Basic Ecclesial Communities

Basic Ecclesial Communities

Archbishop Leonard Faulkner

Archbishop Faulkner responds to BECs article

Archbishop Leonard Faulkner of Adelaide has responded to the article "Basic Ecclesial Communities: Adelaide's 'new model of church'", which was published in the June edition of 'AD2000' and dealt with Basic Ecclesial Communities and their operation in the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

I am concerned that some who read Michael Gilchrist's article in the June edition of AD2000 may be left wondering about the relevance of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Church in Australia.

In particular, some who read the article may be left with the impression that the Vatican, and even The Holy Father, may have misgivings about the theology and role of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, specific mention is made of Basic Ecclesial Communities in Pope John Paul II's 1990 Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio on the Permanent Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate.

In this Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II describes "Ecclesial Basic Communities" (in Australia called Basic Ecclesial Communities) as a "force for evangelisation".

To quote directly from Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II writes that:

"A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young Churches - one sometimes fostered by the Bishops and their Conferences - is that of 'ecclesial basic communities' (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centres for Christian formation and missionary outreach."

The Holy Father writes further that:

"These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelisation, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a 'civilisation of love'."

Recalling the words of Pope Paul VI, our Holy Father says that every community must "live in union with the particular and the universal Church, in heartfelt communion with the Church's Pastors and the Magisterium, with a commitment to missionary outreach and without yielding to isolationism or ideological exploitation".

Quoting the Synod of Bishops, Redemptoris Missio states that because the Church is communion, the new "basic communities", if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion.

"They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church" (Redemptoris Missio).

You can see, therefore, that Basic Ecclesial Communities are heeding the Pope's call for us to be a Church that is not isolationist, but evangelising. Far from having their origins in "neo-Marxist liberation theology" as Mr Gilchrist wrote, they are deeply founded in Gospel values.

Pastoral Letter

I regret that AD2000, in preparing an article of this length on Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Adelaide Archdiocese, made no reference to my Pastoral Letter of October 1994 in which the relationship between Basic Ecclesial Communities and the parish and the whole Church is strongly emphasised.

Rather than re-creating isolated, self-reliant, missionary-oriented communities, as the article suggests, my pastoral letter sets out a vision for integrating Basic Ecclesial Communities into parish life and structures. These communities seek, as the Pope urged in Redemptoris Missio, to truly live in unity with the Church, to be a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion. Working in a united way with parishes, as the Pope urges in Redemptoris Missio, Basic Ecclesial Communities seek to build and strengthen parishes, not break them down.

How can we not be concerned about the 80 per cent of baptised Catholics not experiencing the joy of belonging to our Church community and especially the joy of receiving the Eucharist? Our Basic Ecclesial Communities and the Neighbourhood Groups are already having a profound effect on many families.

Before Christmas 2000, more than 7000 families received a personal visit from our Neighbourhood team visitors. This is only a beginning: however, Basic Ecclesial Communities are being developed in more than 30 parishes.

May I assure readers that our experience is that those promoting Basic Ecclesial Communities do not have an "apparent revolutionary intent" as described by AD2000. The four people employed by the Archdiocese in our Basic Ecclesial Communities office and outreach are deeply committed to the Catholic Faith and to their families. Our hundreds of volunteers are also excellent people who also want to be "good neighbours" to people who need faith and hope and love in their lives.

This should be at the core of all our endeavours as a Church community. Through the Eucharist, members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, and indeed all parishioners, are nurtured by the Word of God and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ to carry out their mission in daily life.

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