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Monday, December 14, 2015

Identity and mission of the religious brother in the Church

Vatican City, 14 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life presented the document “Identity and mission of the religious brother in the Church” and the concluding activities of the Year of Consecrated Life. The speakers were Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the dicastery, and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., secretary of the same congregation.

“The document emphasises the great wealth and relevance of the vocation of brothers and its content is very valid and innovative in the light of Vatican Council II”, explained Cardinal Braz de Aviz. “The vocation of the religious brother is, first of all, a Christian vocation … and the feature of the person of Christ that the religious brother specially underlines in his way of life is that of fraternity. The religious brother reflects the face of Christ the Brother: simple, good, near to the people, welcoming, generous, and serving”.

The identity and mission of the religious brother, as the text indicates, is summarised in the concept of fraternity understood as the gift that the religious brother receives from the Triune God, a communion of persons; a gift that he shares with his brethren in fraternal life in the community and a gift he offers the world for the construction of a world of children of God and brothers.

The cardinal went on to illustrate the theme of fraternity as a gift that the religious brother receives from the Triune God. “The religious brother becomes thus because the Spirit lets him know God, Who in Jesus shows Himself to be a Father full of love, tenderness and mercy. Together with Jesus, he feels like a beloved son and with Him he offers himself so as to be in his life entirely for the Father and entirely for all His sons and daughters in this world. A characteristic of the identity of the religious brother is the need for fraternity as a confession of the Trinity: a fraternity open to all, especially the least, the humble, the oppressed, the unloved” - those who “are less likely to experience the good news of God's love in their lives”.

This fraternity is the gift that the religious brother shares with his brethren in community life. “Fraternal life in the community means harmonious relations between brethren, mutual knowledge, acceptance and love, dialogue, mutual respect, mutual support, the sharing of talents, the abnegation of the self, ecclesial mission, and openness to the needs of the Church and the world, especially those most in need. All this is beautiful, but it is not obtained spontaneously.. … The community is sustained by the gift of fraternity that religious brothers receive. The brother needs to support for these fraternal relations by developing the spiritual, mystical and theological dimension”.

Fraternity is, finally, a gift that the religious brother offers to the world and which is transformed into mission. Therefore, “brothers carry out their mission of contributing to the construction of the Kingdom of fraternity through ceaseless prayer, the witness of fraternal life and community dedication to the service of the Church and the world. … The fraternity of religious brothers is not self-referential or closed up in itself; it is … a fraternity in perfect harmony … with an outbound Church, that reaches out to the peripheries of this world; with a Church called upon to build bridges, open to contemporary man of every race, culture or creed”.

Fraternal love is made manifest in the Church and in the life of religious brothers in numerous services: “educating, healing the sick, helping the imprisoned, welcoming refugees, catechesis, manual work, and so on. Many of these services represent true ministries. In this way”, the prefect concluded, “the religious brother seeks and points to God in the secular realities of culture, science, human health, the workplace, and the care of the weak and disadvantaged. Similarly, he seeks and points to the human being, man and woman, whole and entire, body, mind and spirit, inasmuch as whatever affects the human person is part of God's saving plan”.

Archbishop Rodriguez Carballo expressed his gratitude to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who in 2008 was the first to encourage the preparation of the document presented today, and to Pope Francis who read the draft while he was the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires and who as Pope has supported its revision, completion and publication.

The conference concluded with an announcement of the activities marking the closure of the Year of Consecrated Life. From 28 January to 2 February 2016 an international meeting of all types of consecrated life will take place in Rome, entitled “Consecrated life and communion”, which is expected to be attended by 6,000 consecrated men and women from all over the world, and will conclude with Holy Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter's Basilica.

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