Catholic charismatics held two all-night prayer vigils for the election of a new pope at their annual weekend national conference at the University of Notre Dame. Gathered in a campus church last month, many of the 16,000 registrants prayed with charismatic leader Ralph Martin that the new pope be “not just a good and holy man, but one who has a clear and burning grasp of the whole message of Jesus Christ.”

Their prayers may have been effective since the leaders of this growing charismatic renewal movement of the Roman Catholic Church seem pleased with the outcome. Leo Cardinal Suenens of Belgium, the highest-ranking Catholic in the charismatic movement and the late Pope Paul’s overseer of it, said he was “very enthusiastic” about the election of John Paul I.

Suenens and other charismatics presumably prefer John Paul to a traditionalist from the Vatican hierarchy. Many Roman Catholics feared the possible election of a reactionary who would stifle the fresh breezes that have circulated through the church since the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

That Catholic charismatics might endorse the efforts of the new pope would be no small asset for John Paul I. The charismatic movement has increasing influence within the Roman Catholic Church and has grown since its beginning.

The roots of the movement are buried in a 1967 student-faculty retreat at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. The retreat had been preceded by a deep concern of a few people over personal spiritual stagnation and powerlessness; many participants had been impressed by the influence of Protestant charismatics who had led retreat leader Ralph Kiefer into the Pentecostal experience known as the baptism in the Spirit. Included among the thirty participants were students ...

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