Pope says lay mission of Church depends on personal holiness, communal influence on society


Following Sunday Mass at St. Peter‘s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI joined thousands of pilgrims gathered below his study window in praying the Angelus. He also issued a particular challenge to lay members of the Church to unite themselves with Christ.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, had celebrated the Mass and pronounced Charles de Foucauld, Maria Pia Mastena, and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, as Blessed.

Before the Marian prayer, the Pope pointed out that these new Blesseds "join the numerous ranks of Blesseds who were presented for veneration during the pontificate of John Paul II,... in keeping with the principle strongly emphasized during Vatican Council II: that all the baptized are called to the perfection of Christian life, priests, religious and laity, each according to their own charism and their specific vocation."

The Pope specifically recalled the importance given by Vatican Council II to the role of the laity, to whom, he noted, that it dedicated "an entire chapter, the fourth, of the Constitution 'Lumen gentium'“

He said that this document defined “their vocation and their mission, which are rooted in Baptism and Confirmation and oriented towards 'engaging in temporal affairs and ... ordering them according to the plan of God'."

The Fathers of the second Vatican Council, said the Pope, also approved a specific decree on the apostolate of the laity, called 'Apostolicam actuositatem.'

This document, he said, highlights how "the 'success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity's living union with Christ,' in other words, it depends on a robust spirituality, nourished by active participation in the liturgy and expressed in the manner of the evangelical Beatitudes."

"For the laity,” the Pope stressed, “professional competence, a sense of family, public spirit and social virtues are also of great importance.”

He said however that “if it is true that they are called individually to offer their personal witness - particularly valuable wherever the Church's freedom is impeded - the Council still insists on the importance of an organized apostolate, which is necessary in order to influence common attitudes, social conditions and public institutions.”

He recalled that his predecessor, John Paul II, saw this idea as so important, that he dedicated the Synod of 1987 to exploring the vocation and mission of the laity.

Out of this, Benedict said, came the Apostolic Exhortation 'Christifideles laici'.

The Holy Father concluded by recalling last Sunday's beatification of Eurosia Fabrisin, in Vicenza, Italy. She, Benedict said, “was a wife and mother who welcomed into her home children orphaned by the First World War“--one of the major reasons that the Church has now defined her as “a model of Christian life in the lay state."

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