THE PRESIDENT TO THE READERS
An unexpected gift
On Christmas Day I was praying the Office of Matins in RomeÂÂs St. PeterÂÂs Basilica. Everywhere in the great Church there was life and light. Huge crowds were passing through and moving about. Parents were anxious to have their children catch a glimpse of the beauty of the infant Son of God in the recreated stable of Bethlehem. There the Virgin Mary was bent in joyful adoration toward the One to whom she had given birth. The liturgy describes her gesture well, ÂÂQuem genuit, adoravit.ÂÂ
The walls and forms of the Basilica had become alive with the rays of the returning sun. The intricate golden-patterns of the barrelled ceilings were aflame from the southern openings of that part of the Basilica designed by Michelangelo as a cross in a square. The sculpted hands of St. Giuliana Falconieri seemed to pulse in the early winter light.
I had made my way to the altar where the image of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae, was enshrined. While praying the Liturgy of Hours, unexpectedly I found myself being introduced to a Christmas sermon of Pope St. Leo the Great. It was the second reading. My heart skipped a beat for St. Leo was buried in the altar immediately next to where I was standing. With this holy coincidence each word now carried a special weight.
His message was a spiritual delight. Like the Basilica, it was full of light and life. The laymen ÂÂ the architects of St. PeterÂÂs like Bramante, Michelangelo, Bernini and Borromini ÂÂ had caught in the sorrounding marble, metal and stone our highest aspirations. The same dignity was expressed in the sermon of the fifth century Pontiff. His words about the baptized seemed writ large on the BasilicaÂÂs blazing walls.
St. Leo begins, ÂÂOur Saviour, dearly beloved, was born this day.ÂÂ How simple! It was worth a long reflection. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, had said the same during his homily at the Midnight Mass just a few hours earlier above the tomb of Peter. The angels had announced similar Good News to the shepherds on the first Christmas night.
Then Leo drew a simply beautiful conclusion. In fact, its simplicity took my breath away. ÂÂNo, there cannot be any room for sorrow in a place where life has been born.ÂÂ Mysteriously, the holy Pope seemed present there at my side among so great cloud of unseen Christmas witnesses.
His final words are worth a longer citation, ÂÂRealize, O Christian, your dignity. Once made a ÂÂpartaker in the divine natureÂÂ do not return to your former baseness by a life unworthy [of that dignity]. Remember whose head it is and whose body of which you constitute a ÂÂmember.ÂÂ Recall how you have been wrested ÂÂfrom the power of darkness and brought into the light and the kingdomÂÂ of God. Through the Sacrament of Baptism you were made ÂÂa temple of the Holy Spirit.ÂÂ Do not drive away such a dweller by your wicked actions and subject yourself again to the servitude of the devil, because your ÂÂpriceÂÂ is the very blood of Christ, because he ÂÂwill judgeÂÂ you in ÂÂtruth,ÂÂ who has redeemed you in mercy, Christ Our Lord. Amen.ÂÂ (Sermo 1, in Nativitate Domini, 1-3: PL 54, 190-193)
Earlier, as deacon to his predecessor, Pope St. Sixtus III, Leo had inscribed on the entablature of the Baptistry of St. John in Laterano his description of those emerging from the waters of Baptism. A loose, but not inaccurate, translation of his first words might be, ÂÂO resplendent city!ÂÂ Leo had meditated long on the glory of our Baptism into the death of Christ. The baptized community is like a city set on a mountain top; it is a sign of the new and holy city, Jerusalem, descending from heaven, ÂÂhaving the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystalÂÂ (Rv 21:10-11).
Beside the already ancient Aurelian Wall where the Cathedral of Rome had been built a hundred years earlier, Leo envisioned the community of the baptized as a city similar to the one described in the Book of the Apocalypse and in the apsidal mosaic of the Lateran Cathedral. It ÂÂhad a great high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribedÂÂ (ibid. 12).
A little research indicated that he delivered this sermon in Rome on the first Christmas of his pontificate in 440. His words, ÂÂNo, there cannot be any room for sorrow in a place where life has been born,ÂÂ were an unforeseen gift from the past. With them, thoughts about contemporary conflicts in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Islamabad, New Delhi, Khartoum and Washington, D.C. seemed less sombre, but not less urgent.
Having finished the Liturgy, I returned to the nearby altar dedicated to Mary, the Mother of the Church. A modern mosaic of this ancient image has watched over St. PeterÂÂs Square since the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. Before Mary with her tiny Son smiling in her arms, one of the prayers of St. Anselm of Canterbury to the ÂÂMother of my Lord and GodÂÂ came to mind. Through MaryÂÂs childbearing, he says, the elements of the world, ÂÂheaven, stars, earth, waters, day and night,ÂÂ corrupted by the misuse of fallen man, ÂÂrejoice in their loss, for they have been given life again... For they are ruled by the power of those who confess God, and are honoured by the use they put them to.... And the angels wish each other joy in the rebuilding of their half-ruined city.ÂÂ
The Pope and the movements
ÂÂLet us give thanks to the Lord for this springtime of the Church brought by the force for renewal coming from the Spirit.ÂÂ John Paul II, speaking on 31 May 1998, was referring to the unforgettable Meeting that had taken place the previous day. More than two hundred thousand people, belonging to some fifty ecclesial movements and new communities, had come to Rome from the four corners of the world to bear witness, around the Successor of Peter, to their experience of Christ. They were people who, like everyone else, have to deal, day by day, with an existence made up of suffering and fatigue, of love and disillusionments, of struggle and hope; but who have experienced in this existence the life-changing strength that comes from encounter with Christ.
This had happened to Rose, a girl from Uganda, member of Communion and Liberation. After months spent, during the war, as a nurse in Kampala Hospital, she had this to tell:
ÂÂThey asked me to look after the AIDS patients and the vagabonds. At first I refused. Then one day, while saying the Angelus, I asked myself: ÂÂWhat does mean for me that ÂÂthe Word was made fleshÂÂ? If Christ came among us, he came also for those who are dying and those who are sick. Then I went out into the streets of the city, and I began to gather the sick, the abandoned children, the prostitutes, the poor. Once, I saw lying on the ground a man covered with flies and filth. People told me to move away because he gave signs of madness. I was almost fainting... I took him home, I looked after him. Today he is working with us for the homeless children.ÂÂ
This happened, too, to Silvia, from the Community of Saint Egidio. She spent some months at the side of Nicoletta, who was seropositive and pregnant in a Roman hospital.
ÂÂThey had advised her to have an abortion, but she did not want to. ÂÂThis babyÂÂ, she said, ÂÂis the one beautiful thing that has happened in my life.ÂÂ Silvia began visiting her. They became friends. And that ÂÂdesperateÂÂ life became a new existence, communicated also to others. Nicoletta became completely blind, but the lesson of love had left its mark. She was in touch with her parents again, and she gave birth to Francesco. Silvia confided: ÂÂI had a clear sensation that Christ was passing throught the wards of that hospital. Nicoletta did not ÂÂmake itÂÂ, but, in the mercy of God, I am sure that her life was not lost.ÂÂ
This is what we are told also by a look from Pascal, a handicapped boy taken in by the ÂÂArcheÂÂ Communities founded by Jean Vanier.
ÂÂThe presence here of PascalÂÂ, Marie-Hélène states, ÂÂis worth more than a thousands words. We have to help the handicapped to take their place at the heart of the Church. The guests at the banquet of the Kingdom are not the rich, but the crippled, the lame, the blind...ÂÂ. An enquiry made at parish level in Paris showed that the handicapped represent only one per cent of the communities, whereas in civil society they are ten per cent. ÂÂAnd where are the missing nine per cent? We want to go in search of them, because the Church needs them.ÂÂ
To go in search of the suffering, as did the members of the Emmanuel Community, who went to work in the refugee camps of Rwanda in 1996.
ÂÂAt firstÂÂ, they recall, ÂÂtwenty people took part in our Mass. A year later, they were three thousand. With us there was a couple in whose family 46 people had been killed in the ethnic conflicts. On a certain day the mother of one of the assassins came to the camp. When she saw the couple she was afraid. But they reassured her and accompanied her to her children. The woman was amazed and asked them where they had found the strength to pardon. ÂÂIt is thanks to Jesus and to prayer that we are given this strength. Would you like to pray with us?ÂÂ ÂÂYesÂÂ, they said, ÂÂteach us to prayÂÂ. Then they opened the Gospel and began to read together the words: ÂÂLove your enemies, pray for those who persecute you...ÂÂ.
Love is the answer to manÂÂs deepest search for meaning. A love that finds a full and sublime expression in marriage. This is stressed by a Mexican priest from the Marriage Encounter movement:
ÂÂA couple who genuinely love one anotherÂÂ, he says, ÂÂare a challenge for a priest. Through them Christ says to me: ÂÂLove the Church as they love one another.ÂÂ This is a caress that God gives to my priesthood.ÂÂ
Experience of Christ brings in this way the passionate desire to bear witness. Even at the cost of life. This was the case of the priest who went for seven hundred kilometers through the forests of Rwanda clasping a little bag that contained the Blessed Sacrament. He comforted the wounded and blessed the dead. He was made prisoner, beaten, tortured. But he managed to survive. When he was asked how he had been able to bear the weight of the bag for all those kilometers, he replied:
ÂÂIt was not I who carried Jesus, but Jesus who carried me.ÂÂ
These were some of the testimonies given during the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements that preceded the Meeting of May 30, as an integral part of the event of Pentecost 1998.
Joy and gratitude for the gift they had received, the commitment to lead their members towards full Christian maturity and to strengthen their missionary drive, the determination to keep alive the ecclesial communion of that May 30 that had become a ÂÂmovementÂÂ among the Movements, their shared expression: these were the elements emerging from the exchange between the representatives of these same Movements during the meeting convened by the Pontifical Council for the Laity on November 7 last, to consider the repercussion and follow-up to Pentecost ÂÂ98.
This great demonstration brought before the eyes of the world the image of a Church that is a Mother who welcomes and appreciates every charism; her capacity to bring diversity into unity; the missionary vitality of the laity; the catholicity of the Ecclesial Movements and the New Communities, in their transparent and strong witness to the fatherhood of Peter.
The unanimous amazement at this gift of the Spirit and the memory of an event from which there can be no turning back, must now find expression in the urge to take responsability for the tasks that inevitably derive from every gift of God.
The message of May 30 must be spread; it must be a subject for meditation that will grasp its full significance; theological and pastoral, as well as juridical reflection on the reality of the Movements must continue. This experience must be brought to the level of the local Churches and subjected to careful consideration on the part of the Bishops; it must be used as a basis in the preparation for the Great Jubilee.
After the repeated interventions in which John Paul II has expressed support and encouragement for the Ecclesial Movements, it therefore seems important for the Bishops to have an opportunity for expressing and comparing their experiences, concerns and expectations in relation to the participation of the Movements in the life of the various local Churches. For this purpose a Seminar of reflection and dialogue concerning the Ecclesial Movements is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Bishops. The Seminar is planned for June 1999. About a hundred Bishops from all parts of the world will be invited.
Further information about the event of Pentecost 1998 is available in a photographic album and a video, both entitled:
Rome, 30 May ÂÂ98. The Pope and the Movements. Together. The album presents fascinating pictures of the day and extracts in four languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish) of the addresses of John Paul II and of the interventions and testimonies of the participants. Available from the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Price: US $ 6,00.
The Proceedings of the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, held in Rome from 27 to 29 May 1998 will be published next in various languages.
You will honour the person of the aged (Lv 19:32)
The Dignity of Older People and their Mission in the Church and in the World. This is the title of the document recently published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Holy See for the International Year of Older Persons proclaimed by the United Nations for 1999.
The document starts with a synthetic analysis of the present demographic transition, in which the average life expectancy is becoming longer, bringing a constant increase of the ranks of the third and the fourth age. This kind of ÂÂsilent revolutionÂÂ goes well beyond the demographic data. It confronts society with problems of a social, economic, cultural, psychological and spiritual nature that are in many ways unprecedented. Reflection is necessary and practical options for building a ÂÂsociety for all agesÂÂ, called for by the International Year. Here it is important that the voice of the Church should be heard. With respect for the dignity and fundamental rights of the older person, a keen sense of responsibility is needed on the part of all concerned: individuals, families, associations, governments and international organizations, according to the competencies and duties of each one. The document shows that society and the relevant institutions are called to offer older people adequate opportunities of formation and participation, appreciating their irreplaceable role in a society marked by constant and rapid change in economic and cultural spheres. They must guarantee also forms of social assistance and health care that are adequately diversified and that meet the need of the human person to live with dignity, justice and freedom. This demands a commitment on the part of the State to promote and safeguard the common good in the social, economic and educational fields. But, according to the principle of subsidiarity, there must also be support and appreciation for voluntary work and for undertakings inspired by Christian charity.
The ecclesial community, for its part, must help the older person to live his or her own age in the light of faith, rediscovering the value of the resources that they can and should place at the service of others. Older persons must become ever more aware that they have still a future to build. They still have the missionary task of bearing a witness of faith to the little ones, to young people, to adults, to those of their own age. The Church is challenged in this way to review her pastoral activity for the third and fourth ages, looking for new methods and approaches, that will better correspond to the needs and spiritual expectations of older people, and planning pastoral activities deeply related to the defence or life, its meaning and destiny.
Chapter I of the document is an invitation to rediscovery the meaning and value of old age, fostering its proper charisms: disinterestedness, memory, experience, interdependence, a more complete vision of life. In Chapter II, we pass to a reading of old age in the light of the Word of God, which enables us to fathom the spiritual, moral and theological dimension of this stage of life. Chapter III goes on to deal with various problems that commonly afflict older people today: marginalization, problems related to institutional care, continuing education, participation in the life of the community, both at the civil and at the cultural and associational levels. Chapter IV, ÂÂThe Church and Older PeopleÂÂ, sees old age as ÂÂparticularly conducive to transcendental values.ÂÂ It draws the attention of the ecclesial community to the possibilities and needs of a pastoral action that will help older people to deepen their faith and also to realize their responsibility as witnesses to the human and Christian community. Guidelines for pastoral care of older people (Chapter V) and for their own witness stress charitable activity, apostolate, liturgy, ecclesial associations and movements, the family, contemplation and prayer, experience of trial, illness and suffering, commitment to a culture of life.ÂÂ
In view of the great diversity in the situations and conditions of the life of older people, the ChurchÂÂs pastoral ministry should aim to heighten awareness of their needs, not least of their need to contribute to the life of the community, countering attitudes of withdrawal, on the part of the older people themselves and promoting their integration. Great stress is laid on spiritual care of older people who are infirm or disabled, and on religious assistance and human comfort for the dying. There is a reminder of the right of older people to have an honoured place in the family, which should receive adequate support to make this possible. There must be attention also for older people looked after in public or private residential structures; and due care for older priests and religious. The ecclesial community, in a spirit of charity, must bear also a witness of faith in care for older people of other confessions and for non-believers.
In a society in which selfishness, materialism, consumerism are rife and in which the means of communication serve little to alleviate the growing loneliness of man, young people should be educated for an intergenerational solidarity, which can find expression also in the companionship they are able to offer to the old.
Two important points invite our reflection in conclusion to this exploration of the world of older people. The first is the extraordinary example of John Paul II. In this also he is a great witness for the world of today. The Pope lives his old age with the greatest naturalness, and under the eyes of everyone. With serene simplicity he says: ÂÂI am an elderly priest.ÂÂ He lives his old age in faith, in the service of the mandate entrusted to him by Christ. He does not let himself be conditioned by his age. His seventy-eight years have not deprived him of his youthful spirit. His undeniable physical fragility has in no way dampened the enthusiasm with which he dedicates himself to his mission as Successor of Peter. He continues his apostolic journeys across the continents. And it is striking to note that his words acquire ever greater force: now more than ever they reach peopleÂÂs hearts.
The second point concerns a ÂÂprovidentialÂÂ coincidence: the year 1999, dedicated by the United Nations to older people, is, in the preparation for the Great Jubilee, dedicated to God the Father. For the younger generations this is a special opportunity for reflecting on and re-establishing their relationship with their fatherÂÂs generation. For those no longer young, it is an opportunity for re-thinking their own existence in the joyful perspective of bearing witness that ÂÂthe whole of the Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature...we discover anew each dayÂÂ (TMA, 49).
We are confident that, in this perspective, the document of the Pontifical Council for the Laity will serve as an inspiration for actions at local, diocesan, national and international levels. We trust that it will also prove useful for the preparation of the Jubilee of the Older People, which is to be celebrated on 17 September 2000; not least by encouraging many of them not to miss this important appointment.
Youth Together on the European Roads:
The third edition of the European Meeting on Youth Ministry took place in Paderborn (Germany) from 21 to 24 September. Among the 130 participants were those responsible for Youth Ministry in the European BishopsÂÂ Conferences, the members of international movements and associations for youth with a significant presence in Europe, and two delegates from the Conference of European Churches (KEK). The theme: ÂÂWhat type of Christians for the Year 2000? A project for living as young peopleÂÂ.
The first day, after the Introduction by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Prof. Martin Lechner gave a panoramic view of the world of youth, that was further developed by Prof. Mario Pollo and Prof. Hans Hobelsberger in relation to Western Europe and to Eastern and Central Europe.
On the second day the reflection was focused on ÂÂformationÂÂ as the first step towards a Christian project. The theme was treated from three different standpoints: anthropological-religious (Fr. Luis F. Ladaria), psychological (Fr. Tony Anatrella) and pedagogical (Dr. Aránzazu Aguado). The exchange of ideas continued, on the centrality of the person and of message of Christ (Bishop André-Mutien Léonard), on the need for a methodology of Youth Ministry to enable this message to become an option for the life of young people (Fr. Riccardo Tonelli) and on the predilection for youth in the Pontificate of John Paul II (Bishop Stanislaw Rylko).
The last day was devoted to ÂÂpossible instrumentsÂÂ to achieve the aims of Youth Ministry: national projects (Msgr. Domenico Sigalini), the contribution of movements, associations and communities (Dr. Davide Prosperi), Youth Ministry for different ÂÂenvironmentsÂÂ (Dr. Liliana Stefani). In this context, some participants presented initiatives and projects in which they were involved in their respective countries and movements. A significant moment was the Panel in which young people spoke in the first person of their needs and expectations as regards formation.
During the Meeting the German BishopsÂÂ Conference and the diocese of Paderborn provided the opportunity for direct contact with local ecclesial initiatives, such as the youth centre, ÂÂJugendhaus HardehausenÂÂ, where the participants met representatives of the German Catholic Youth Federation, BDKJ.
The Meeting closed with a visit to Köln and the ÂÂKolpingÂÂ centre, whose activity is partly for youth.
World Youth Day 2000
The First Preparatory Meeting for the fifteenth World Youth Day was held from 4 to 7 December at Rocca di Papa (Rome). It was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, togetner with the Italian Committee for World Youth Day 2000. About 170 persons represented 56 countries and 48 movements, associations and international communities.
After the introductory greetings from Cardinal James Francis Stafford and the presentation of the World Day by Msgr. Renato Boccardo, Head of the Youth Section, various interventions contributed to giving an overall outline of the preparatory programme. Celebration of the World Day ÂÂ as stated by Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, General Secretary of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee ÂÂ will be one of the major events of the Jubilee year.
Bishop Cesare Nosiglia, President of the Italian Committee for the World Youth Day 2000, presented the pastoral programme prepared by the Italian BishopsÂÂ Conference. Translated into English, French and Spanish, the programme has been made available to those responsible for Youth Ministry as an instrument for youth groups preparing to take part in world Day 2000. Msgr. Mauro Parmeggiani, responsible for Youth Ministry in the diocese of Rome, stressed the value of the celebration of the Day in the city of Rome, where concrete preparations are being made for receiving the participants. Low-cost accommodation is to be guaranteed for everyone. Msgr. Domenico Sigalini, responsible for the Youth Ministry of the Italian BishopsÂÂ Conference, indicated certain features of the triduum that will precede the Meeting with the Holy Father. There will be for all, in turn, the possibility of making the Jubilee Pilgrimage to St. PeterÂÂs and passing through the Holy Door. Msgr. Giuseppi Betori, Under-Secretary of the Italian BishopsÂÂ Conference, invited the responsible leaders present te see as an essential part of the young peopleÂÂs preparation the meeting with the Italian dioceses that will take place from 10 to 14 August, immediately before the world Day (15 to 20 August).
In two more ÂÂtechnicalÂÂ interventions, Lorenzo Serri and Massimo Orselli ÂÂ respectively, Executive Secretary of the World Day and in charge of the work of volunteers ÂÂ, gave practical details concerning accommodation, etc. and the search for volunteers to provide the necessary services.
Latinamerican Youth Congress and American Youth Meeting
From 3 to 9 October the Second Latinamerican Youth Congress was organized at Punta de Tralca (Chile) by the Section of Youth Ministry of CELAM. More than 800 delegates, accompanied by many Bishops, reflected on the progress of youth ministry in the Latinamerican continent in recent years. Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Msgr. Renato Boccardo represented the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
From 6 to 10 October the American Youth Meeting was held in Santiago de Chile and the neighbouring dioceses, organized by CELAM in collaboration with the Archbishop of Santiago and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The dicastery was represented by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Msgr. Renato Boccardo and Prof. Guzmán Carriquiry. The young participants were asked to reflect on three themes: the Good News, solidarity, the Kingdom. On Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 October, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State and Papal Legate for the Meeting, presided over the Vigil and the closing Mass, in presence of more than 500,000 young people.
Bishop Stanislaw Rylko led the delegation of the Holy See at the Conference of European Ministers for Youth, held in Bucarest (Rumania) from 27 to 29 April, and at the First World Conference of Ministers for Youth, which took place in Lisbon, from 8 to 14 August, sponsored by the United Nations in collaboration with the Government of Portugal.
Msgr. Renato Boccardo
ÂÂConfessors of the FaithÂÂ
The importance of the sacrament of Confirmation in the life of the lay faithful will be the focus of the work of the eighteenth Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which will be held in Rome from 27 February to 2 March 1999 on the theme ÂÂThe lay faithuful, confessors of the faith in the world of todayÂÂ. Reflection on the sacrament of Confirmation is the ideal sequel to the reflection on the sacrament of Baptism undertaken during the previous Assembly with results published last December in the first volume of the collection ÂÂLaity TodayÂÂ.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity hopes that, meditating on the significance of these two sacraments of initiation in Christian faith, each one of ChristÂÂs faithful will rediscover the call to belong to the Lord and will be ever more able to bear witness to his or her newness of life in the dechristianized world of today. The members and consultors of the Pontifical Council will take part in the Assembly. The programme will be structured around four lectures: ÂÂConfessors of the faith in our time: signs of the Spirit and expectations of humankindÂÂ (Vittorio Messori); ÂÂWitnesses to Christ in the Spirit; theological, pastoral and educational dimensions of the Sacrament of ConfirmationÂÂ (Arturo Elberti, S.J.); ÂÂCharisms and gifts of the Spirit in the life of the lay faithfulÂÂ (Bishop Albert-Marie de Monléon, O.P.); ÂÂFrom initiation to Christian maturity: an itinerary of formationÂÂ (Prof. Javier Prades).
The participants will be consulted on the major initiatives planned by the Council for the year 2000: the World Youth Day (15-20 August), the Jubilee of Older People (17 September), the World Congress of the Lay Apostolate (24-30 November).
One day will be reserved for study of the ÂÂLineamentaÂÂ for the tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, planned for the month of October 2000, on the theme: ÂÂThe Bishop, servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the worldÂÂ.
ÂÂAd LiminaÂÂ Visits
In 1998, the Pontifical Council for the Laity received various delegations of Bishops during the visits ÂÂad liminaÂÂ: two groups of Spanish Bishops (Oviedo, Tarragona, Barcellona, Seville, Granada, Valencia), eight groups of Bishops from USA (New York, Philadelphia, Louisville, Detroit, Oklahoma, Chicago, San Antonio, Seattle, Boston) and the Bishops from the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria.
The exchanges that took place dealt with questions of importance for the spiritual life of the lay faithful. Among these:
Laity formation. The parish is still the essential reference and gathering place for the lay faithful. It is there that many receive a basic formation through the celebration of the sacraments and the preparatory catechesis. It is important therefore to educate in a sense of communion and for a renewal of missionary responsibility in the parish communities.
The integration of the ecclesial movements into the local Churches. In this context much attention was paid to evaluating the PopeÂÂs Meeting with the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities as a valid basis for presenting the movements again as a gift and appreciating their pedagogical and missionary resources.
Lay ministries and lay people as full-time pastoral workers. There was deep reflection on the ÂÂsensus EcclesiaeÂÂ and the ÂÂsentire cum EcclesiaÂÂ that should mark their activity.
Pastoral Councils and the catechetical work of lay people.
The need for a more active and consistent presence of lay people in social, political and cultural life.
Greater involvement for women in the Church.
Youth ministry: approaches to witness and Christian formation of young people; evangelization of young people who are ÂÂout of touchÂÂ; the World Youth Days as special times for evangelization, and their follow-up.
It has already been announced that the Bishops from Australia, Italy, Chana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, will meet the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the first months of 1999.
Cardinal James Francis Stafford took part in the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops, held from 19 April to 14 May 1998, on the theme: ÂÂJesus Christ, the Saviour, and his Mission of Love and Service in AsiaÂÂ; also in the Special Assembly for Oceania, which, from 29 November to 12 December, treated the theme, ÂÂJesus Christ: Walking his way, telling his truth and living his lifeÂÂ.
From 27 September to 5 October, Guzmán Carriquiry met in Chile with leaders of the local ecclesial movements and of pastoral bodies.
From 17 to 19 December, Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, having been invited to Russia for the presentation of the Russian edition of the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, met with lay people and priests in Moscow and Petrograd.
From 13 to 22 December, on the invitation of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, Guzmán Carriquiry had a series of meetings in Mexico City and Mérida with leaders, chaplains and members of ecclesial movements, as well as with lawyers, teachers and business managers.
Contacts with Associations and Movements
In the first semester of 1998 the Pontifical Council for the Laity maintained intensive contact with the movements involved in the organization of the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and the Meeting with the Pope with the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities that took place in May. In addition:
The Pontifical Council was informed of the preparation and the proceedings of the General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Parochial Youth Communities (FIMCAP), held in Durban (South Africa) from 12 to 18 July; of the 2nd European Continental Meeting of the International Forum of Catholic Action (FIAC), which took place from 31 July to 2 August at Iaüsi (Rumania), on the theme: ÂÂAs Christians and Christian Communities: Sign of Hope for Europe; of the annual meeting of the International Military Apostolate (AMI), held at Blankenberg (Belgium) from 14 to 20 September; of the 16th World Congress of the International Committee of Catholic Nurses (CICIAMS), held in Taipei (Taiwan) in September; of the European Meeting of the International Catholic Rural Association (ICRA), held in Szklarska Poreba (Poland) from 3 to 6 October; of the 11th World Congress of the World Organization of Ex- students of Catholic Schools (OMAAEEC), held in Lisbon (Portugal) from 28 October to 1st November; of the delegatesÂÂ assembly of the International Association of Charities of St. Vincent de Paul (AIC), held at Querétaro (Mexico) from 17 to 23 November.
First International Congress of Confraternities and Popular Piety
Among the initiatives marking the way towards the Great Jubilee will be the First International Congress of Confraternities and Popular Piety, to be held in Seville (Spain) from 28 to 31 October 1999. The Congress, convened by the Archbishop of Seville and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will have three basic themes: ÂÂThe development of Confraternities from the origins to the Second Vatican CouncilÂÂ, ÂÂConfraternities in the Church of TodayÂÂ, ÂÂConfraternities and the New EvangelizationÂÂ. Other subjects for reflection will be the appreciation of popular piety and the need for an adequate pastoral approach to Confraternities.
Among the texts to be used for the Congress will be the Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Carlos Amigo Vallejo, ÂÂChristian Faith and Popular PietyÂÂ, published on the occasion of the Assembly of the Confraternities for the diocese of Seville (13 October 1997-6 June 1998).
During the ÂÂad liminaÂÂ visit of the Bishops of Andalusia, in July 1998, the initiative of the Congress was presented to the Holy Father, discussed in dialogue with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and explained to various Italians who are especially interested in the pastoral care of Confraternities.
Confraternities desiring to take part in the International Congress can apply directly to the organizing Commission at the following address:
Consejo General de Hermandades y Confradías de Sevilla
Pontifical Council for the Laity
English, French, Italian and Spanish editions of the different pubblications are available.
Together on the European Roads. Proceedings of the Third European Meeting on Youth Ministry. (Youth, 1).