29. Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervor and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church.[Cf. Propositio 26] This kind of integration will prevent them from concentrating only on part of the Gospel or the Church, or becoming nomads without roots.
My friend John Donaghy alerts us to the translation as given above, “basic communities”–not an entirely accurate rendering of what Pope Francis likely intends given his Latin American experience.
I don’t know in what language the document was first written, but where the English reads “basic communities”, the Spanish reads “comunidades de base” and in Italian “comunita di base,” which should be translated as “base communities.” That is the term that has been used since the Latin American Bishops conference in Medellín (1968) for the small groups of people (mostly the poor) who meet regularly and reflect on their lives in the light of the Bible. A Salvadoran priest friend once explained that they are called “de base” – base communities – since they come from the base of society. Being a priest imbued with the theology of liberation (who worked under Archbishop Romero) he would understand this as meaning as coming from the poor and marginalized. To call them “basic” communities is, I believe, to miss the historical context of the base communities as well as the sociological and theological significance of the term. Here and in much of Latin America they are called “comunidades eclesiales de base,” church base communities. Sometimes they are also called “pequeznnas comunidades,” small communities.
The point of the Holy Father seems to be for any such group outside the parish structure not to lose contact with the overall mission of evangelization and also to participate in it as best as they can.
You can check Evangelii Gaudium on the Vatican web site here.