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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 12, 2015

God Is Love Alone, Pure Provident Love, Says Pope

Greets Spiritual Family of Italian Saint With an Exhortation Organized in 3 Verbs: trust, look, hurry

Pope Francis today proposed three verbs as an exhortation to the spiritual family of St. Luigi Guanella: to trust, to look, and to make haste.

This morning in Paul VI Hall the Pope greeted some 500 members of the Family of St. Luigi Guanella, known simply as Don Guanella (1842-1915). He was the Italian priest who founded the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Order of the Servants of Charity. He was beatified in 1964 and canonised in 2011.

The Don Guanella Family’s pilgrimage to Rome coincides with the first centenary of the saint’s death and, in his address to the pilgrims, the Holy Father imagined what Don Guanella might have said to his followers to confirm them in faith, hope and charity, using three verbs: to trust, to look, and to make haste.

The first verb is to trust. “The life of Don Guanella had as its centre the certainty that God is the merciful and provident Father. This was for him the heart of faith: knowing himself to be an always beloved son, for whom the Father cared, and therefore a brother to all, called upon to inspire trust. … I think that it displeases the heavenly Father greatly to see that His children do not fully trust in Him; they perhaps believe in a distant God, rather than in a merciful Father. In many people there arises the doubt that God, while being Father, may also be a master. … But this is a great deception; the ancient deception of the enemy of God and man, which conceals reality and disguises good as evil. It is the first temptation: to distance oneself from God, intimidated by the suspicion that His paternity is not truly provident and good. God is instead love alone, pure provident love. He loves us more than we love ourselves, and knows what is truly good for us. He therefore hopes that in the course of life we become what we are at the moment of our Baptism: beloved children, able to vanquish fear and not ceding to lamentation, because the Father takes care of us”.

The second verb is to look. “The Father, the Creator, also inspires creativity in those who live like His children. They then learn to look at the world through new eyes, made more luminous by love and hope. They are eyes that enable us to look within with truth, and to see far in charity. … In the world there is never any lack of problems, and in our time there are unfortunately new forms of poverty and many injustices. But the greatest famine of all is that of charity: we need, most of all, people with eyes renewed by love and a gaze that inspires hope”.

“At times, our spiritual point of view is short-sighted, as we are not able to see beyond our own ego. At other times we are long-sighted: we like to help those who are far away but are not able to stoop to those who live next to us. Sometimes, indeed, we prefer to close our eyes, as we are tired and overcome by pessimism. Don Guanella, who recommended that we look at Jesus starting from His heart, invites us to have the same gaze as the Lord: a gaze that inspires hope and joy, able at the same time to feel a ‘profound sentiment of compassion’ towards those who suffer”.

Finally, to make haste: “The poor are the favoured sons” of the Father, St. Luigi said, and he liked to repeat that ‘those who give to the poor, lend to God’. Just as the Father is delicate and concrete with regard to his smallest and weakest children, so we too cannot expect our brothers and sisters in difficulty to wait as, again in the words of Don Guanella, ‘misery cannot wait. And we cannot stop as long as there are poor people to tend to’”.

ON ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-spiritual-family-of-st-luigi-guanella

Pope: Laity Must Yearn to Share the Gospel

Considers the Teachings of Vatican II’s Apostolicam Actuositatem

The richness of Vatican II has to be newly understood and assimilated in each generation, Pope Francis said in a message today to the Pontifical Council for the Laity marking the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document Apostolicam Actuositatem.

The document considers the laity “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,” the Pope said.

For the Council, the laity aren’t a second class, but rather are “called to animate every environment, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel, 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.”

The Holy Father noted that Apostolicam Actuositatem “reminded forcefully that ‘by its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate’” and that the proclaiming of the Gospel is not reserved to “professionals” but “must be the profound yearning of all the lay faithful.”

By virtue of baptism, the Pope said, the laity are called “not only to Christian animation of temporal realities, but also to works of explicit evangelization, of proclamation and of sanctification of men.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-message-on-vocation-and-mission-of-the-laity

Pope’s Video Message to India’s Eucharistic Congress

“Human beings all over the word today need nourishment. And this nourishment is not just to satisfy physical hunger. There are other hungers- for love, for immortality for life, for affection, for being cared, for forgiveness, for mercy. This hunger can be satiated only by the bread that comes from above”

Here is the text of the video message that Pope Francis sent to the National Eucharistic Congress of India, which began today in Mumbai.

* * *

My dear Brother Beatitudine Cardinal Thottunkal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Bishops Conference, 
my dear Brother Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Organizing committee of the National Eucharistic Congress, Beloved Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of India, dear priest brothers and religious men and women, believers in Jesus Christ and all people of good will in India.

It is with great joy that I greet you as you gather for the National Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharistic Congress has great significance as it marks the golden jubilee anniversary of the International Eucharistic Congress celebrated in Mumbai in 1964 and which was the first International Eucharistic congress to be personally presided over by a Pope. The National Eucharistic Congress also gains another special flavor because it will be celebrated just before the initiation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which I have so desired to have. The theme chosen for the Eucharistic Congress, Nourished by the Eucharist to nourish others is indeed very relevant and inspiring.

The Eucharistic Congress is God’s gift not just for the Christians of the India but for the entire population of a country culturally so diverse yet spiritually so rich. Over thousands of years India has been permeated by the desire for truth, the search for the divine, the effort at goodness and kindness. As you celebrate this great event, the words of Pope Paul VI in his address to the members of the non-christian religions of the 3th December, 1964 come to mind: “The Eucharist is thecommemoration of Jesus Christ and his love for God the Father in heaven, and for all men, a love into death. This love of Jesus is not a matter of the past; it is meant to remain present and to live in every human heart. Christ is dear also to this country, not only to those who are Christians – they are a minority – but to the millions of people who have come to know and love Him as an inspiration of love and self-sacrifice”.

The Eucharist, as the theme chosen rightly points out, nourishes us. As I underlined in the homily of Corpus Domini, “the Eucharist actualizes the Covenant that sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in the marvelous Communion with God. Thus we learn that the Eucharist is not only a reward for the good but also the strength for the weak and for sinners. It is forgiveness and sustenance which helps us on our journey” (4th June 2015).

Human beings all over the word today need nourishment. And this nourishment is not just to satisfy physical hunger. There are other hungers- for love, for immortality for life, for affection, for being cared, for forgiveness, for mercy. This hunger can be satiated only by the bread that comes from above. Jesus himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cfJn6:51). His body offered for our sake on the cross, his blood shed for the pardon of the sins of humanity is made available to us in the bread and wine to the Eucharist transformed in the consecration.

But the Eucharist does not end with the partaking of the bread and blood of the Lord. It leads us to solidarity with others. The communion with the Lord is necessarily a communion with our fellow brothers and sistersAnd therefore the one who is fed and nourished by the very body and blood of Christ cannot remain unaffected when he sees his brothers suffering want and hunger. Those nourished by the Eucharist are called to bring the joy of the gospel to those who have not received it. Strengthened by the living Bread we are called to bring hope to those who live in darkness and in despair. “In the Eucharist the Lord makes us walk on his road, that of service, of sharing, of giving; and if it is shared, that little we have, that little we are, becomes riches, for the power of God — which is the power of love — comes down into poverty to transform it” (Homily for the Corpus Domini 2013).

May this Eucharistic Congress be beacon of light to the people of India, may it be the harbinger of great joy and happiness, may it be an occasion for my Indian brothers and sisters to come together in unity and love. May all those who participate in this Eucharistic Congress walk along with Mary our Mother singing the Magnificat for all that the Lord has done for us.

I bless all of you my dear brothers and sisters in India. May God be with each one of you and your great country.

Pope’s Address to Slovak Bishops

“Today more than ever it is necessary to illumine peoples’ journey with Christian principles, taking the opportunities that the present situation offers to develop an evangelization that, with new language, renders Christ’s message more comprehensible”

Pope Francis received in audience today the Bishops of the Slovakian Episcopal Conference, on the occasion of their five-yearly ad limina visit.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to the Prelates in the course of the meeting.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!

I meet you with joy, Pastors of the Church in Slovakia, during this visit ad Limina, in which you go to the tombs of the Apostles, renewing faith in Christ Jesus and the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, deepening among other things, the sense of collegiality and of mutual collaboration among you. I wish to encourage you in the pastoral work you carry out, even though characterized, among the difficulties of the present moment, by rapid transformations in so many realms of human life and by the great challenge of globalization. Verified in it at times are threats for the less numerous nations, but also at the same time elements that can offer new opportunities. An opportunity, which has become a sign of the times, is the phenomenon of migrations, which requires being understood and addressed with sensibility and a sense of justice. The Church is called to proclaim and witness the reception of migrants in a spirit of charity and respect of the dignity of the human person, in the context of a necessary observance of legality.

In face of the prospect of an ever more extended multi-cultural environment, attitudes must be assumed of mutual respect to foster encounter. It is hoped that the Slovak people will retain their cultural identity and the patrimony of ethical and spiritual values, strongly connected to its Catholic tradition. Thus it will be able to open itself without fears to the confrontation in the widest continental and global horizon, contributing to a sincere and fruitful dialogue, also on subjects of vital importance, such as the dignity of human life and the essential function of the family. Today more than ever it is necessary to illumine peoples’ journey with Christian principles, taking the opportunities that the present situation offers to develop an evangelization that, with new language, renders Christ’s message more comprehensible. Therefore, it is important that the Church infuse hope, so that all the changes of the present moment are transformed into a renewed encounter with Christ, which pushes your people to genuine progress. The lay faithful, called to animate temporal realities with evangelical ferments, cannot excuse themselves from working as well within the political processes geared to the common good. To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel in every environment, they need to feel themselves a living part of the Church. It is your task to acknowledge their role in the life of the ecclesial communities, also in regard to the elaboration and realization of pastoral projects.

I appreciate very much what you are doing in favor of the family, which faces so many difficulties and which is subjected to so many snares. These efforts require to be accompanied by an integral family pastoral at the diocesan and national level, which includes adequate support of families, also those that are not complete, especially if there are children. In the ambit of the pastoral of the family, it is necessary to appreciate the young people, hope of the Church and of the society. Pulsating in them is a strong desire of service to their neighbor and of solidarity, which requires the orientation and confidence of Pastors, to be transformed into a living encounter with Christ, in a determined project of diffusion of the Gospel. In fact, despite the many enticements that invite to hedonism, to mediocrity and to immediate success, young people do not let themselves be easily intimidated by the difficulties and they are particularly sensitive to commitment without reservations, when the genuine meaning of life is presented to them. Therefore, they are in need of having from you clear doctrinal and moral indications, to build the city of God in the city of man.

Have great paternal solicitude towards the priests, your principal collaborators in the pastoral ministry. They are in need of well-articulated programs of permanent formation in the areas of theology, spirituality, pastoral care and the Social Doctrine of the Church, which will enable them to be competent evangelizers. In fact they are, for a great part of the People of God, the main channels through which the Gospel passes, and also the most immediate image through which they encounter the mystery of the Church. Therefore, their intellectual and doctrinal preparation must always be united to the witness of an exemplary life, to close communion with the Bishops, to fraternity with their brothers in the priesthood, to affability in relations with everyone, and to that type of spiritual peace and apostolic ardor that only constant contact with the divine Teacher can give. In order that the priests feel your presence close, it is of great importance that you be ready to listen to them and to relate to them with trust, showing attention to the difficulties that so often afflict them.

The Church, sign and instrument of men’s unity with God and among themselves, is called to be house and school of communion, in which one is able to appreciate and receive all that is positive in the other. This attitude is also very useful in reference to the good contacts that must be re-established in Slovakia between Pastors and consecrated persons, appreciating better the valid contribution of all the Religious in pastoral activity. At the same time, the Church that is in your country is called to take forward the pastoral care of the Rom, with an endeavor of vast evangelization that seeks to reach all these persons that, unfortunately, continue to live in a certain social separation.

I ask you to have the expression of my affection and my spiritual closeness reach your ecclesial communities; to offer my gratitude to the priests and to the masculine and feminine Religious Communities, which with so much generosity do their utmost to proclaim and witness the Gospel, as well as to the catechists and the other collaborators in the work of evangelization; and to communicate the Pope’s gratitude to the persons and institutions dedicated to charity and solidarity with the neediest. I entrust your pastoral concerns to the Virgin Addolorata, Patroness of Slovakia, and I invoke her maternal intercession so that the country prospers in peace and in conformity with the best values of its Christian tradition. And while I ask you to pray for me, to you and to the faithful of every one of the particular Churches over which you preside, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Pope’s Address to Spiritual Family of St. Luigi Guanella

“I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. … I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry”

Today, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Pilgrimage of the spiritual family of St. Luigi Guanella.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I thank you for the words you addressed to me. Not only did you present your work to me, but you also wished to receive me in some way in your Family. Today is an important Solemnity for you: you celebrate the Mother of Divine Providence, who is your Patroness, and above all, she is in fact for you the Mother of the Family, as Saint Luigi Guanella desired.

You have just celebrated the first centenary of his birth in Heaven. I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. He would certainly do so with his sincere and genuine simplicity; and then I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry.

To trust. Don Guanella’s life had at the center the certainty that God is a merciful and provident Father. This was the heart of the faith for him: to know himself as an always loved son, whom the Father takes care of and, therefore, brother of all, called to infuse trust. God is Father and is unable not to love us, nor is He capable of being far from His children. If we are far from Him, we are awaited; when we come close to Him, we are embraced; if we fall, He lifts us up; if we are repentant, He forgives us. And He always desires to encounter us. Saint Luigi so believed in this concrete and provident love of the Father, that he often had the courage to surmount the limits of human prudence, to put the Gospel in practice. Providence, for him, was not “poetry” but reality. God takes care of us and wants us to trust Him.

I think the heavenly Father is very displeased when He sees that His children do not trust Him completely: perhaps they believe in a distant God more than in the merciful God. The doubt can arise in many that God, although Father, is also a master. Then it seems better not to trust Him completely, because He could ask for something that is too demanding or even send a trial. But this is a great deceit: it is the ancient deceit of the enemy of God and of man, who camouflages the reality and disguises evil as a good. It is the first temptation: to distance oneself from God, intimidated by the suspicion that His paternity is not truly provident and good. Instead, God is only love, pure provident love. He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows what our true good is. Therefore He desires that in the course of life we become what we are at the moment of Baptism: loved children, who are able to overcome fear and not fall into lament, because the Father takes care of us. Are you convinced of this?

The second verb is to look. The Creator Father also arouses creativity in those who live as His children. So they learn to look at the world with new eyes, made more luminous by love and hope. They are eyes that enable one to look within oneself with truth and to see far in charity. To this look, others do not seem like obstacles to surmount, but brothers and sisters to welcome. Thus, as Don Guanella said, one discovers that “love of neighbor is the comfort of life.”

Problems are never lacking in the world and, unfortunately, our time witnesses new poverties and many injustices. However, the greatest lack is that of charity: useful above all are persons with eyes renewed by love and looks that infuse hope. Because “love will enable one to find ways and discourses to comfort those that are weak,” said again your Founder. Sometimes our spiritual sight is myopic, because we are unable to look beyond our I. At other times we are long-sighted: we like to help someone who is far away, but we are not capable of bending over someone who is beside us. Sometimes, instead, we prefer to close our eyes, because we are tired, overwhelmed by pessimism. Don Guanella, who recommended that one look at Jesus from His heart, invites us to have the look of the Lord: a look that infuses hope and joy, capable at the same time of experiencing a “lively sense of compassion” in relating to those that suffer.

And, finally, to hurry. “The poor are the favorite children” of the Father, said Saint Luigi, who liked to repeat: “one who gives to the poor, loans to God.” As the Father is delicate and concrete in regard to His littlest and weakest children, so we also cannot have brothers and sister in difficulty waiting, because – these are still Don Guanella’s words – “misery cannot wait. And we cannot stop while there are poor to be helped!” Our Lady hurried to reach her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39). We also hear the Spirit’s invitation to go in haste to meet those in need of our care and our affection because, as Saint Luigi taught, “a Christian heart that believes and feels cannot pass before the indigence of the poor without helping them.”

Your Family springs from trust in the Father, under the gaze of Jesus and in the maternal hands of Mary. I thank you for the good you do and I encourage you to continue, without tiring. I bless you all affectionately and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Don’t forget!

Now I invite you to pray to Our Lady: Ave O Maria …

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Holy See to UN: Let Us Not Give Up Hope That Peace Is Possible in the Mideast

Archbishop says reports on Palestinian refugees ‘give us a most worrisome picture. The resources do not match the many needs’

Here is the Nov. 10 statement of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the Fourth Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly on Agenda Item 54: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

* * *

Mr. Chair,

My delegation has reviewed with great care the 2014 Annual Report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This and other Reports on the financial and various issues confronting UNRWA paint a very troubling picture.

Before addressing the issues, my delegation would like to extend condolences to the families of the UNRWA workers who have been killed while providing humanitarian aid to the victims of conflict and political turmoil. We also offer our heartfelt prayers for the UNRWA workers who have been injured in the line of duty.

The Holy See notes that the areas UNRWA has responsibilities include territories of the ancient Christian heartland where for two millennia Christians have been part and parcel of the culture and history of the region. Greatly reduced in number, they are today among the refugees served by UNRWA. Forced by a violent persecution and by the harsh geopolitical realities of the region, they have left their homes and have become internally displaced and refugees.

Like UNRWA and other organizations, various entities and organizations of the Catholic Church provides education, health-care and social services to the internally displaced and the refugees, which include educational programs for children and rehabilitation efforts for those physically and mentally traumatized by the incessant conflict. Those services are all provided on the basis of need, not creed, and are supported by generous donors associated with the Catholic Church around the globe.

Mr. Chair,

As my delegation noted earlier, the Reports on UNRWA give us a most worrisome picture. The resources do not match the many needs. The peace process between Israel and Palestine has stalled. The ever-increasing tensions and violence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are of a grave concern to the Holy See. The Holy City of Jerusalem is the spiritual patrimony of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this context, the Holy See renews its support for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem, which should, inter alia, ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as the free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.

Mr. Chair,

My delegation notes that in the 2014 UNRWA Report more than half a million registered Palestine refugees in Syria are finding their education and health-care facilities targeted by the warring parties. Some children have not been able to attend school for two or three years because of the use and abuse of schools by all parties to the conflict. As the injured victims of these battles increases in number, the number of facilities to care for them diminishes. Some Palestinian refugee camps, such as Yarmouk, are literally under siege with limited access to basic supplies. Many Palestinian refugees must flee again as their camps become targets of military actions. The Reports do not give us much hope that all these barbaric acts against the Palestinian refugees will end soon.

My delegation wishes once more to express deep gratitude and appreciation to the people of Lebanon and Jordan for their enduring collaboration with UNRWA, in particular taking care of Palestinian refugees, and for contending heroically, together with Turkey and some European countries, with the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria.

Lebanon, unfortunately without a President since May 2014, needs the support of the International Community to stabilize its institutions, protect its four million or so citizens and tend to some 1.5 million refugees from Syria.

Jordan, long a beacon in the acceptance of refugees into its borders, requires international assistance to take care of so many refugees, to guarantee security and social cohesion to its own people, and to fend off attempts by terrorist and extremist groups to push it into the spiral of violence in the region.

Peacemaking must replace the futile and counterproductive illogic of violence and war. Accessible humanitarian assistance for the refugees and internally displaced must replace the current flood of weapons flowing into the region from all over the globe.

Let us never give up the hope that the unquenchable quest for peace, so much desired and so much needed, will eventually dawn in that land so significant to all and so sacred to so many.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

US Bishops: Everyone Should Have Health Care, But No One Should Be Forced to Comply With Abortion

Submit comments for new Health and Human Services regulations

The US bishops have filed comments to a set of regulations proposed in September by Health and Human Services.

Proposed regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should be revised to make clear that the regulations do not, in violation of federal law, require providing or referring for abortion or compel religious institutions to violate their fundamental convictions on human sexuality, said comments submitted to HHS on November 6.

The comments were filed by the General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and nine partners.

“We agree that the prevention of sex discrimination in health programs and activities is a laudable statutory goal. Everyone should have access to health care and health coverage,” said the comments.

However, they note, the final regulations need to make clear that they do not demand involvement in abortion, force religious institutions to cover objectionable services, or employ definitions of sex discrimination and other terms that exceed federal law. The comments called for an exemption that would, at minimum, “state that the prohibition on sex discrimination shall not apply to a religious organization if such application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, USCCB general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, signed the comments, along with representatives of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Medical Association, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Christian Legal Society, World Vision (US), Liberty Institute and Family Research Council.

Pope’s Message on ‘Vocation and Mission of the Laity’

On 50th anniversary of Apostolicam Actuositatem, considers call “to animate every environment, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel, 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”

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.’”

* * *

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 [1965], 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 [2000], 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]

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