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Laity are disciples, not ‘second-class members’ of Church, says Pope

Pope Francis (CNS)

Laypeople are not second-class members at the service of the Church hierarchy, but are disciples of Christ called to “enliven every environment, every activity and every human relationship according to the Gospel,” Pope Francis has said.

The Pope sent a message to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and participants of a workshop marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, which defined the role, vocation and mission of laypeople in the Catholic Church.

In his message, the Pope said that the Second Vatican Council did not just highlight the importance of the laity in the Church, but defined their role as a vocation.

The proclamation of the Gospel “is not reserved to some ‘mission professionals,’ but should be the profound aspiration of all lay faithful who are called to evangelise by virtue of their baptism,” he said.

The Pope said that while the council’s teachings have contributed to the growth of lay formation, its application challenges “every generation of pastors and laypeople, because it is a priceless gift of the Holy Spirit that must be accepted with gratitude and a sense of responsibility.”

Telling participants that making the teachings of the Second Vatican Council come alive in the Church was a strong pastoral motivation for St John Paul II, Pope Francis asked them to “have in your hearts the same longing to live and implement the council and bring the light of Christ to the world.”

Meanwhile, the pope has met with members of the Guanellian Family, a group of individuals and associations inspired by the life and charism of St Louis Guanella, the Italian founder the Servants of Charity, the Daughters of St Mary of Providence and the Confraternity of St Joseph.

Meeting some 5,000 members on a pilgrimage to Rome today, Pope Francis told them that if he were to imagine what their founder — who died in 1915 — would tell them today, he said it would be “to trust, look and hurry.”

People have to trust in the fact that God cannot help but love his children no matter what, he said.

He added: “If we are distant from him, we are longed for; when we draw close, we are embraced; if we fall, he picks us up; if we are repentant, he forgives.”