Individualism and a loss of a sense of belonging are becoming more and more prominent in modern society, Pope Benedict said on Tuesday as he urged a greater understanding of what it means to belong to the Church.
The Pope made his remarks yesterday evening in the basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of Rome, where he inaugurated the ecclesial congress of the Diocese of Rome. The congress, which is due to last until May 29, has as its theme: "Church membership and pastoral co-responsibility."
The Holy Father addressed the gathering and began by calling on ecclesial movements to work in harmony with the diocese, with "a true sense of belonging to the Church."
Lay people, the Pope said, need to redouble their commitment to "not merely to be collaborators of the clergy" but to shoulder their own specific responsibilities in the life of the Church.
One of the erroneous tendencies that has surfaced is one of identifying the Church with her hierarchy while forgetting that everyone is part of her "from the Pope to the most recently baptized." Another faulty way of thinking that the Pope singled out is that of conceiving of the People of God in sociological and political terms, while overlooking the novelty of the Church.
In the same vein, those who see the Second Vatican Council as a break in the continuity of Church tradition, are also in error, Pope Benedict stressed.
The Pope then invited young people "to experience the beauty of being Church" in a world where individualism reigns and a sense of belonging is being lost.
The Holy Father also proposed creating missionary groups in the workplace, where many people spend most of their time, and highlighted the need for "adequate pastoral care on environment issues."
Recalling then how many baptized people do not feel they form part of the ecclesial community and that few lay people, though they call themselves Catholic, are ready to work in the various fields of pastoral activity, the Holy Father encouraged pastors to favor a climate of spiritual and apostolic growth in their flock and to reach out to the population of Rome.