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Monday, December 19, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 17, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received the third group of prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. In remarks to them, he offered some reflections on the role of lay people in the Church.

  After first highlighting how "the essential element in the structure of the Church is the parish," the Pope stated that "the first and most important requirement is that the parish should constitute an 'ecclesial community' and an 'ecclesial family'." Apart from the "indispensable role of priests, especially pastors, ... the active participation of the laity is also important in the formation of the community. ... Pastoral councils must collaborate with a spirit of common concern for the good of the faithful."

  The Holy Father highlighted the need for pastors to maintain "active contact with the various communities dedicated to the apostolate within the parish," adding that such communities must "collaborate among themselves, never must there be any rivalry between them."

  Pastors must do all in their power "to ensure that the people entrusted to their care are made aware of the gift (of the Eucharist), and that they participate in it as frequently as possible," both in Mass and communion, and in adoration. In this context, Benedict XVI called on priests to look after children and altar boys and to show special pastoral solicitude "for the girls who actively participate ... in the liturgy. This pastoral service can prove very fruitful in terms of priestly and religious vocations."

  Turning to consider the subject of ecclesial movements, the Pope recalled the duty of diocesan bishops to maintain "active contact with them, encouraging them to operate in accordance with a charism recognized by the Church and, at the same time, to guard against closing themselves off from the reality surrounding them." Pointing out that many of these movements have established contacts with non-Catholic Churches, the Pope told the bishops "to take care to interpret ecumenism correctly," and to seek "the truth, not simplistic compromises that can bring Catholic movements to lose their own identity."

  The Holy Father stressed that people who occupy important positions in society, or who dedicate themselves to political life, need the Church's help, and that a clear distinction must be made "between the tasks which Christians undertake, individually or as a group, on their own responsibility as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and the activities which, in union with their pastors, they carry out in the name of the Church."

  He concluded with a reference to the theme of voluntary work, including care for the poor, the sick, people alone, and the physically and mentally handicapped. "I know that in Poland a form of voluntary work is being developed that has the aim of defending human life. ... All these people await the encouragement and the moral support of bishops, of priests and of the entire community of believers."

  "Missions are another field of Church life in which volunteers are active. Ever greater numbers of lay people leave for mission lands to exercise their profession and their talents, and at the same time to bring a testimony of Christian love to those living in the poorest regions of the world. Theirs is an activity worthy of admiration and recognition."
AL/.../POLAND                                    VIS 20051219 (570)

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