World Conference of Secular Institutes Concludes in Assisi

Annual Meeting Focuses on the Vocation of Lay Men and Women

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ASSISI, Italy, JULY 26, 2012 ( The Congress of the World Conference of Secular Institutes concluded its annual meeting in Assisi today where a new executive council and president have been elected. The conference also gave participants an opportunity to reflect on the more than 60 years since its inception. 

Secular institutes became part of ecclesiastical legislation in 1947 when Pope Pius XII promulgated an apostolic constitution that gave them a juridical basis. The World Conference highlights the importance of lay people giving witness to the Gospel in the world. 

“We work as a link among institutes and a link among secular congregations,” said Giorgio Mazzola, member of the Executive Council of the Institute, in an interview with Vatican Radio. 

“Every four years the the Conference renews its Executive Council and the President. And usually the assembly is preceded by a Congress. This year we chose to reflect on the very source of our vocation: going back to the very beginning … the subject we chose hearing the word of God within history.” 

Through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the participants, encouraging the particular vocation of consecrated lay men and women, which is rooted and centered in Christ, but lived within wider society. 

Regarding the vocation of lay men and women, Mazzola said that “since the very beginning, the message has been that not only this particular apostolate happens in the world, it actually grows out of the world.”

“We are not looking for great works, for hospitals or schools. We are not looking for visibility. We are like the salt that should be in the world. And we know the grace of the Lord will do something out of our lives if we remain faithful to this original intention which was full consecration, with full secularity: a full commitment in the world.”

The town of Assisi, where the Conference was held, had a special significance. St. Francis, according to Mazzola, was “a man who lived in times of change, and in times in which the Church was suffering a lot.”

“It is very interesting to remember that when St. Francis chose to create an order, he called them the Friars Minor. Minor which means small but necessary, because St. Francis worked a lot for the renewal of the Church.”

The Secular Institute, he concluded, “is on the same path: small but necessary.”

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