VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- While acknowledging the “legitimate separation of church and state,” John Paul II says there should be no division between the faith of Catholics and their professional, political and cultural life.
The Pope explained this when receiving a group of U.S. bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Louisville, Mobile and New Orleans, during their five-yearly visit to Rome.
The Holy Father said that “each bishop is called to acknowledge the essential and irreplaceable role of the laity in the Church’s mission and to enable them to carry out their proper apostolate.”
Catholics in social and public life must be “encouraged to combine the two harmoniously, recognizing that in every temporal affair they are to be guided by their Christian conscience, since there is no human activity — even of the temporal order — that can be withdrawn from God’s dominion,” he said.
“A clear and authoritative reaffirmation of these fundamental principles of the lay apostolate will help to overcome the serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the Church’s binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with her authoritative teaching,” John Paul II continued.
“There is urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis on the lay apostolate which will necessarily highlight the importance of a properly formed conscience, the intrinsic relationship between freedom and moral truth, and the grave duty incumbent upon each Christian to work to renew and perfect the temporal order in accordance with the values of God’s Kingdom,” the Pope indicated.
“While fully respecting the legitimate separation of church and state in American life, such a catechesis must also make clear that for the faithful Christian there can be no separation between the faith which is to be believed and put into practice and a commitment to full and responsible participation in professional, political and cultural life,” he added.
After this analysis, the Holy Father gave the American bishops two pieces of advice.
First, he said, “given the importance of these issues for the life and mission of the Church in your country, I would encourage you to consider the inculcation of the doctrinal and moral principles underlying the lay apostolate as essential to your ministry as teachers and shepherds of the Church in America.”
Second, “I also invite you to discern, in consultation with members of the laity outstanding for their fidelity, knowledge and prudence, the most effective ways of promoting catechesis and clearsighted reflection on this important area of the Church’s social teaching.”