Should the Church Give More Power to the Laity?

Interview with G. Carriquiry, Undersecretary of Pontifical Council

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BARCELONA, Spain, FEB. 27, 2002 ( His 30 years of work in the Vatican has enabled Uruguayan Guzman Carriquiry, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, to be thoroughly familiar with the process of lay participation in the Church.

Here, he spoke with the newspaper La Vanguardia during a recent trip to Spain.

Q: As a layman, do you feel out of place in the Roman Curia?

Carriquiry: Although the presence of the laity in the Vatican is notable, it is obvious that one is living in a very clerical environment. You cannot imagine the times I answer the phone and am addressed as monsignor. I am not offended; but I do say that I have four children. …

Q: Does the Catholic Church have to give more power to the laity?

Carriquiry: If one recapitulates the ecclesial 20th century, we see that we are living at an extraordinary time of participation of the laity in the Church. To regard this participation as a sort of conquest of functions in a struggle for the redistribution of ecclesiastical power impoverishes the Church.

There are lay people who live as a sort of obsession this tendency to struggle to conquer places. I am not interested in taking the pastors´ place; where I have to give Christian witness is in the decisions I make in relation to my wife and my children, in my professional practice, and in my social responsibilities.

It is ecclesiastical retirement when the laity tends to take over the priests and carry out tasks that correspond to them. A rarefied ecclesiastical world of struggle and tensions does not build a community.

Q: Wouldn´t a greater presence of the laity in the Church come closer to the social reality?

Carriquiry: What is important is that Christians are giving witness of their faith in all realms of a citizen´s life, of being in solidarity and expressing themselves in the service of charity. This is the way the Church is present in reality.

Q: What is the challenge facing the laity at present?

Carriquiry: The fact that only 5% of the baptized have a minimum participation in the Sunday precept is an illustrative index. Someone said that the laity, 98% of the baptized, is to a certain extent a sleeping giant. That is, there are enormous educational, catechetic and evangelizing work possibilities for many more baptized faithful to participate in the Church in response to the vocation imprinted by baptism. The challenge is there.

Moreover, the laity increasingly assume responsibilities that in the past were more concentrated in the figure of the priest.

Q: Because of the lack of vocations?

Carriquiry: It might be that occasionally few priests, saturated by work, see the laity as collaborators for so many pastoral needs and this is good, but it is a somewhat limited view of things. In some countries, vocations manifest strong signs of growth, and this does not lessen but strengthens the laity´s participation.

Q: To what do you attribute the present proliferation of lay movements?

Carriquiry: While other forms of lay associations, such as political parties and labor unions, see participation diminish, there is a great emergence of lay communities in the Church. Perhaps because given the indifference and instrumentalization that dominate in human relations today, we need to be received in love, and this is found in a Church that gives an existential dimension to life and is concerned about man´s needs.

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