PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE LAITY
A high point in the activities of our dicastery during the past few months was the twenty-second plenary assembly during which we concluded our reflection on the parish, a theme undertaken by the Pontifical Council for the Laity two years ago. In spite of the difficulties it faces today, the parish “continues to maintain and to carry out its particular mission, which is indispensable and of great relevance for pastoral care and the life of the Church” (Ecclesia in Europa, n. 15). With this awareness, and with the intention of overcoming the level of sterile criticism and complaints that so often hinder current debate on the parish, we endeavoured, in this second stage of the study, to adopt a positive and proactive approach. We looked at various renewal programmes in action that aim to restore to parishes their vitality and missionary impetus. During the sessions, there was frequent referral to significant images concerning the parish given to us by John Paul II and Benedict XVI: “a family of families”, “a laboratory of faith”, a training ground for holiness”, “a house open to all and at the service of all”, “an interior homeland for the people”. All of this is confirmed by the essential fact that the parish recognises the privileged place for an encounter with Christ: in the Word, in the sacraments, in fraternal communion and in the diakonia.
Parish renewal is something that is desired everywhere, but it is not something that can be imposed from above. It requires solid commitment on the part of all, priests and laity. It needs a deep change in mentality and conversion of heart. Priests should learn to collaborate more and more with the laity. They do not have to “do” everything, but should also know how to “delegate”, as Benedict XVI insisted recently. On their part, the lay faithful should develop a lively sense of belonging to the parochial community and show this in an attitude of co-responsibility and active participation in its life and mission. Structural changes may be necessary, but they are not enough. The renewal of the parish always takes place through people. It is therefore necessary to get down to a real process of Christian initiation that will help the faithful to live fully the potential contained in the baptism they have received, sustained by regular participation in the Eucharist.
In this education in the faith, a decisive role on the part of lay groups must be acknowledged, especially ecclesial movements and new communities, about which we spoke often during the plenary assembly. The charisms that gave rise to them make them places of solid Christian instruction and make them capable of bringing about an extraordinary missionary impulse in many men and women. Besides, the presence of these new groups can really help to make the parish a real “community of communities”. This is a very important fact if we consider the risk of anonymity and depersonalisation that occurs especially in city parishes.
The parish should avoid the temptation of closing in on itself. This comes from a false sense of self-sufficiency. It is not by chance that Benedict XVI recently drew attention to the need for a kind of “self-transcendence” of the parish that should find expression in a constant missionary tension towards those keeping their distance and even towards the mission ad gentes. In the great urban centres, this “self-transcendence” can also take on the form of close collaboration between the various parishes so as to strengthen the evangelising potential of each of them, or it can bring about the creation of the socalled “pastoral units” that group together several parishes. The multiple needs to which the Church must respond today in the various social-cultural and spiritual-religious contexts means that there cannot be one ideal model for parishes. However, there is one dimension that a parish should never lose and that is its “popular” character, its capacity to speak to each individual person, and to be for each one a “permanently open house”.
Now we come to the core of the discourse on parish renewal: the Eucharist. This is because the Church draws life from the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church (cf Ecclesia de Eucharistia). As John Paul II said: “The Eucharist is the pulsating heart of the parish, the source of its mission and presence that continually renews it”. In his address to the Plenary Assembly participants, Benedict XVI affirmed that parishes “rediscover themselves in the encounter with Christ, especially in the Eucharist […] “Parishes find strength in constant union with Christ in order to dedicate themselves without interruption to the service of the brethren, especially the poor, for whom they in fact represent the first reference point”. This is therefore the source, the way and the method of every renewal in the Church. The flame of renewal in the parish comes from the Eucharist. There is nothing more sad that a Christian community that is sleeping, tired out, like leavening that no longer ferments and salt that has lost its taste. The renewal of our parishes is an urgent task. Each of us should feel directly implicated: “If not I, who will take my place? If not now, when?”…
We conclude with an appreciation. The twenty-second Plenary Assembly was the last with the present members and consultors of the Dicastery as their fiveyear term came to an end in 2006. With abundant blessings, the Lord has allowed us to experience with them another stage in the life of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, one that was filled with fruitful events. We thank all of them for their precious contribution to the service our Dicastery lends to the Successor of Peter and to the lay faithful all over the world. We thank all of them for the witness of faith they have given and for the ecclesial experiences lived in their respective countries that they have shared with us over these years, thus bringing about much mutual enrichment. We wish each one of them most sincerely that the experience of the universal Church they have had during these five years may bring about much fruit in the work they do in their local Church – dioceses and parishes. Thank you again!
The parish rediscovered. 22nd Plenary Assembly
Members and consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Laity met together from 21 to 23 September for the 22nd Plenary Assembly. The three days of intense work were a continuation and necessary conclusion of the reflection on the parish begun at the previous Assembly in November 2004. The theme on that occasion was: “Rediscovering the true face of the parish”, and we spent time analysing the present situation, the causes of the crises and the possibility of renewal with particular attention to the juridical and pastoral aspects. In the last Assembly with the title, “The parish rediscovered. Paths of renewal”, we directed our attention to the renewal underway, and listened to and questioned a considerable number of experiences of pastors, laity and people from new ecclesial groups directly involved in initiatives of this kind. The central event was undoubtedly the audience with the Holy Father in Castel Gandolfo on the morning of the 22. Of course, our Dicastery, as a department of the Roman Curia, is totally at the service of the Pope, and the encounter in itself was a clear sign of real communion with the Successor of Peter. The audience also had special importance because Benedict XVI gave us a short but profound reflection on the nature of the parish.
The Holy Father drew our attention to the normative experience of the first community in Jerusalem, the foundation of each community that calls itself Christian: “The hoped-for renewal of parishes cannot only result from pastoral initiatives, albeit useful and timely, nor even less from programmes worked out theoretically. Inspired by the apostolic model as shown in the Acts of the Apostles, parishes ‘rediscover’ themselves in the encounter with Christ”. The Acts of the Apostles (2:42 and 4:32-35) clearly outline the essential coordinates for each path of ecclesial renewal: listening to the word of God, the celebration of the Eucharist, communion and sharing in fellowship, all lived in prayer. This continuous union with Christ, that finds its summit in the Eucharist, makes the parish “ever attentive to accepting and discerning the different charisms that the Lord brings forth in the People of God” and gives the strength to “dedicate themselves without interruption to the service of the brethren, especially the poor, for whom they in fact represent the first reference point”.
The Holy Father’s words helped us to bring back to the essentials the extraordinary multiplicity of experiences and proposals that we had heard about during the Assembly. The sessions were in fact based on one keynote address, given by Msgr Sergio Lanza, and on many testimonials. We heard about the experiences of parish priests and the lay faithful, with emphasis given to the role of pastoral councils and the unordained ministry, and to pastoral initiatives in parish renewal in various parts of the world, and experiences developed by ecclesial movements and new communities.
The many success stories presented by witnesses and the willingness expressed to carry projects forward created an atmosphere of optimism and confidence, notwithstanding the awareness that many crisis situations remain. Most of all, we could note among the great diversity of experiences and methods, the fact that they shared a common patrimony, and these were the elements that the Pope had indicated in his address as being fundamental for the building up of the Christian community. We could also see how the progressive opening up of the parishes to the new ecclesial communities that arose from the Vatican Council has given life to many good experiences of “integrated ministry”, a term used by Msgr Lanza. We could see how the desire of the Holy Father is already taking place, and that is to be able to count on the lay faithful who are “ever more aware of their mission in the Church, especially within the parish community, which is a ‘family’ of Christian families”. The proceedings of the Assembly are being prepared for publication.
PCL senior staff visit the WYD host city in Australia
Contacts between the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Australian organising committee are becoming more frequent as we prepare for the 23rd World Youth Day that will take place in Sydney in July 2008. From 28 September to 7 October 2006, the president of the dicastery, Archbishop Stanisław Ryłko, the secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and Marcello Bedeschi, president of the Youth Church Hope Foundation, visited Sydney to meet Archbishop George Pell and Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary of the Archdiocese and coordinator of the WYD 2008 organisation, and their collaborators among whom were representatives of the federal and state governments.
Their stay in Australia was an occasion to make contacts and decisions, and to visit possible sites for the welcome ceremony for the Pope when he comes to World Youth Day, and for the vigil and papal Mass.
The delegation also met journalists at a press conference during which the official announcement was made concerning the choice of location for the vigil and papal Mass. It was decided that the place for the encounter of hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims with the Pope would be Randwick Racecourse. This is where Paul VI and John Paul II celebrated Mass on their apostolic visits.
One of the highlights of the visit was the inauguration of the competition to choose the WYD 2008 theme song. The announcement was made at a meeting in which Archbishop Ryłko encouraged Australian composers to use their talents to compose a melody inspired by the theme of WYD “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), a melody that can be easily sung, that can be an instrument of communication and evangelisation, and that will be one of those memories that stay with young pilgrims for a long time.
Archbishop Ryłko, Bishop Clemens and Mr Bedeschi were pleased with the preparations for WYD that are attracting the attention of young people from Australia and the whole world. This can be seen in the great number of visits to the official website (www.wyd2008.org) reaching tens of thousands per day. This website is not only a source of information and news, but it is also a real “virtual community”, a place for reflection and sharing. The e-pilgrimage is a newsletter in several languages that is sent out to those who register on the website, and it gives spiritual meditations, testimonies and information from the organising committee.
Archbishop Ryłko expressed his appreciation to the civil authorities of the country that will host the event for their support and cooperation, both the federal government and that of New South Wales. In mid-November, the bishop coordinator of the organising committee for Sydney 2008, Bishop Anthony Fisher, was in Rome for a further meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Discussions centred on some logistic aspects and criteria, especially with regard to registrations. These topics were taken up again some days later by means of a video conference with some members of the Committee in Sydney.
The WYD Cross and Icon continue on their journey around Africa
The African pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross and the Icon of Our Lady that started in Senegal on 12 April last, reached Tanzania on 28 November.
In our last report in Notiziario-News, we gave a brief summary of the itinerary of the Cross and Icon in Africa until they arrived in Togo. There, from 12 to 30 June, they travelled around the seven dioceses and the faithful took part in the ceremonies with much spiritual fervour. According to the Archbishop of Lomé, Most Reverend Philippe Kpodzro, what they most hope for from this pilgrimage is that “Christ may take root in our hearts, our culture, our traditions, our society… so that all Togolese may regard each other as brothers and sisters and learn to live in harmony”.
This wish for a mature faith was shared by the pastors of the Church in Burkina Faso which hosted the pilgrimage from 30 June until 7 August. The Cross and Icon arrived at the parish of Cinkansé at the border with Togo, and then proceeded to the capital Ouagadougou on 3 July to be met by a large crowd in traditional dress. They were present at the 3rd National Youth Day held in the town of Fada N’Gourma from 4 to 6 August where thousands of young people gathered from the neighbouring countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Togo. This was the high point of the pilgrimage in Burkina Faso, and the young people were invited to reflect on the theme, “Young Catholics, builders of peace”. They undertook the commitment to be builders of peace, living stones of their “Church-Family”, in order to overcome the tensions prevalent in their region in recent years.
On 8 August the Cross and Icon went to Cameroon and remained there until 28 August. A huge crowd of young people were unperturbed by the lashing rain as they waited in Douala airport in the middle of the night. In a country with many social problems and the rapid spread of religious sects, the bishops of Cameroon took advantage of the journey of the Cross and Icon to carry out itinerant catechesis for the multitudes in order to remind people that Jesus Christ is our only Redeemer and that through Him we find salvation if we are willing to allow our hearts to be converted. They entrusted these efforts of the Church to the Mother of God and invited young people to accept her as their role model and source of consolation. On 28 August, the Cross and Icon were received by Gabon, a country undergoing similar difficulties. The redeeming presence of the Cross of Christ was a source of encouragement to carry on without fear. Those who participated in the pilgrimage were reminded of the importance of accepting the Cross in their daily lives. They have to carry it with them, for it is the only way to the resurrection. It is the source of life and salvation, a sign that we belong to Christ. On 7 September, the organisers took the Cross and Icon to Libreville gaol so that the prisoners could experience the closeness of Christ and his Mother.
On 18 September, the Cross and Icon arrived in Congo-Brazzaville. Travel in the country was difficult due to damaged road surfaces, but the armed forces placed a helicopter at the service of the Cross and Icon so that they could get to places not yet reached by “progress”. Yet again young people converged in their masses, and they were joined by all the Church community. There were times of adoration, and many young people received the sacrament of reconciliation. The speakers who gave thoughts for reflection pointed out that the paramount freedom given by God is very different from the individualistic kind that is promoted by today’s society which leaves little room for the timehonoured African tradition of acceptance of others. The Church community gathered around the Cross and Icon and meditated on the essence of real happiness: to be poor to oneself in order to be a gift to others.
The Cross and Icon went from Congo to Burundi, but not without difficulty. They were expected on 9 October, but arrived two weeks later because of difficulties with flights. On 9 October there was a large crowd anxiously waiting in Bujumbura for what was expected to be the largest gathering ever seen in Burundi. Thanks to the long and careful preparation of the young people and the help of all the mass media that covered the event and the preparatory catechesis, a huge number of people decided to join the pilgrimage. The delay only served to increase their expectation. Many young people in Burundi knew about these symbols through the DVD and album “John Paul II and the WYD Cross”. In Burundi, the war and its devastating effects were tearing the social fabric apart, a troubled situation with roots in the distant past. The pilgrimage was a providential opportunity to develop the theme for reflection proposed by the Bishops’ Conference for the quinquennial Synod (2005-2010) of the Church in Burundi: “Peace and Reconciliation”.
On 13 October, during the course of a ceremony in honour of the Cross and Icon, in the presence of the highest dignitaries in the State, the Bishop of Bujumbura, Most Reverend Evariste Ngoyagoye, asked for forgiveness for all the evil that had been committed in the country. This gesture opened the way for a large number of events in which Christians from other confessions joined in the ceremonies with the Catholics in order to praise the one Saviour Jesus Christ. The Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, summed up this spiritual adventure in the following words: “The visit of the Cross has done the Catholic Church a lot of good, particularly in relation to the other religious confessions. They did not think that Catholics were still able to manifest their faith in such a way and in such numbers. We could say without exaggeration that in just a few days the Cross has renewed the faith of countless Catholics and reinforced confidence in the Church as a living institution”.
Rwanda, like Burundi, a country emerging from a recent war situation, hosted the Cross and Icon for three weeks from 2 November. The people there welcomed them in the hope that they would sustain and encourage a progressive return to peace. It was not by chance that one of the first events was a procession at the genocide memorial in Kiziguru. During the ceremony the youth were asked to remember all those innocent lives lost during that tragic period of human history, and to have the courage to cry out: “never again!”. It was a piercing cry, shouted with all the force and directness with which young people are capable, in a community ceremony at the centre of which the Cross of Christ stood as a powerful sign of forgiveness. The young people also wanted to contribute to the birth of a new Rwanda with concrete actions, and they do this by helping to build houses for genocide widows. Another important stage in the pilgrimage of the Cross and Icon in Rwanda was undoubtedly the 5th National Youth Forum (22-26 November 2006). Participants also included many young people from Congo DCR and Burundi. The significance of this meeting did not go unnoticed. The young people participating side by side at the gathering all came from a region sadly stricken by the scourge of hatred and ethnic wars. We can understand the hope expressed by Bishop Philippe Rukamba of Butare when he said that this occasion could prove to be a hotbed of peace and a school of fellowship and love.
The 9th International Youth Forum
The 9th International Youth Forum will take place from 28 March to 1 April 2007 in Rocca di Papa near Rome. The theme will be: “Witnessing to Christ in the world of work”. The event is being organised by the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the delegates will be young people sent by their bishops’ conferences or by major Church movements that are involved in the pastoral ministry of workers. There will be about 300 participants between the ages of 20 and 35 from over 100 countries who are active in the Church and employed in the world of work.
The first day will be centred on the theme “Youth and the world of work today”, and it will open with a panoramic view of the transformations in the world of work brought about by globalisation. Then several young workers from different countries will recount their experiences. There will be a talk that will outline the problems associated with mobility, “precarity” and unemployment that particularly affect young people in the world of work. This will conclude with a panel discussion that will show us how there are young people who respond to these social transformations with new ways of approaching work with creativity and initiative, and how it is possible to support young people in situations of professional crisis or unemployment.
The second day will be organised in the form of a pilgrimage and encounter in Rome: “In the footsteps of the apostles Peter and Paul”. As the theme of the day suggests, the delegates will visit the basilicas of Saint Paul and Saint Peter to have an experience of faith together as they discover the roots of Christianity as proclaimed and witnessed even to martyrdom by the first two “workers” in the Lord’s vineyard. By meditating on the example of the two apostles, the young people can more clearly see the deep connection between a life of work and the evangelising mission to which every Christian is called.
The third day of the Forum will proceed with a reflection on “The significance of work in a person’s life”. After a talk centred on work in the light of the encyclical Laborem exercens and the social doctrine of the Church, there will be a panel discussion to show how work can be specifically at the service of individuals and their growth. Topics will deal with the workplace as a place where they develop their talents and forge personal relations, and as a stimulus to use their free time and money in a responsible and constructive way. The delegates themselves, meetings in groups according to language, will discuss the significance of work for young Christians today.
The fourth day will start out with a study of the theme “Proclaiming the gospel of work today”. This will concentrate on Christian witness in the world of work. There will be a panel discussion on the pastoral ministry of workers, the role of Catholic associations and participation in trade unions. A talk will follow on how to join professional life and Christian life under the benedictine motto ora et labora. Several young people will speak about how they look for the spiritual dimension at work. Then the study groups will try to present experiences and suggestions on Christian witness of young people in the workplace. The President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity will conclude the Forum with a final address.
This experience of encounter and sharing with the universal Church will culminate on Sunday 1 April when the Forum delegates will go to Saint Peters’ Square to take part in an event that is on the path of preparation for the meeting in Sydney in 2008. They will take part in the Palm Sunday Mass presided by the Holy Father which is the Rome diocesan celebration of the 22nd World Youth Day with the theme “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
Future initiatives of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
The Pontifical Council for the Laity have several initiatives under study that will soon enter the planning stage. Various programmes will be continued that the dicastery has in hand for some time in the vast and diversified field that comes within its competence and that respond to its call in the service of the lay faithful in their participation in the life and mission of the Church today.
The 30 December 2008 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the post synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici, considered to be the magna charta of the Catholic laity of our times. This document by Pope John Paul II with its teachings and guidelines is of great importance to the work of this Dicastery. The time that remains before the anniversary of its promulgation will be a very good opportunity to take it in hand and study its contents. We can take a deeper look at some of the theological questions that arise from it, evaluate the progress made in the years following its publication, point out other areas that have become priorities today, take a look at those already in hand, and prepare a suitable commemoration of this anniversary. It will be interesting to take in hand the numerous useful studies that have been published on Christifideles laici.
One of the latest priorities for the building up of the Church is to make use of the charismatic, educational and missionary treasures of the ecclesial movements and new communities that can give light to the Christian event for humankind through the living experience of an encounter with Jesus Christ. They are schools of true life, of freedom and unity, that Pope Benedict XVI called together in Saint Peter’s Square on 3 June 2006, the vigil of Pentecost, just after their 2nd World Congress. The examination of the path travelled so far by these groups will lead to the Pontifical Council for the Laity once again calling together a qualified group of bishops from various continents and nations, together with some founders and leaders of movements and communities, to go further in dialogue so as to help their commitment and service and their presence in the Church and the world.
For a long time now, the dicastery has been involved in promoting and organising continental and regional gatherings of the lay faithful together with their pastors. This was done in Lebanon in 1997 for lay leaders in the Middle East, and in Kiev, Ukraine in 2003 for those from the ex-Soviet Union countries. The announcement by the Holy Father of the second special assembly of the Synod of bishops for Africa to be held in Rome on the theme “The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace”, offers a suitable opportunity to promote a continental encounter of lay leaders of that continent that would be a sign of communion and solidarity with those Churches that often live in dramatic situations of poverty and violence. It would be encouragement for the laity to open paths to the Gospel in Africa and would be an occasion to draw up proposals and suggestions in view of the Synodal Assembly. At the same time, there are already under way several consultations on the possibility of proposing a continental congress of lay leaders in Asia.
There are two other specific initiatives being studied. The first is in connection with the twenty-year anniversary of the publication of the encyclical of John Paul II Mulieris dignitatem. The proposal is to study the distance covered since that time, the situation today and the perspectives of movements, currents and initiatives regarding the dignity of women and their contribution to the Church and society. It will focus on specific points for study in order to avoid unnecessary repetition, but it will use the numerous and qualified studies and research already produced.
The second concerns the “Church and Sport” section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. After the first seminar that took place in November 2005 which dealt in a general way with the scope of this Section, the second will establish a more specific approach to various objectives. One of these, which will be the topic of another seminar, concerns the spiritual help given to sports people and the role and work of chaplains.
Towards renewal of the tradition
The important tradition of the International Catholic Organisations is undergoing major renewal. Their development began in the first decade of the 20th century as an expression of the rebirth of associations among the faithful, and in particular the lay faithful, in line with the unfolding of Catholicism and in order to assure a greater presence of Catholics in international life. Several new factors have called for a serious study in their regard by the Holy See, especially in the cooperation between the Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, concerning both individual ICOs and the Conference of ICOs. The study has been enriched by varied and frequent meetings for dialogue.
The first new factor that has made this process of renewal necessary is the norms on associations of the lay faithful in the Code of Canon Law presently in force. Each ICO has to undertake a reformulation of their statutes in order to be confirmed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as an international association of public or private right. Our dicastery has already concluded this work with MIAMSI, ICYCW, UCIP and BICE, and work continues with many other ICOs. We hope to complete this work in 2007. The consequence of this process is that those that were traditionally called “International Catholic Organisations” will no longer be distinguished from other international associations of the lay faithful that have received recognition from the Pontifical Council for the Laity since the 1983 Code of Canon Law came into force. The Code came out in conjunction with the flourishing of new and diverse forms of association, especially in the “ecclesial movements” and “new communities”. In the new statutes that were approved or that are on their way to approval, there no longer appears the expression “International Catholic Organisation”. They are recognised as international associations of the lay faithful, private or public, inserted in the complex and diversified panorama that has emerged from the “new era of group endeavours” among the faithful in the Catholic Church. The category of associations traditionally classified as “ICO” will now tend not to appear as such, mainly because there are no criteria that can distinguish them from other Catholic associations, and it is therefore not seen as necessary to maintain this differentiation among Catholic associations.
Another factor emerges from the huge transformations that have taken place in international life in the past twenty years. These are due in great part to the end of the Cold War and the bipolar world, to the acceleration in scientific and technological progress that offer new possibilities - but present serious ethical questions - to all of reality, to the challenges presented by “globalisation”, to the dramatic search for a new world order, to the encounters and clashes of cultures and to the emergence of religions in the public life of nations and the international order. All of this has meant that the institutionalisation of international life has gathered greater density and intensity. It has developed through a series of places, agencies and initiatives where new organisms - to name just one, the International Chamber of Commerce - have taken on significant importance.
All of this calls for a renewal and increase of the presence of the Holy See in international and intergovernmental life, questions that have been calling for attention for some time. However, at the non-governmental level we can say that the ICOs and the Conference of ICOs are having great difficulty in assuring their presence and contribution in a way that will give them a voice and relevance at international level. In fact, their presence and contribution which is very valid in some cases and situations, generally seems weakened and unable to have much influence in fact. At the same time, there is an ever-increasing number of non-governmental international organisations that are very active and influential through lobbying, awareness, information, cooperation, etc.
Within this great variety of NGOs with consultative status with different international organisations and agencies, we usually find the vast majority of ICOs, but the presence of NGOs of Catholic inspiration or affinity have now become very varied. Among the so-called ecclesial movements and new communities (more than 120 were called together by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in June 2006), there are many who have already obtained are who are about to request consultative status through different entities and in various ways. To these we add the NGOs connected to religious institutes, the numerous other NGOs that are involved in questions connected with the family, from the defence of life to the new questions presented by bio-ethics, like many other voluntary and cooperation organisations that feel part of the Catholic Church or that refer to it. The Catholic presence at international non-governmental level has gone through a period of growth in quantity and diversity of organisations, a phenomenon that also includes a certain amount of dispersion and ineffective efforts.
All of this said, the Holy See wants to sustain and encourage the task that was at the origin of the constitution of the Conference of ICOs, and that is the presence and contribution of Catholic associations in international life, especially through the exercise of consultative status in addition to the help of international centres. Today the presence of Catholics, through the most diverse associations, organisations and Catholic entities or those of Catholic inspiration - working autonomously and responsibly, but referring to the magisterium of the Church -, must acquire new impetus and new ways of contributing to international life that is subject to huge transformations and where there are fundamental questions in play concerning life and the destiny of the human person, the family, peoples and nations and the international order. In this sense there is a continuity to be guaranteed with the task fulfilled by the ICOs and their Conference until now. The discontinuity and change is that the Holy See has decided to promote and sustain a Forum of international associations, organisations and entities, in their variety and diversity, that regard themselves as Catholic, or that refer to the Catholic Church, or that take their inspiration from its magisterium. It is a place open to occasional meetings, of exchange of information, of study and reflection, a place to come to agreements when necessary or appropriate, to call on the presence of each group and their offer to contribute to events, conferences, programmes and debates in international life. This Forum is not intended to create a sort of “Catholic block”. It allows for freedom of initiative and responsibility in the area of a legitimate associative autonomy, yet constituting a minimal structure of coordination. The Holy See would continue its work with special attention and with contributions of reflection, reminders and collaboration. This initiative also allows for the reinforcement of International Centres - and possibly the creation of new ones in the near future - so that various associations, organisations and entities that are part of the Forum may meet regularly in these Centres in the various international localities.
This concern on the part of the Holy See has been maturing at a time when the Conference of ICOs is undertaking a period of reflection. Since the last General Assembly held in Jerusalem in November 2005, the Conference has been very aware of this need for renewal, and it has undertaken the large task of regeneration. The proposal of the Forum will be material for a new exchange of reflection, study and projection. In any case, it is obvious that public and private international associations that have shared the history of the Conference of ICOs or that realise that they have a particular associative affinity with each other, should maintain their networks of dialogue and cooperation, even if the Conference of ICOs should give way to this new Forum, at the same time an expression of continuity and change.
All international associations of the faithful will continue to find in the Pontifical Council for the Laity the competent dicastery for questions related to their erection or recognition, to the approval of their statutes and to statutory questions that arise. Our dicastery will continue with special concern to follow their associative life, their charismatic or spiritual development, their educational processes and Christian instruction, their pastoral involvement and missionary practice, their work and related initiatives.
This continues to be their “common house”, although several of these international associations of the faithful may be, at the same time, encouraged to contact other dicasteries of the Holy See according to the content of their interests or scope. Moreover, the Pontifical Council for the Laity is in close contact with the Secretariat of State. Its sphere includes the international intergovernmental life of these associations and organisations that refer to or adhere to the Catholic Church and that have consultative status in international organisations.
Juridical recognition and approval of statutes
The Pontifical Council for the Laity: By decree of 7 October 2005, recognised as an international association of the faithful, the World Apostolate of Fatima, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
By decree of 6 January 2006, approved the new statutes of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE). By decree of 22 February 2006, granted final approval of the statutes of the Marianist Lay Communities.
By decree of 22 February 2006, granted final approval of the statutes of the Heralds of the Gospel.
By decree of 15 March 2006, approved the modifications to the statutes of the Intercontinental Christian Fraternity of the Chronic Sick and Physically Disabled (FRATER Intercontinental).
By decree of 2 April 2006, granted final approval of the statutes of the Secular Missionary Carmel.
By decree of 24 October 2006, recognised as an international association of the faithful the association Alianza de Amor con el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, and approved its statutes “ad experimentum”.
By decree of 17 November 2006, approved the modifications to the statutes of the association Prayer and Life Workshops.
The Dicastery is presently examining the requests for canonical recognition presented by the following lay groups: Les maisons d’adoration, Alliance of the Holy Family International, Apostolate for Family Consecration, Fondacio, Comunità Cattolica d’Integrazione, Families of Nazareth Movement, Shalom Catholic Community, Comunità dei Figli di Dio, Milicia de Santa María, Family Hope, Rinnovamento Carismatico Servi di Cristo Vivo, Franciscanos de María, Light-Life Movement, Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement, Hogares Nuevos-Obra de Cristo, Comunità Cenacolo, Cançao Nova Community.
Once the summer had ended, the Ad limina apostolorum visits resumed. These visits are made by bishops from all over the world once every five years. They are a sign and effective instrument of communion with the Successor of Peter, Supreme Pontiff of the universal Church, sustained and helped in his function by the Roman Curia.
During this period the Pontifical Council for the Laity received bishops from Zambia, two groups of bishops from Canada, bishops from Germany and from Ireland. All of these meetings were opportunities to exchange experiences in full communion of spirit and intent. Of course, the topics for discussion differed according to the local situations and the specific requests on the part of individual groups of pastors.
The bishops of Zambia informed us of the progress taking place in local pastoral ministry due to the organisation of parishes in the territories in Small Christian Communities. These allow for services to be spread out rather than being concentrated only in parish churches and missions that are often dispersed around the countryside and distant from each other. The creation of small communities like extended families in large urban areas help them to keep their African customs. This kind of organisation obviously requires the committed engagement of a high number of qualified lay people who guide these small communities in full communion with the parish priest, and also of ministers of the word and of the Eucharist. For this purpose the young African Church gives ad hoc training.
Two groups of bishops from Ontario and Western Canada, completed the visit begun before the summer by two other groups of Canadian bishops. They were particularly interested in speaking about youth ministry. They spoke of how the young people of Canada were favourably touched by World Youth Day in Toronto 2002 and how it encouraged a large group to attend the event in Cologne three years later. Already in the phase of preparation for WYD 2002, the Canadian Church had activated some pastoral initiatives so that the enthusiasm of the event would not remain an isolated episode but would become part of regular pastoral ministry. The bishops wanted to hear about similar initiatives taking place in other countries that our dicastery had been informed about.
At the end of October we received the visit of a sizeable delegation of bishops from Ireland. The main concern was the growing secularisation of society and the pastoral problems that ensue, a relatively new situation in their nation. The bishops spoke of their efforts to educate the laity in pastoral communion and to overcome the individualism that is a characteristic of the Irish, a weak point when faced with the pervasive secularised mentality. The dicastery insisted on the need to provide the faithful with adequate Christian instruction in the form of a path of Christian initiation so as to be able to appreciate the value of discipleship. Emphasis was also given to greater openness on the part of the clergy to ecclesial movements and new communities, as these are proving to be an effective response to growing secularisation.
There were also two large groups of bishops from Germany who came in November. Among the many topics discussed, emphasis was given to the engagement of the lay faithful in German politics and culture, and on the social doctrine of the Church. In this context, the bishops showed particular interest in the new “Church and Sport” section of our dicastery that was set up just over a year ago. Next year in Mainz in Germany, there will be a symposium on sport organised in collaboration with our dicastery.
After Pentecost 2006
The events of Pentecost 2006 in Rome were motives for great joy and satisfaction for the organisers and for all the Church groups who contributed to the happy success of both the 2nd World Congress of ecclesial movements and new communities in Rocca di Papa and of the meeting with the Holy Father in Saint Peter’s Square. This was confirmed by the representatives of movements and communities who spoke at the evaluation meeting held at the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity several weeks after the event. The meeting was also an opportunity to start to think about how to respond to the new tasks that are being indicated.
“It is no longer a question of telling ourselves who we are and what we do as movements”, Archbishop Ryłko said. “The characteristic element of this new stage will be to concentrate on the essentials of being Christian. If we concentrate on this, we shall find ourselves before the word ‘mission’, a perspective that is born at Pentecost in the Cenacle, from where the apostles go out to proclaim the good news”.
Another aspect that came out from the meeting pointed out the presence of younger people, especially at the Congress in Rocca di Papa. This is something new that has led to reflection on the spiritual youthfulness that should be maintained in movements that have a longer history. “It is something to defend, to promote and to seek so as not to give in to the symptoms of tiredness. Youthfulness of spirit expresses the beauty of being Christians. This youthfulness can be seen only when remaining faithful to the charism”, the dicastery President concluded. Two special publications are being considered based on these events. The pictures of faces of participants, moments of sharing and fellowship at the Congress, the joy of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square, the arrival of the Holy Father, the prayer of first vespers… all of this was gathered in the photographic album “The beauty of being a Christian” prepared by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and available at its offices. The album is meant as a reminder of the events through images. It contains some quotations from the talks and addresses beginning with the Pope’s homily at first vespers.
By April the proceedings of the Congress in Rocca di Papa will be available together with the talks from the event in Saint Peter’s Square. The publication will be edited by our dicastery and will appear first in Italian to be followed later by editions in other languages.
The beauty of being a Christian
A coloured photographic album with images from the 2nd World Congress of ecclesial movements and new communities (Rocca di Papa, 30 May - 2 June 2006) and the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (Rome, Saint Peter’s Square, 2 June 2006).
Contacts with associations and movements
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Activities of the “San Lorenzo” International Youth Centre
On 7 November, Msgr Kohn celebrated the Mass at the “San Lorenzo” International Youth Centre on the occasion of the blessing of a sculpture in lime wood that represents the deacon Laurence. It was presented by Ernesto del Favero and sculptured by the Venetian artist Beppino Lorenzet, both of whom were at the celebration. On 17 November, Msgr Kohn was present at the Mass that was concelebrated at the Centre with Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Sydney and Head of the WYD 2008 organising committee, and by Bishop Heiner Koch, who was Head of the WYD 2005 Committee in Cologne. On 1 December the Mass at the San Lorenzo Centre was concelebrated by the bishop of Palestrina, Most Rev. Domenico Sigalini, former head of the national service for youth ministry in the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and by Msgr Kohn.