What Will Happen When The Charismatics Come to Rome for Pentecost? UPDATED

As you perhaps saw from Catholic New Service – see the report at Crux – Pope Francis has invited Catholic charismatics and members of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches to Rome for Pentecost. The occasion is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Catholic charismatic renewal. These guests will join the pope for an open-air prayer vigil on Saturday night, and then the Mass of Pentecost in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, June 4.

I don’t see further information on the Saturday vigil yet at the Vatican website.

One suspects that the Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square will be like other papal Masses – much Latin, including Gregorian chant by schola and entire congregation, but a good deal of vernacular too. Will more of the liturgy than usual be in vernacular? Will the vernacular be mostly Italian? Will the musical style and some of the sung items reflect the presence of charismatics, pentecostalists, and evangelicals? It will be interesting to see.

When I read the news report on Pentecost, I recalled the report of Peter Hebblethwaite in Paul VI: The First Modern Pope on the presence of charismatics in St. Peter’s Basilica in 1975. (The Hebblethwaite tome is still worth reading, btw. It sheds much light on Pope Francis’s re-opening of questions of church reform which were begun to be dealt with under Paul VI.)

Here is what Hebblethwaite (on p. 645)  tells us about 1975:

Nothing daunted the charismatics filed into St. Peter’s on Pentecost Sunday, filled with “a quiet delirium of joy.” They “thundered their applause for the man they recognized in the Spirit as the Vicar of Christ… who seemed visibly touched by their affection.” No doubt he was, though in his homily he avoided the expression Charismatic Renewal and stressed in cold-waterish fashion the need of preparation for the gift of the Spirit by inner silence, prayer and confession of sins. This cautious tone was justified because the charismatics made up only half of the congregation. But he was not prepared for what happened next:

“At the elevation of the Mass, as he raised first the Host and then the chalice, a gentle melody of prayer in tongues rose through the basilica. This has to have been the first time such a thing ever occurred in St. Peter’s, but it was so spontaneous, so discreet and so lovely that no one seems to have made any objection. Whether Pope Paul made any comment on it is not known.”

Let’s see what happens this time.


UPDATE: Massimo Faggioli just posted on Facebook that Paulist Press is re-issuing the Hebblethwaite book this fall. I didn’t know that when I said above that it’s worth re-reading!


  1. Those same charismatic pilgrims gathered again on Monday in St. Peter’s for a Mass presided over by Cardinal Suenens at the main altar with permission from Pope Paul VI. It was a glorious day and I was among those pilgrims. Following the Mass which was celebrated with great exuberance and devotion, the Pope entered the basilica to give an address. As he was moving towards the chair from which he spoke, someone started singing what I believe was called the eight fold Alleluia. When the pilgrims spontaneously began singing in tongues, the look on the Pope’s face indicated he was clearly moved. I certainly was. I am quite certain the Francis will welcome whatever expressions of charismatic gifts manifest themselves at this gathering. The Spirit blows when and where it wills.
    This Mass was especially significant for me because I was one of some 1000 priests present. Shortly before Mass was to start, a Vatican cleric emerged stating that one additional priest was needed to vest in a chasuble and administer Holy Communion. I was standing very close to him and I expressed a willingness to assist. I was led to the sacristy which was full of bishops feeling quite overwhelmed and not sure where to find my vestment. Cardinal Suenens happened to be standing near the table on which the chasuble was placed. He addressed me as Father and pointed to the vestment. I had been ordained less than two years and could hardly believe what was happening. Imagine the emotion all of us priests felt as we processed down that Aula and around those majestic columns to walk up those stairs and kiss the papal altar. I thought momentarily I had died and gone to heaven. This is a very blessed memory.

  2. These are all wonderful comments. Yes. The Holy Spirit does blow in many ways. Hearing and listening to the Acts of the Apostles this week. Makes one appreciate what Moses must have gone through during the Exodus.

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