The consecrated life: a gift to the Church
3. Its universal presence and the evangelical nature of its witness are clear evidence — if any were needed — that the consecrated life is not something isolated and marginal, but a reality which affects the whole Church. The Bishops at the Synod frequently reaffirmed this: "de re nostra agitur", "this is something which concerns us all".In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it "manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling"and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse.At the Synod it was stated on several occasions that the consecrated life has not only proved a help and support for the Church in the past, but is also a precious and necessary gift for the present and future of the People of God, since it is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission.
The present difficulties which a number of Institutes are encountering in some parts of the world must not lead to a questioning of the fact that the profession of the evangelical counsels is an integral part of the Church's life and a much needed incentive towards ever greater fidelity to the Gospel.The consecrated life may experience further changes in its historical forms, but there will be no change in the substance of a choice which finds expression in a radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family. This certainty, which has inspired countless individuals in the course of the centuries, continues to reassure the Christian people, for they know that they can draw from the contribution of these generous souls powerful support on their journey towards the heavenly home.
Gathering the fruits of the Synod
4. In response to the desire expressed by the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which met to discuss the theme "The Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World", I intend to set forth in this Apostolic Exhortation the results of the Synod processand to point out to all the faithful — Bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons and laity, and to any others who might be interested — the wondrous things which today too the Lord wishes to accomplish through the consecrated life.
This Synod, coming after the ones dedicated to the lay faithful and to priests, completes the treatment of the distinctive features of the states of life willed by the Lord Jesus for his Church. Whereas the Second Vatican Council emphasized the profound reality of ecclesial communion, in which all gifts converge for the building up of the Body of Christ and for the Church's mission in the world, in recent years there has been felt the need to clarify the specific identity of the various states of life, their vocation and their particular mission in the Church.Communion in the Church is not uniformity, but a gift of the Spirit who is present in the variety of charisms and states of life. These will be all the more helpful to the Church and her mission the more their specific identity is respected. For every gift of the Spirit is granted in order to bear fruit for the Lordin the growth of fraternity and mission.