Pope Lauds Work of Lay Evangelizers

Encourages Their Formation in Church

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the work of catechists and laypeople who evangelize communities in Latin America, especially in areas with a lack or absence of priests.

The Pope affirmed this today when he met with Honduran bishops in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

In his Spanish-language address, the Holy Father highlighted “the significant role that Honduran Catholic laypeople are assuming in parishes as catechists and ‘delegates of the Word.'”

During an interview this week, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the Honduran episcopal conference, said that one of the reasons for the growth of sects in his country has been the lack of priests.

In addition to promoting vocations to the priesthood, which have been increasing in recent years, the Church has responded to the phenomenon of sects through “delegates of the word of God.”

At present, there are 30,000 in Honduras, a country of 7 million inhabitants, as much as 97% of whom are Catholic. The delegates are able to reach even the most inaccessible communities and are committed to a program of their own formation in the faith.

In his address, the Pope encouraged the bishops “to work ceaselessly so that the faithful will be increasingly aware of the fact that, in virtue of baptism and confirmation, they are called to live the fullness of charity by participating in the very salvific mission of the Church.”

“Through the testimony of their Christian life, they can carry to all sectors of society the light of Christ’s message, attracting to the ecclesial community those whose faith has been weakened” or abandoned altogether, he continued. “Therefore, the lay faithful need to intensify their relationship with God and acquire a solid formation, especially in regard to the social doctrine of the Church.

“Thus, as leaven in the dough, they will be able to fulfill their mission to transform society according to the will of God.”

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