Rediscovering What Parish Life Is All About

Interview With Vatican Aide on Upcoming Assembly

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ROME, NOV. 22, 2004 ( This week’s plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity will bring together more than 60 delegates to discuss how «To Rediscover the Real Face of the Parish.»

To learn more about the initiatives and work planned by this pontifical council, ZENIT interviewed its undersecretary, Guzmán Carriquiry.

Q: Why was this topic chosen?

Carriquiry: The parish is a key topic for the life of the laity. This is why we are already planning another assembly.

In the last three assemblies, we have reflected on how to rediscover baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. In other words, it is in the sacraments of initiation where the identity of Christians is formed.

In this assembly, we want to rediscover the true face of the profound reality of the parish, and we want to do so by focusing on it from several angles.

For most of the baptized, who have a bond with the Church and a certain awareness of their religious membership, the parish is fundamental. It is the parish that takes care of its faithful — a specific place, in which the sacraments are administered and, at the same time, a place of growth, formation and charity.

It is the faith that the laity live in parish communities that we wish to address and analyze.

Q: But, it is precisely in the parish where a crisis has been detected in recent decades.

Carriquiry: It is obvious that, from the cultural point of view, the parish cannot be thought of as shut-in on itself. It is necessary to understand in what way the sacraments influence human life and in what way the spiritual life is transmitted.

An attempt will be made to measure what part of the ministry of Church, as mystery of communion, is expressed and acts through the parish. Our objective is to be able to give a true face to the parish, returning to the original source, to the mystery of communion implied in the Mystical Body of the Church.

Q: What is the situation of Catholic lay associations in the international realm?

Carriquiry: Over the past 20 years, the Pontifical Council for the Laity has had to follow, at the request of the Holy Father, John Paul II, the development of the lay movements. And it has had to invest much energy in getting to know, accept, support and discern very numerous new associative realities.

From 1978 to the present, the laity’s dicastery has recognized more than 90 faith associations, which show the great vitality of the laity in the Church.

In this connection, in the course of the plenary assembly we hope to distribute a very important volume: the «Repertoire of International Associations of Faithful.» It has more than 300 pages that refer to a total of 123 international associations of faithful, presented in a detailed and precise manner.

Each association is described with its official name, history, charism, organizational structure, number of members, works, publications, Internet site, and data on its headquarters. In other words, a complete form on the life, history and activities of each association.

It was a complicated undertaking because we had to ask each association to reply to the various questions and then we had to complete the forms, combining them in a coherent way.

The first edition will be in Italian; later we will do the English edition, and eventually publish it in the rest of the languages.

This book gives quite a precise idea of a patrimony of charism, spirituality and strength, and of the endeavors of the Catholic Church which is extraordinarily beautiful.

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