential task that is the new evangelisation”, for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith “it is more essential than ever to recognise and promote the many charismas that can reawaken and feed the life of faith of God’s people”.

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