A shared responsibility that stems from Baptism

Prefect Farrell's keynote address at the opening of the Conference for Presidents and Representatives of Episcopal Commissions for the Laity


Starting from today until Saturday, Feb. 18, the International Conference "Pastors and Lay Faithful Called to Go Forward Together," organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, will being held in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican, with the participation of more than 200 pastors and lay people from episcopal commissions for the laity and delegates from international Associations of the Faithful.

Raising awareness of both pastors and laity, on the sense of co-responsibility that stems from Baptism

In his opening remarks, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery, explained the purpose of the Conference: " to raise awareness among pastors and laity alike of the significance of the co-responsibility that stems from Baptism and that unites us all. We see the need for adequate training -- for pastors and for laity -- so that this shared responsibility is actually practised".

The viewpoint, he added, is that of an "integrated pastoral care" and of "positive collaboration and shared responsibility within the Church, in all the areas that lie within our competence: in the area of family pastoral care, in the area of youth pastoral care, and, more generally, as this conference proposes to do, in reference to the lay faithful."

According to the Prefect, fundamentally, “there is a need to go beyond the approach of ‘delegation’ or that of ‘substitution’ where the laity are ‘delegated’ by the pastors for some sporadic service, or the laity ‘substitute’ for clerics in some functions, yet they are working in isolation. All of this seems to be somewhat reductive”.

The Conference, entitled "Pastors and lay faithful called to go forward together," is rooted in the Dicastery's November 2019 Plenary Assembly: in those days, the Cardinal explained, "we felt a renewed call from the Lord to “go forward together” in taking responsibility in serving the Christian community.  Each of us does so according to our individual vocation. We do not adopt an attitude of superiority, but rather we pool our energies as we share the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of our time".

The Conference within the context of the Church's synodal journey

Reinforcing the aim is the Synodal journey, which has since begun, that places the Conference against the backdrop of the whole Church's commitment to "go forward together." The Church, he continued, is a ‘community subject’ that knows it has the same spirit, the same feeling, the same faith and the same mission and therefore constitutes a true unitary body. In this sense it is not a federation. But in this single ‘subject’, individual personalities are not annulled. On the contrary, everyone in the Church must be an active ‘subject’: all are called to bring their original contribution to the life and mission of the Church, and all are called to think for themselves and make use of their respective charisms. When we emphasise that the Church is a ‘community subject’ and a community of ‘active subjects’, this leads us precisely to recognition of the ‘sense of being Church’ of all the lay faithful with their uniqueness and their charisms”.

Practical guidelines for being multipliers in local situations

Some excerpts from Lumen Gentium, were quoted and that already included “a whole programme of instruction for pastors in relation to the laity. It also gives some very important practical suggestions”. Then the Prefect underlined the fact “that there are many areas in which the laity are often more competent than priests and consecrated persons” and that “the presence and action of the lay faithful is also of great benefit in the Church in more properly ‘ecclesial’ activities such as evangelisation and charitable work”. This is because “in these contexts, too, people frequently show great zeal and resourcefulness. They have the courage to explore new avenues and to try new methods of outreach, often in places where there is a shortage of clergy or in places where people are accustomed to more traditional and less ‘inconvenient’ methodologies and practices”.

Our wish is that these two days of listening, dialogue and exchange will bring great enrichment and that they will help everyone to become multipliers, to promote in their local situations the common participation of the entire People of God in the life and mission of the Church.

16 February 2023