16 November 2019
Plenary assembly

Do not clericalize the laity, and open new horizons for women in the Church

The first Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life as part of the evangelical renewal of the Church

Do not clericalize the laity, and open new horizons for a better understanding of women in the Church.” These are the two concepts that Pope Francis, in adding them at the end of his address, wished to leave for the participants in the first plenary assembly of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, which concluded today at the Vatican.

In a certain sense, this meeting concludes the first phase of the life of the new Dicastery, which was born in 2016 with the consolidation of the competencies of the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family. As was recalled by Cardinal Parolin, who spoke on Friday 15 November, this is one of the first fruits of the Reform of the Roman Curia which is coming to its full maturity.

Introducing the working sessions on Wednesday 13 November, Cardinal Farrell also spoke of the place of the plenary assembly within the reform and, more generally, within the renewal of the Church. The Prefect emphasized that the renewal of structures, while necessary, only makes sense when viewed from a missionary perspective.

“The desire to bring the Gospel of salvation to everyone must be the principal driving force which inspires all changes and structural reform in the Church.” In this sense, Card. Farrell continued, the mission of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life is very simple: “our goal must be always to help all the lay faithful, of every background and of every age, to live as Christians every day.”

One of the main purposes of the first Plenary Assembly was to allow the superiors and personnel of the Dicastery to become better acquainted with the Dicastery’s members and consultors (a list of whom can be found here.)

They were asked to reflect—with the reflections of Professor Pilar Rio, Matteo Truffelli, and Laurent Landete as starting points—on the mission and identity of the laity in the world.

In the course of the work, Members and Consultors were involved in the Dicastery’s strategic planning. Divided by language, they participated in working groups during which they expressed their opinions on the activities the Dicastery carries out, and offered their suggestions for new activities.

To this end, during the audience the Holy Father clarified that: “You are not ‘social or ecclesial engineers’ who plan strategies to apply throughout the whole world for the dissemination of certain religious ideologies among the laity. You are called to think and act as ‘brothers in the faith,’ keeping in mind that faith is always born from a personal encounter with the living God and draws nourishment from the Sacraments of the Church. Any Christian formation must rest always on this fundamental experience of encounter with God and the sacramental life.”