Prelate Urges Formation of Parish Units

Says They Aid Unity in a Diocese, Foster Cooperation

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By Patricia Navas

SALAMANCA, Spain, SEPT. 24, 2009 ( The development of parish units — a type of inter-parish collaboration and coordination — arose from a desire to foment unity among various parishes, according to the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio said this Wednesday at a three-day conference on parishes and parish units, which was organized by the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical University of Salamanca.

The archbishop gave an address titled «Parish Units: Values and Limits,» and spoke later at a round table.

He explained that many believe parish units arose mainly because of a lack of priests, such as in the situation when one priest is in charge of several parishes.

«But even if this need didn’t exist,» he clarified, «we also have the need to unite parishes for a common activity, for a division of the mission.»

In the 2004 document «The Love of Christ Toward Migrants,» issued by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, pastoral units are described as «generally composed of several parishes that the bishop has requested to work together to constitute an efficacious ‘missionary community’ to operate in a given territory in harmony with the diocesan pastoral plan.»

Archbishop Coccopalmerio pointed out that in Europe at present «we are taking important steps toward a practical implementation» of parish units, as well as toward «the clarification of concepts.»

He explained: «Pastoral units respond to the desire that parishes not be isolated, but that they be united among themselves, because the mission of the Church is a shared mission.

«The parish is a community of faithful, headed by a priest, who lives the life of the Church with all the activities of the Church: preaching of the Gospel, celebration of the sacraments, works of charity.»

The prelate stressed that «all the faithful are active in this mission of the Church» and that «not only the parish priest is an active subject, but that he acts to activate the others, so that all the faithful of the parish are involved in the activities of the Church, each one according to his own order.» 

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