The international conference "Pastors and lay faithful called to go forward together", organised by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, concluded with an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday 18 February.
In his address, the Pope said that we must reclaim the ‘integral ecclesiology’ of the early Church for it unifies everything. He spoke of the importance of instruction in the faith. This was one of the topics of this conference. He insisted that “laypersons, and women in particular, must be better appreciated for the skills and for the human and spiritual gifts they bring to the life of parishes and dioceses”.
A space for dialogue
The title of the conference was “Pastors and lay faithful called to go forward together” and was celebrated at the New Synod Hall, in the Vatican, from February 16 to 18. Maite Uribe, president of the Teresian Association, was one of the delegates.
It was attended by around 200 people, presidents of lay associations, clergy with responsibilities in associations and lay representatives of the commissions for the laity within national bishops’ conferences.
The congress was conceived as a space for dialogue and exchange of experiences. Data drawn from the answers to a questionnaire sent out from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life were presented in each session, followed by testimonies of experiences in a number of pastoral areas given by lay people or priests from various countries.
The first day was devoted specifically to shared responsibility in pastoral service. There was an introduction by the prefect of the Dicastery, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and a presentation by Fr Luis Navarro, rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. They spoke on the foundation and nature of the shared responsibility of the lay faithful and their vocation and mission in society. The professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University Comillas in Spain, Carmen Peña García, spoke on the areas and ways in which the shared responsibility of the lay faithful is exercised.
The testimonies given from different parts of the world were about the accompaniment of young people, the pastoral care of migrants and the role of the laity in a commission for the prevention of abuse in the Church.
The second day focused on the importance of continuing education to help all the baptised to rediscover their vocation and charisms so that there can be real shared responsibility.
Hosffman Ospino, professor of theology and religious education at Boston College (USA), addressed the theme from the perspective of the lay faithful.
Gérald Lacroix, Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec in Canada presented the need for all the baptised to receive instruction so as to go forward together. All should be aware of our baptismal priesthood as we participate in the life of the Church.
There was an exchange of experiences focused on faith instruction in different pastoral areas: youth; couples and families; those working in the social field; first proclamation; and instruction of the baptised who have moved away from the Church.
In the afternoon there was a panel discussion moderated by the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi. The topic was the instruction of the lay faithful and the role of bishops.
The panel spoke about marriage preparation; the “Year of the Laity” in Brazil; young people being taught about politics; and the training of catechists.
At the end of the session, Linda Ghisoni, under-secretary, said that the Dicastery will keep this conversation open. She encouraged those present to become agents of change back in their home parishes and dioceses.
The meeting concluded on Saturday morning with Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. It was presided by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state. There was an audience with the Pope who personally greeted each participant.
“The need to enhance the role of the laity –said the Pope– is not based on some theological novelty, or due to the shortage of priests, much less a desire to make up for their neglect in the past. Rather, it is grounded in a correct vision of the Church, which is the People of God, of which the laity, together with the ordained ministers, are fully a part. The ordained ministers, then, are not masters, they are servants: shepherds, not masters.”
And he added: “This means recovering an ‘integral ecclesiology’, like that of the first centuries, when everything was unified by membership in Christ and by supernatural communion with him and with our brothers and sisters. It means leaving behind a sociological vision that distinguishes classes and social rank, and is ultimately based on the ‘power’ assigned to each category. The emphasis needs to be placed on unity, not on separation or distinction.”
The Dicastery website gives access to further information in several languages and the texts of some of the speeches. Click here.
TA Translators Team.
Photos: Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
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