By Robin Gomes
In his reform of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis created the new Dicastery in 2016. The 13-16 November plenary assembly on the theme, “The Lay Faithful, Identity and Mission in the World,” is the first since the Dicastery was created.
Speaking to some 85 members and consultants participating in the assembly, Pope Francis indicated some basic attitudes that will inspire their work for the coming years,
Feel like the Mother-Church
In the first place, the Pope urged the participants to make the heart of the Church their own. Taking on the perspective of Mother-Church, the Pope said, involves moving from a local to a universal perspective, feeling in a Catholic, universal way, looking at the whole Church and the world.
As a true mother, the Pope explained, the Church desires harmony among all her children without favouring anyone. Therefore, it is important to always propose positive models of collaboration among the various sectors of the Church, avoiding sterile contrasts and antagonisms and always encouraging fraternal collaboration for the common good of the one family which is the Church.
The Church also desires to help her children mature to adulthood, boldly putting their talents at the service of new missions in society, in culture and in politics amid the challenges of the contemporary world.
Another attitude that Pope Francis suggested to the Dicastery is to have a brotherly gaze. This is an attitude of thinking and acting like "brothers in the faith" that is born of a personal encounter with God, which is nourished by the Sacraments.
As "brothers in the faith", the Pope pointed out, their formation of the laity cannot focus exclusively on doing. They need to have a life of prayer, a daily and familiar conversation with God.
In order to make the faithful feel “as brothers”, the Dicastery needs to increase in them the awareness of being witnesses of Christ in private life and in society, almost "visible signs" of the presence of Christ in every environment.
The Holy Father urged the plenary assembly participants to think about the challenges they face in living as Christians in their family, workplace and neighbourhood, so they can better understand the difficulties of the lay faithful throughout the world who live in difficult conditions such as poverty, remote areas, social instability, religious persecution and anti-Christian propaganda.
This will greatly help them to think in a creative and realistic way to lead the faithful to live with joy, conviction and fidelity their belonging to Christ and becoming missionary disciples, promoting life, defending right reason, justice, peace and freedom, and fostering healthy coexistence among peoples and cultures.
No to clericalizing the laity
Setting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis warned against the danger of what he termed as “clericalizing the laity”. Sometimes, he said, permanent deacons, who are to be the custodians of service in dioceses, soon find themselves “looking at the altar” and end up as “wannaby priests”. Work with the laity but don’t clericalize them, the Pope said. "Move the deacons away from the altar… They are the custodians of service, not first-class altar boys or second-class priests,” he added.
Women’s role in the Church
The Pope noted that the Dicastery, with great difficulty, has appointed two women undersecretaries which, he said is not enough. We need to have women in the council and administration keeping in mind that their position is not just functional.
In the final list of candidates to the post of the head of Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, the Pope said, two were women. That’s only functionality, but what is important is the advice of the woman. “On this,” the Pope said, “we haven't worked yet.” “Women,” he said, “are the image of the Mother Church, because the Church is woman; the Church is mother.”