John Paul II Warns of Lay Conference Parallel to Bishops' Group

But Says Church Needs Holy People and Movements

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2002 ( More than ever, the Church needs holy lay people and the contribution of lay movements and associations, on the condition that they foster communion, says John Paul II.

Continuing with the series of meetings with groups of Brazilian bishops, who are in Rome for their every-five-year visit, the Pope warned against the proposals of some groups in that country that want to create a lay conference parallel to the bishops’ conference.

Yet, «today more than ever, the Church needs holy lay people who can receive the honor of the altars, after having sought Christian perfection amid temporal realities, in the exercise of their own intellectual or manual work,» the Holy Father said Saturday, when he addressed the bishops of Regions 1 and 4 of northeast Brazil.

«From their ranks, spring vocations for the seminary and the religious life,» the Pope added.

In particular, John Paul II encouraged the laity to «collaborate or participate actively in associations, movements and other new realities.»

Moreover, «in communion with their pastors and in conformity with diocesan initiatives,» they should «take their spiritual, educational and missionary wealth to the heart of the Church, as a precious experience and proposal of Christian life,» he said.

The birth of these new lay communities «serves to participate responsibly in the mission of the Church [and] to take the Gospel of Christ, as the source of hope for man and of renewal for society,» the Pontiff added.

«At times, there is a risk of a certain diffidence or myopia in regard to the transcendent value that the phenomenon of association is assuming today in the life of the Church,» he lamented.

In this connection, John Paul II recalled the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council, which recognized the «true and proper right of the laity to found and direct associations and to name already existing ones.»

«Naturally, the criteria of an ecclesial character for an adequate integration of those new realities are always respected and examined by the diocesan authority in keeping with pastoral needs, not only of the particular Church itself, but also of the universal Church,» he added.

However, the Pope warned against the «desire manifested in certain sectors to transform the national council of the laity into a conference, as a parallel body to the national conference of bishops of Brazil.»

«To attempt to create an autonomous body, representative of the laity, without reference to the hierarchical communion of bishops, constitutes an ecclesiological defect of grave implications that are easy to foresee,» the Pope warned.

Because of this, the Holy Father asked the Brazilian bishops to warn the faithful «against such initiatives.»

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