26 September 2018

The “Best Practices” in the Promotion and Formation of the Lay Faithful

“Broadening our understanding of the current conditions of the lay faithful” and “extending our gaze to the ever more secularized corners of society that are easily overlooked when discussing the life of the Church"
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This afternoon in Rome, Card. Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, introduced the work and explained the objectives of the international meeting on “Promotion and Formation of the Lay Faithful. Best Practices,” promoted by the Dicastery. From September 26th to 28th, nearly 40 representatives of 15 Bishops’ Conferences will discuss the theme of the formation of the laity in order to draw an overview of the situation on the different continents. This morning the participants were present at the General Audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. “We cannot limit ourselves to what is already in the ‘sphere of the Church’—said Cardinal Farrell—but we can start offering support to our brothers and sisters in Christ who may not have the organization or resources to launch programs and initiatives for carrying out the mission of evangelization.” After having recalled the origin of the Dicastery, created in 2016 through the fusion of the former Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family, the Prefect emphasized the mission “to raise the lay faithful’s awareness of their co-responsibility, by virtue of Baptism, in the Church’s life and mission.” In this new season, the intention of the Holy See is “to focus more on local parishes, where many lay faithful, especially those who do not belong to an ecclesial movement, meet the Lord and his Church.”

For Pope Francis, the role of the laity in the Church “is as important as that of the clergy and must, therefore, receive due respect and appreciation. We are called to let the laity be lay and priests be priests.” The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life noted that the Pope has, on several occasions, “stressed the importance of the lay faithful and the need to avoid clericalization,” and that, before him, St John Paul II warned against the clericalization of the laity and the secularization of the clergy. In the light of the “reciprocity between the clergy and the laity,” the meeting’s participants were invited to “share some particular modalities” in which the mission of evangelization is lived and “explore areas where the Church can offer further support.” Yet, the “cultural differences, which inevitably require different methods and approaches to face the promotion and formation of the laity in the different parts of the world,” are to be respected. In view of the evangelizing mission, “we must first acquire the necessary tools and preparation. And is there a better place for offering preparation to the lay faithful than the local parishes that they frequent?”

At the end of the day, in his homily at the Eucharistic celebration, the Cardinal recalled how the Lord, above all, wants “us to put ourselves in a missionary perspective. You know well that one of Pope Francis’ greatest desires is to see a new missionary mindset enter into the Church, at all levels. This means acquiring a new mentality, a new look towards those who have not yet been reached by the Kingdom of God.” In this sense, we must “understand the promotion and formation of the lay faithful, as a path that ultimately promotes the formation of missionary disciples, to use an expression dear to Pope Francis.”