During the modern papacy and especially since John Paul II, Pentecost Sunday has practically become the feast of new ecclesial movements like Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and the Community of Sant’Egidio. In the first week of June, Rome was “invaded” by participants from all over the world gathering for the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Pope Francis presided at the ecumenical vigil of prayer at the Circo Massimo on Saturday, June 3, and celebrated Mass with them on Sunday in St. Peter’s. In his homily, Francis repeated the anti-sectarian message he has given to all the Catholic movements he’s met during his pontificate: embrace unity in diversity, and resist the temptation to focus on differences, to choose to be “[a] part over the whole, to belong to this or that group before belonging to the Church,” or to adopt “rigid and airtight positions.”
This is very much in keeping with Vatican II’s implementation of the “universal call to holiness,” but Francis nonetheless differs from his immediate papal predecessors in dealing with the new ecclesial movements. Specifically, his “ecclesiology of the people” is skeptical of all possible forms of elitism in the Church, including the elitism of the groups that have become more prominently a part of Catholicism since the mid-20th century and especially after Vatican II.
Despite his relatively detached relationship with such movements, Francis knows well this new face of global Catholicism. (His latest important curial appointment says something about that: the new secretary of the recently created  Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life is a Brazilian priest, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, that nation’s director of the new ecclesial movement Schönstatt.) These groups play an important role in his missionary ecclesiology: Aside from the instruction on the conservation of the ashes in case of cremation, the only document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the pontificate of Francis is Iuvenescit Ecclesia (May 16, 2016), a letter regarding the relationship between bishops and territorial churches on one side and new ecclesial groups and movements on the other.
Francis realizes that even the pope himself may not be able to stop new ecclesial movements from changing the Church—particularly in terms of the relationship between the laity and the clergy. A brief press release last week reported on a meeting between the pope and the presidents of the curial dicasteries to discuss the issue of priests in the new ecclesial movements, and in particular the possibility of “incardination” within their priestly fraternities. This would represent a significant change, because so far only personal prelatures (like Opus Dei) and ordinariates (like military ordinariates and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established in 2009 to support the “reunion” of former Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church) have had this privilege.
These new priestly fraternities vary to some degree. Some are well-established parts of widely known groups like Sant’Egidio, Communion and Liberation, and the Neo-Catechumenal Way. Others have been initiated by local bishops to create doctrinally and liturgically “orthodox” parishes, such as the Priestly Fraternity Familia Christi in my Italian diocese of Ferrara, Italy.