John Paul II Hails Opus Dei´s Priest-Laity Collaboration

Exhorts Lay People to Become Missionaries of Society

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 19, 2001 ( The time has arrived for the laity to become the real missionaries of society, John Paul II said during a meeting with members of the Opus Dei.

The Pope met Saturday with 400 priests and lay members of this personal prelature, who arrived in the Vatican, led by Bishop Javier Echevarría. They were in Rome to participate in days of reflection on the apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» in which the Holy Father invites the Church to «go into the deep» in evangelizing the new century.

To achieve this objective, the Pope proposed genuine collaboration between priests and laity, exactly as established in the «hierarchical nature» of Opus Dei. It involves living «a spirituality of communion that must appreciate to the maximum the role of each member of the Church,» whether priests or laity, the Pope said.

Christian laymen have a decisive role to play in the new evangelization: They must put at its disposition their «specific competence in different human activities» to direct the missionary thrust of the Church toward those «new frontiers» that face humanity, the Holy Father emphasized. «Their direct witness in all these fields will demonstrate that only in Christ do the highest human values attain their fulfillment.»

The Holy Father himself explained how the laity can respond to such an ambitious challenge: by «its apostolic zeal, fraternal friendship and combined charity, which will make possible the weaving of daily social relations to awaken in their fellowmen that thirst for truth, which is the first condition for the salvific encounter with Christ.»

However, this new missionary awareness of the laity does not change of exclude the priest´s mission. On the contrary, his «primary function» is «to help souls, one by one, to open themselves to grace in the sacraments, in preaching, and spiritual direction,» the Holy Father stressed.

This lay and priestly mission only makes sense if it is preceded by a personal encounter with Christ. «We will not be saved by a formula, but by a Person and the certainty he infused in us.» This was made clear in Opus Dei founder Blessed Josemaría Escrivá´s book «The Way,» the Pope said.

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