Here is a translation of the Message that the Holy Father Francis sent to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, on the occasion of the Day of Study organized by that Council, in collaboration with the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on the topic: “The Vocation and Mission of the Laity, Fifty Years after the Decree ‘Aposolicam Actuositatem.’”
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To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko
President of the Pontifical council for the Laity
I express my cordial greeting to you, Lord Cardinal, and to all the participants in the Day of Study organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in collaboration with the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on the topic “Vocation and Mission of the Laity, Fifty Years after the Decree ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem.’”
Your Congress takes place in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II, that extraordinary event of grace that, as Blessed Paul VI affirmed, had “the character of an act of love; of a great and triple act of love: towards God, towards the Church, towards humanity: (Allocution at the Beginning of the Fourth Session, September 14, 1965: Insegnamenti, III , 475). This renewed attitude of love that inspired the Conciliar Fathers led, also, among its many fruits, to a new way of looking at the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, which found magnificent expression first of all in the two great Conciliar Constitutions Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes. These fundamental documents of the Council consider the lay faithful in a whole vision of the People of God, to which they belong together with the members of Holy Orders and Religious, and in which they take part, in a way proper to them, in the priestly, prophetic, and royal function of Christ Himself. Hence, the Council did not see the laity as if they were members of a “second order,” at the service of the hierarchy and simple executors of higher orders, but as disciples of Christ that, by virtue of their Baptism and of their natural insertion “in the world,” are called to animate every environment, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel (cf. LG, 31), bringing light, hope, and the charity received from Christ to those places that otherwise would remain foreign to God’s action and abandoned to the misery of the human condition (cf. GS, 37). No one better than they can carry out the essential task of “inscribing the divine law in the life of the earthly city” (Ibid., 43).
Inserted in the wide background of this Conciliar Doctrine is the Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, which addresses more closely the nature and the realms of the apostolate of the laity. This document reminded forcefully that “by its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate” (n.2), therefore the proclamation of the Gospel is not reserved to some “professionals of the mission,” but must be the profound yearning of all the lay faithful called, in virtue of their Baptism, not only to Christian animation of temporal realities, but also to works of explicit evangelization, of proclamation and of sanctification of men (cf. Ibid.).
It can be said that all this Conciliar teaching has made the formation of the laity grow in the Church, which up to now has already borne so many fruits. However, Vatican II, as every Council, calls up every generation of Pastors and laity, because it is an inestimable gift of the Holy Spirit, which is received with gratitude and a sense of responsibility: all that has been given to us by the Spirit and transmitted by Mother Church is always understood anew, assimilated and descends into the reality! To implement the Council, to take it to the daily life of every Christian community: this was the pastoral anxiety that always animated Saint John Paul II, as Bishop and as Pope. During the Great Jubilee of 2000, he said: “A new season is dawning before our eyes: it is time for deep reflection on the Council’s teaching, time to harvest all that the Council Fathers sowed and the generation of recent years has tended and awaited. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was truly a prophetic message for the Church’s life; it will continue to be so for many years in the third millennium which has just begun” (Address to the International Congress on the Accomplishment of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, February 27, 2000: Insegnamenti, XXIII, 1 , 278).
I pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, that your Congress will be a stimulus for all – Pastors and lay faithful – to have in the heart the same anxiety to live and implement the Council and to bring the light of Christ to the world. I ask you, please, to pray for me and I bless you affectionately.
From the Vatican, October 22, 2015
Memoria of Saint John Paul II
FRANCISCUS[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]