ROME, NOV. 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The parish must fulfill three functions: to proclaim the Word of God, celebrate the faith, and give testimony of charity, says the archbishop of Barcelona.
But parishes also need the new ecclesial movements, so that the faithful can give witness about their beliefs to the wider world, added Archbishop Lluís Martínez Sistach.
“The parish must be missionary, because we all have the obligation to proclaim Jesus Christ to our brothers,” he said.
The Spanish prelate was commenting on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, of which he is a consultor. The four-day assembly, whose theme was “To Rediscover the True Face of the Parish,” ended Saturday.
“The pontifical council decided to dedicate its assembly to the parish, because it is where the sacraments of Christian initiation are celebrated, and where Catholics receive formation for this Christian initiation,” Archbishop Martínez Sistach told ZENIT.
Participants in the assembly learned “that there is a great diversity of parishes in the world, but there was agreement that it must be a Christian community, the presence of God in the life of its members, and the presence of God in the midst of the place where the parish is located in society,” the prelate explained.
“Today, when the faith is practiced less and fewer people come to church, the missionary dimension of the parish is more necessary. More than waiting for people to come, it is necessary to go out to those places where human events are taking place,” he added.
A challenge in many countries is to promote collaboration between priests and lay people, the Barcelona archbishop said.
“The parish priest should acknowledge and promote the role that corresponds to the laity within the Church; they are two complementary functions,” he said. “The priest is primarily at the service of the laity. This is reflected especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, over which the priest presides, but which calls for the active participation of the members of the People of God. This must be the case in all activities.”
Archbishop Martínez Sistach explained how ecclesial movements are the link between the parish and the world.
“Movements help the laity within the parish, not so that they stay exercising their ecclesial responsibilities within the parish, but also so that they will be present as Christians in the world. The parish needs movements so as not to be shut-in on itself, and so that it will have a diocesan and universal Catholic sense,” he said.
“There are parish priests who think that the activity of movements within the parish can rob some person in charge of their parish tasks. The parish priest must be able to have the movements collaborate with the parish,” the Spanish prelate added.
“The parish today, as always, is necessary but not self-sufficient,” he said. “It needs the help of the other parishes of the dioceses, of the movements, and of other institutions such as Catholic schools.”