One of the most important documents affecting religious issued by Pope John Paul II was Mutuae Relationes (Directives for the Mutual Relations Between Bishops and Religious in the Church).
The document, published in 1978, said that bishops are “entrusted with the duty of caring for religious charisms.” The specific charism requires from the religious institute “a continual examination regarding fidelity to the Lord; docility to His Spirit; intelligent attention to circumstances and an outlook cautiously directed to the signs of the times; the will to be part of the Church; the awareness of subordination to the sacred hierarchy; boldness of initiatives; constancy in the giving of self; humility in bearing with adversities.”
Pope Francis told Major Superiors in a meeting on November 29, 2013, that the document needs updating. As a Jesuit, Provincial, Archbishop and now Pope, the Holy Father knows “by experience the problems that can arise between a bishop and religious communities.” Religious communities may, without warning, abandon an apostolate in the diocese. Bishops “are not always acquainted with the charisms and works of religious.”
“Religious,” he said, “should be men and women who are able to wake the world up.”
At the conclusion of his lengthy remarks, he told the assembled that the year 2015 would be dedicated to the consecrated life.
“The involvement of religious communities in dioceses is important,” the Pope said. “Dialogue between the bishop and religious must be rescued so that, due to a lack of understanding of their charisms, bishops do not view religious simply as useful instruments.”