VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II told Catholic Action to relaunch its organization with the “humble and courageous decision to begin afresh from Christ,” in a message sent to their first international congress.
Italian Catholic Action, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, headed by Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, organized the First International Congress on Catholic Action currently being held in Rome and Loreto from Aug. 31-Sept. 5.
The theme is inspired by the Pope himself who addressed the following words to Catholic Action in an address to representatives of Italian Catholic Action in 2002: “Duc in Altum, Catholic Action, Have the Courage of the Future!”
John Paul II will bring the meeting to a close on Sunday, Sept. 5, in the Marian shrine of Loreto, where he will raise to the altar three great promoters of Catholic Action: young lay Italians Alberto Marvelli and Pina Suriano, and Catalan priest Pere Tarres i Claret.
Far from being an arbitrary choice, to “have the courage of the future” is an “attitude” which “gathers consistency and impetus from the memory of the precious gift that Catholic Action has been since its birth,” the Pope explained.
Catholic Action “has been a force of growth, structure, and stimulation of that contemporary current of promotion of the laity that found solemn confirmation in Vatican Council II,” the Holy Father said.
In fact, “in it generations of faithful matured their own vocations in the course of Christian formation which has led them to the full awareness of their own co-responsibility in building the Church, stimulating apostolic impulse in all realms of life,” he continued.
“Today I must repeat once again: the Church needs Catholic Action!” John Paul II emphasized.
Catholic Action “has always been, and must still be today a place of formation for the faithful who, enlightened by the social doctrine of the Church, are committed in the front line in the defense of the sacred gift of life, in safeguarding the dignity of the human person, in implementing educational freedom, in the promotion of the real meaning of marriage and the family, in the exercise of charity towards the neediest, in the quest for peace and justice in the application of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity in different social situations that interact among themselves.”
According to the Pope, to recall the past must not imply nostalgia, but awareness “of a precious gift that the Holy Spirit has given the Church, an inheritance that is called to inspire new fruits of holiness and apostolate at the dawn of the third millennium,” extending the association “to many other local Churches of different countries.”
At present Catholic Action has among its members 60 saints and blessed, and three more will be beatified on Sunday. The Holy Father has called them “convincing models of evangelical coherence.”
John Paul II told Catholic Action that “the time has arrived for a re-launching to which your many endeavors give testimony.” Because there are “many signs that make one confident in the ‘kairos’ (a Greek term meaning opportune moment) of a new spring of the Gospel,” he said.
However, this “great responsibility” calls for an “awareness of being sustained by the omnipresent strength of the Spirit,” he emphasized.
It is a “great task” which can involve “all the lay faithful who are aware of their own baptismal vocation and the three commitments—priestly, prophetic and royal—which springs from it,” the Pope added.
Catholic Action dates back to 1867, the year when two youths established the Italian Catholic Youth Society, adopting as their program the motto “Prayer, Action, Sacrifice.” Pope Pius IX approved the association in 1868. It was established with its present name and structure by Pope Pius XI in 1931.