Pentecost Sunday, 1975, will live in church history as the day when the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church arrived in St. Peter’s with full force. During the pontifical mass presided over by Pope Paul VI on May 18, the sound of tongues and charismatic singing filled the massive nave of the ancient mother church of Roman Catholicism. Of the 25,000 who jammed the basilica, about 10,000 were participants in the third International Conference on the Charismatic Renewal (an estimated 4,000 were from North America and 1,000 from Latin America). In four remarkable days, these Pentecostal Catholics found that their movement had gained warm acceptance at the highest levels of the Roman church.

The conference, which in previous years had met at Notre Dame University, convened in Rome in conjunction with the Holy Year proclaimed by Pope Paul. The theme was the same as that for the Holy Year—”Renewal and Reconciliation.” Participants came from over sixty nations representing more than one million Catholic charismatics in several thousand prayer groups.* Several Protestant Pentecostal and charismatic leaders also attended as “official ecumenical observers.”

Conference sessions were held on the outskirts of Rome in a large tent over the catacombs of St. Callixtus, a meeting and burial place for early Christian martyrs. Many difficulties had to be overcome. Communist-run labor unions delayed construction of the five tents used for the conference. They also closed the airports and railway stations temporarily, stranding thousands of travelers in France.

The sights and sounds of the conference were similar to those of a back-woods Pentecostal camp meeting. Thousands stood and sat outside the tent because there was no room inside. The ...

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