The Guides and Scouts of Europe, a “new community”
The debate of the place of European Guides and Scouts in the Church is not new at all. What is original, in the scout and ecclesial environment, is not so much the double mission that our movement tries to accomplish – to give a human and Christian formation to young Europeans, and to work for the unity of the Church (1) – but the way the movement defines itself: “something new in the Church and in society (…), a movement of lay people, helped by priests”, with a “more and more emphasised family spirit”, and “wanting resolutely to be open to the civic realities of tomorrow” (2). The Guides and Scouts of Europe, innovative and prophetic in the place of lay people in their movement, in their international ‘identity’, in their desire of ecumenism… in this sense, they are closer to the “new communities” that were going to appear in the Church than to the Scouts de France, for instance.
The identity of the Federation of European Scouting is original, both in comparison with the other scout associations and at the ecclesial level. Indeed, from its origins, our movement has had a double mission : the education of young Europeans “by using the scout method, according to Lord Baden Powell’s spirit, with a Christian interpretation and fully welcoming the inheritance of the founders of Christian
scouting” (3), to give them the desire of holiness, of course, but also a Church mission – issue taken up by the young people gathered in Cologne on All Saints’ Day 1956 without the opinion of their respective ecclesial hierarchy (4) – which is to work for the unity of faith: “ […] it recognises that its main objective, in the long term, is restoring unity of faith. The consciousness of the evil represented by the division of
believers must remain alive, as well as the duty of all to work and pray for unity.” (5)
It has not always been easy to have our specificity admitted by the ecclesial hierarchy – especially our free choice of our religious advisers. But we have been able to keep our autonomy, firmly and in a benevolent way, as a ‘movement of lay faithful’, in obedience to the Magisterium of the Church and in communion with the Pope and our bishops, collaborating generously to the life of the Church, especially in the years when mobilisation was not so obvious…
In 2003, the Holy See recognised the ecclesial maturity of the movement and its proper and original charisms: the Pontifical Council for the Laity, “noticing the precious contribution brought by the Union for the formation of the new generations of young people » (6), granted to the International Union of European Guides and Scouts – Federation of European Scouting – the recognition as an international private association of the faithful, of Pontifical right, equipped with the juridical personality (7). It mentioned that “for almost fifty years, the Union has developed a specific educational programme, conceiving scouting as a means of apostolate within the Church for the human and christian formation of youth, within the framework of universal vocation to holiness to which all Christians are called (see Dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen gentium, 40). (…) The Union welcomes as “associated” some associations belonging to other Churches and Ecclesial Communities reflecting and respecting the principles of the Catholic Church about ecumenism and of the dispositions contained within the Religious Directory of the Union” (8).
For this reason, as members of the International Union, all its associations fall within the jurisdiction of the Roman dicastery. In their relationships with local bishops, they have always insisted on keeping their legitimate autonomy, warrant of their freedom and of the fidelity to their charisms, while showing their “firm and convinced communion with the Pope and the bishops” (9). Their fair submission to the bishops, who have a duty of solicitude and vigilance, goes together with the benevolence with which they are accompanied by them.
1 See the previous articles.
2 Chanoine Albert Lanquetin, ‘La promotion des laïcs à la FSE’, in Maîtrises nr. 18, April 1972.
3 Presentation and educational project of the International Union of European Guides and Scouts – Federation of European Scouting (UIGSE-FSE), May 1st 2005, art. 1.1.
4 Nevertheless the FSE Religious Directory and the concrete life of its units always want to be the witnesses of the fidelity to the hierarchies of their confessions.
5 Bundesordnung der FSE für das Kirchliche Leben – Rules for the ecclesial life of the Federation of European Scouting, Cologne (Germany), November 2nd 1957, mentioned in the preamble of the Religious Directory of the Federation of European Scouting, Hohenstein (Germany), on November 15th & 16th 1997. Quoted according to CONTACT nr. 3, p. 3.
6 Mgr Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, letter to Giovanni Franchi de’ Cavalieri sent together with the decree of definitive recognition of the UIGSE-FSE, September 11th 2008.
7 Pontifical Council for the Laity, decree 1130/03/AIC-15-a of August 26th 2003, confirmed by par 1465/08/AIC-15a of August 26th 2008.
8 Pontifical Council for the Laity, decree 1130/03/AIC-15-a of August 26th 2003.
9 Mgr Stanisław Ryłko, chairman of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, “A Catholic educational movement recognised by the Holy See, ecclesial dimension and its pastoral consequences, congress of religious advisers, Rome, 2006.