L'Osservatore Romano

Pope's Address to Laity Council

We are in need of well-formed laypeople, animated by a pure and fresh faith, whose life has been touched by a personal and merciful encounter with the love of Jesus Christ.

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Pope Francis on Friday addressed participants in the 28th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the theme “A Dicastery for the Laity: Between History and Future …” (June 16-18, 2016). The council will be merged into a new dicastery for laity, life and family.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I do not want these words to be the “valedictio” to the Dicastery, a taking leave, but that in fact they are words of gratitude for all the work done.
I receive you on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly. I greet you all cordially and I thank the Cardinal President for his kind words.  This meeting of yours has a special character, given that, as I have already been able to announce, your Pontifical Council will take on a new physiognomy. It is the conclusion of an important stage and the opening of a new one for the Dicastery of the Roman Curia, which has supported the life, the maturation and the transformations of the Catholic laity from Vatican Council II to today.
Therefore, the occasion is propitious to look back on almost 50 years of the Dicastery’s activity and, at the same time, to project a renewed presence at the service of the laity, continually in ferment and crossed by new problems. The Pontifical Council for the Laity was born by the express wish of Vatican Council II that, in the Decree on the apostolate of the laity, wished to have constituted “in the Holy See a special Secretariat for the service and impulse of the apostolate of the laity,” in order to assist “with its advice the hierarchy and the laity in their apostolic works” (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 26). Thus Blessed Paul VI gave life to this Dicastery, which I do not hesitate to describe  as “one of the best fruits of Vatican Council II” (Motu proprio Apostolatus Peragendi [December 10, 1976], 697) — and he was the “father” of FUCI, of young people and of the laity; he worked so much and felt this so much, conceiving this fruit not as an organ of control but rather as a center of coordination, of study, of consultation, geared to “inciting the laity to take part in the life and mission of the Church […] either as members of associations […] or as individual faithful” (Ibid.). The Pontifical Council exists to incite!
Hence we thank the Lord for the abundant fruits and for the numerous challenges of these years. We can recall, for instance, the new aggregative season that, beside the lay associations of long and worthy history, witnessed so many Movements and New Communities arise of great missionary impetus; Movements you followed in their development, accompanied with solicitude and assisted in the delicate phase of the juridical recognition of their statutes. And then the appearance of new lay ministries, to which not a few apostolic activities were entrusted. Moreover, to be underscored is the growing role of woman in the Church, with her presence, her sensibility and her gifts. And, finally, the creation of the World Youth Days, providential gesture of Saint John Paul II, instrument of evangelization of the new generations looked after by you with particular commitment.
We can say, therefore, that the mandate you received from the Council was precisely that of “pushing” the lay faithful to involve themselves increasingly and better in the Church’s evangelizing mission, not by “delegation” of the hierarchy, but in as much as their apostolate “is participation in the Church’s salvific mission, to which all are deputized by the Lord through Baptism and Confirmation” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 33). And this is the entrance door! One enters the Church through Baptism, not by priestly or episcopal Ordination; one enters through Baptism! And we all entered through the same door. It is Baptism that makes of every faithful layman a missionary disciple of the Lord, salt of the earth, light of the world, leaven that transforms the reality from within.
The Church’s activities, like those we have referred to, are always carried out by the faces, minds and hearts of concrete persons. And it is important that in your Plenary you wished to remember all those that spent themselves with passion and commitment in the animation, the promotion and the coordination of the life and apostolate of the laity in passed years. First of all, the various Presidents that succeeded one another; then the many Members and Consultors, among whom was Karol Wojtyla himself, who followed this Dicastery with interest and farsightedness from its first steps; and then the many laymen that worked in silence in favor of the Catholic laity.
In the light of the path travelled, it is time to look again at the future with hope. Much still remains to be done, widening the horizons and taking up the new challenges that the reality presents to you. It is from here that the plan of reform of the Curia is born, in particular of the consolidation of your Dicastery with the Pontifical Council for the Family in connection with the Academy for Life. Therefore, I invite you to take up this reform, which will see you involved, as a sign of appreciation and esteem for the work you do and as a sign of renewed confidence in the vocation and mission of the laity in today’s Church. The new Dicastery to be born will have as “rudder” to continue its navigation, on one hand Christifideles Laici and on the other Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia, having the family and the defense of life as privileged fields.
In this particular historical moment, and in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Church is called to be ever more aware of being “the paternal house where there is a place for each one with his toilsome” and sinful “life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 47); of being a permanently outgoing Church, “evangelizing community […] which is able to take the initiative without fear, to encounter, to seek the distant and to arrive at the crossroads to invite the excluded” (Ibid., 24). I would like to propose to you, as horizon of reference for your immediate future, a binomial that can be formulated thus: “Outgoing Church — outgoing laity.” Therefore, you must also raise your eyes and look “outside,” look at the many of our world that are “distant,” at the many families in difficulties and in need of mercy, at the many fields of apostolate still unexplored, at the numerous laymen of good and generous heart who would willingly put their energies, their time, their capacities, if they were involved, at the service of the Gospel, appreciated and supported with affection and dedication by Pastors and ecclesiastical institutions. We are in need of well-formed laypeople, animated by a pure and fresh faith, whose life has been touched by a personal and merciful encounter with the love of Jesus Christ. We are in need of laypeople who risk, who soil their hands, who are not afraid of erring, who go forward. We are in need of laypeople with vision of the future, not closed in the little things of life. And I have said it to young people: we are in need of laypeople with the taste of experience of life, who dare to dream. Today is the moment in which young people are in need of the dreams of the elderly. In this disposable culture let us not grow accustomed to discard the elderly! Let us push them, let us push them so that they dream and — as the prophet Joel says — “have dreams,”  that capacity to dream, and to give all of us the strength of new apostolic visions.
I thank you all, dear brothers Members and Consultors, for the work carried out in the service of this Dicastery, and I encourage you to open yourselves with docility and humility to God’s novelties, — which surprise and surpass us but never deceive us –, as Mary did, our Mother and Teacher in the faith. From my heart I impart to you all and to your dear ones my Blessing. And please, do not forget to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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