Cardinal Offers New Style for Priest-Lay Teamwork

Laity Council President Indicates Dangers for Both Sides

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ROME, JAN. 27, 2010 ( There is a new style of collaboration between priests and laypeople, inspired by the Holy Spirit and at the service of evangelization.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko presented this «new style» Tuesday at a seminar in Rome organized by the Emanuel Community and the Pierre Goursat University Institute, in collaboration with the Pontifical Institute «Redemptor Hominis.»

The three-day conference concludes today.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity spoke of the benefit brought to the Church by a «new style of collaboration between priests and laity in ecclesial movements and new communities.»

This novelty, the Polish cardinal suggested, presupposes that priests «recognize the identity proper to the lay faithful and value their mission effectively in the Church and in the world.»

Priests must guard against «paternalistic and authoritarian attitudes in the governance of parish communities,» he said, and they should take care to respect the true lay vocation, never using it as an excuse to get out of «their own pastoral duties toward the Christian community.»

Laypeople, meanwhile, live this new style of collaboration when they manifest a «lively sense of belonging» to the Church, reflected in the «awareness of their co-responsibility and necessary participation in the life and mission of the Church,» the cardinal continued. In this regard, laity must avoid hostility toward the institution of the Church, being «contaminated by the worldly logic of the struggle for power.»

Cardinal Rylko acknowledged that this «new style» is still a goal to be achieved and that priests and laity must each do their part.

But this collaboration, he affirmed, is a «decisive factor for the missionary reawakening of the whole people of God in a world where secularism and neo-paganism are rampant, and where God is increasingly the Great Excluded One.»

Great hope
«In our days, great hope is awakened in the Church by the astonishing flowering of ecclesial movements and new communities,» the cardinal said, recalling how the founders of these movements are sometimes priests, sometimes lay.

The pontifical council president pointed to the movements and communities as the «true and proper sources of the ‘new style’ of collaboration between pastors and laity in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church.»
«The priest, first of all, must be able to accept and interpret the novelty of these ‘charismatic gifts’ lending an ear to what the Spirit is saying to the Church today,» he affirmed. «The movements must not be seen as a ‘pastoral problem,’ but as a great opportunity, a precious resource of renewal for our parish communities.»

At your service

Cardinal Rylko reflected on the service that movements and communities offer to oftentimes vast parishes. With movements, he noted, the «risk of anonymity» can be «effectively contrasted by a micro-structure of small Christian communities that live the faith with intensity.»

These communities, he clarified, «do not put themselves in competition with the parish, and even less so, are they an alternative to the parish. Rather, they represent a great pastoral possibility to be received — because every environment in which ‘adult’ Christians are formed, aware of their own vocation and mission, serves the cause of the Church and of the parish.»
«Hence,» the cardinal continued, «from her ministers the Church expects sensitivity, openness and cordial reception of these new realities which bear — in the life of so many Christian communities — truly blessed fruits of conversion, holiness and mission.»

Still needed

Nevertheless, Cardinal Rylko observed, movements — despite their «essentially lay character» — should never forget the need for priests.
They require the «wise, attentive and paternal support of pastors,» he affirmed. «It is a demanding and very delicate mission, for which every priest must prepare himself in an adequate way.»
The cardinal said he was convinced that the Year for Priests is «an optimum opportunity given to pastors to place themselves in attentive listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church through these charismatic gifts.»
«To tired and discouraged Christians and to so many Christian communities now too self-referencing and withdrawn into themselves, the movements pose the challenge of a Church courageously projected toward new frontiers of evangelization,» he concluded. «In this, our time, the Church truly needs to open herself to this novelty generated by the Spirit.»

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