.- Receiving participants this morning in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Laity who are reflecting on the theme "Discover once again the true face of the Parish," Pope John Paul II stated that the parish is the “place par excellence to announce Christ and educate people in the faith.” "The first step” towards the rediscovery of the parish, indicated the Pope, “consists in helping the lay faithful to discover once again the true face of the parish .... the place par excellence to announce Christ and to educate people in the faith. Precisely for this reason it must be constantly renewed in order to become the true 'community of all communities,' capable of truly incisive missionary activity."
"In this year dedicated to the Eucharist," he added, "we must remember that the Eucharist is the beating heart of the parish, font of its mission and presence which continually renews it."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that the assembly's reflection on the parish "may help everyone to understand better that the parish community is a place to encounter Christ and our brothers and sisters."
He also noted some of the initiatives promoted by the Council, such as the meeting of Catholics in Eastern Europe last year in Kiev, Ukraine "which emphasized the role of lay people in the spiritual and material rebuilding of those nations after years of atheistic totalitarianism," and the publication of the "Catalogue of the International Associations of the Faithful" as a fruit of "greater collaboration among the different associations, communities and movements."
The Pope also mentioned "the intense preparation for World Youth Day which will be celebrated in Cologne, Germany in 2005. This gathering, whose theme is 'We have come to adore Him,' encourages the entire Church and especially young people to take up the path of the Three Magi in order to encounter God, made man for our salvation."