Philip Neri and Charles Borromeo as Models of Catholic Reform

Perichoresis 18 (6):119-136 (2020)
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In the face of the external challenge of the Protestant Reformation, as well as the internal threat of spiritual, moral, and disciplinary corruption, two Catholic saints worked tirelessly to reform the Church in different but complementary ways. Philip Neri and Charles Borromeo led the Catholic Counter–Reformation during the middle–to–late sixteenth century, placing their distinctive gifts at the service of the Church. Philip Neri used his personal humility, intelligence, and charisma to attract the people of Rome to Christ, while Charles Borromeo employed his gifts for administration and his experience as a top aide to the pope to promote needed institutional reform. Both men achieved great personal holiness and moved others to holiness of life. It is their response to and sharing of the ‘universal call to holiness’, then, that constitutes the core of both of their approaches to ecclesial reform. Their focus on holiness, expressed in an emphasis on either the ‘charismatic’ or ‘hierarchical’ dimensions of the Church’s life, also provides a model for today’s Church, scarred as she is by scandal and in need of a new movement of reform.



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