Speaking to a group of French bishops from the provinces of Dijon and Tours, Pope John Paul II focused on the vocation and mission of the laity, noting that their numbers, as those of priests, have diminished in recent years in France.
The laity in France, he observed, in seeking to better serve the Church, “are looking for a greater coherence between faith and its expression in daily life,” and have a new enthusiasm “for studying Scripture and mediating on the Word, and have a growing sense of responsibility for and commitment to justice and works of solidarity in the face of new situations of precariousness.”
The Pope praised the laity dedicated to help in parish life “under the pastor and in respect for the ordained ministry,” but highlighted the need for communion among priests and bishops and the faithful.
Turning to the question of Sunday Mass, he underscored that “it does not have the place that it should.” “Pastors thus must take care to remind the faithful in a forceful and clear way of the meaning of the Sunday obligation and of participation in the Sunday Eucharist, which can never be just a simple option in the midst of many activities,” he added.
The Pontiff said later that “family must be at the center of your concerns”. “The family is not just a model of relationships among many others; it is a type of relationship that is indispensable for the future of society.”
He also said that great must be given to preparing young people as they look to marriage, “proposing to them a positive vision of affective relations and of sexuality.” He went on to say that “we cannot be a powerless witness to the phenomenon of the disintegration of the family.”
The Church hopes to help “change behavior so that the positive values connected to conjugal and family life will triumph, in the face of the often destructive messages of today's society which allow people to think that all affective behaviors are good, thus denying any moral qualification of human acts,” the Pope concluded.