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Pope gives pep talk to large lay group after tightening rules

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday urged members of a large Catholic lay group to keep up their enthusiasm, a year after Vatican reforms brought the leadership of such organizations under control.

In St. Peter’s Square, Francis addressed thousands of members of Communion and Liberation, a lay organization with a presence in some 90 countries. The group is mainly active in Italy and seeks political influence.

Last year, the Vatican moved to better regulate religious movements for the non-clergy believers by imposing term limits on their leaders. The action forced a Spanish priest, Reverend Julian Carron, who has been the head of Communion and Liberation since 2005, from home.

A few months ago, the head of the Vatican’s lay office complained that Carron was still exerting influence against the Vatican’s reforms.

During Saturday’s audience, members of the Communion and Liberation applauded the Pope, who recalled the 100th anniversary of the birth of their organization’s late founder, the Rev. Luigi Guissani.

In his speech, Francis thanked Carron “for his service in leading the movement” in the years following Guissani’s death. Yet, the pope said, there have been “serious problems, divisions and certainly impoverishment in the presence of an ecclesiastical movement as important as Communion and Liberation, for which the church and myself hope (to have) more, much more.”

He told the members of the group not to lose heart. “Crisis drives growth,” Francis said.

With the 2021 reform, the Vatican’s lay office has cracked down on the largely unregulated world of international associations of believers after reporting some cases of abuse of authority and poor governance.

“Without authority you risk going off the road, going in the wrong direction,” Francis told Communion and Liberation members, Still, “without charisma the path threatens to become dull, no longer attractive to people of that particular historical moment. ”

The pope said it is up to the Catholic Church to “indicate with wisdom and prudence the path the movements should take, in order to remain true to themselves and to the mission that God has entrusted to them”.

“Let not your brotherhood be wounded by divisions and confrontations,” the Pope said, blaming the devil for such conflicts. “Even in difficult moments there can be moments of grace, and they can be moments of rebirth.”

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