LETTER OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO
Dear Bishop Brandolini,
At the end of August, the 52nd National Liturgical Week will be held in the beautiful setting of Riva del Garda, on the theme: Laity in the liturgy: what is their ministry (ministeriality)? The Holy Father wishes to say how pleased he is with this important pastoral initiative of the Liturgical Action Centre which, each year, offers an opportunity to reflect on the guidance and liturgical formation of the entire People of God, called in the diversity of their services and ministries to give praise to God.
This year, the theme of the week offers a chance to reflect again on the journey of the "ministeriality of the Church", based on the Motu Proprio of Paul VI, Ministeria quaedam of 15 August 1972, which marked a historical change in the forms of the ministries and services in the Church.
In the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches that it is the mission of the Pastors "to be shepherds of the faithful and also [to] recognize the service and charisms of the laity [so] that everyone, according to his gifts, will cooperate harmoniously in the common work" (n. 30).
In recent years, thanks to greater ecclesial sensitivity, theological and pastoral interest has focused on the "ministerial function" ("ministeriality"), above all, referring to "lay ministers", with greater attention to the role of the laity in local communities. The Italian Bishops, building on the doctrine of the Motu proprio, wrote two special pastoral documents, Ministries in the Church of 15 September 1973, and Evangelization and Ministries of 15 August 1977. They have provided opportune clarifications on designated ecclesial services providing that they are genuine expressions of ecclesial diakonia.
The Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici of 30 December 1988 and the Interdicasterial Instruction Ecclesiae de mysterio of 15 August 1997 on "Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests", have examined the subject of lay ministries, stressing their significance for the vitality of the Church. At the same time the texts have set forth the importance of safeguarding and protecting the identity of priests, ordained for the sacred ministry, and that of the lay faithful, who are called above all to be evangelical witnesses in the world and to order temporal realities according to God.
Your conference, which gathers bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and numerous lay faithful who are involved in exercising a diversified "ministeriality" is guided by such teaching.
The Holy Father hopes that this competent assembly may help to define better such terms as "ministry", "service" and "diakonia", and may direct ecclesial public opinion to fundamental subjects such as, the Christological value of ecclesial ministries; the Eucharist as a manifestation of the full "ministeriality" of the Church; local ministers involved in evangelization, the apostolate, the liturgical assembly and in charity.
In Christifideles laici, the Holy Father adds that it is necessary to be careful not to create confusion "between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood", by interpreting arbitrarily the concept of "replacement", "clericalizing" it, and in that way risking the "creation, in fact, of an ecclesial structure of service parallel to that founded on the sacrament of Orders" (n. 23).
"I am among you as one who serves" (Lk 22,27), says the Lord: this is the model that must inspire every ministry in the Church. From this Gospel lesson the Church's "ministeriality" is continuously renewed, so that each person can live in authenticity of faith and service the role which, by virtue of Christian initiation and the gifts of the Spirit, he is called to fulfil.
The Holy Father wishes that the 52nd National Liturgical Week may contribute to the investigation of the theological, liturgical, canonical and pastoral questions that are connected with the ministries entrusted to the laity, and that the liturgical celebrations themselves scheduled for the conference may help towards a better grasp of the service of the laity in the liturgical assembly. For this I assure you of His prayerful support, and asking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, he gladly imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to the Archbishop of Trent, to the bishops and priests present, to the presenters and to all those who participate.
With prayerful good wishes for the success of this important pastoral initiative, and with personal regards, I am devotedly in the Lord,
ANGELO Cardinal SODANO
From the Vatican, 2 August 2001