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This past week, Pope Francis took three dicasteries at the Vatican and merged them into one: The Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Laity, and the Pontifical Academy for Life (which deals with pro-life activities) will be as of Sept 1, one Pontifical Council for Laity, Family, and Life.
This is more than a simple downsizing but an affirmation of the role of the laity in the life of the Church. Once again, in her wisdom, Mother Church teaches not only by words but by actions.
The lay faithful, in their unique state of life have a dignity that impels them to be active and willing participants in the daily life of the Church. It is a role that is different than that of those in the clerical state (bishops, priests and deacons).
Those in the clerical state are the hierarchy of the Church and participate in the threefold munera of teaching, ruling and sanctifying, all in loving and merciful servant leadership. The role of the laity is also different from those in consecrated life (religious sisters and brothers, nuns and monks, consecrated virgins, and those other forms of consecrated life). It is the role of the consecrated women and men in the world to be eschatological signs in their state of life, pointing by their Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, to the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection and one day his return in glory.
The lay faithful possess a call to be living in society in a different way than clergy and religious. Listen to Vatican II’s Decree on the Laity on the role of the lay faithful in the life of the Church:
“This plan for the spiritual life of the laity should take its particular character from their married or family state or their single or widowed state, from their state of health, and from their professional and social activity. They should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life, and they should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit.” Its unique spirituality must continually permeate every aspect of society.
It is the role of the lay faithful in their daily lives in the modern Areopagi in which they live and work to help transform and raise the minds of their brothers and sisters from the natural level to the supernatural level. It is in this transformation of culture from within, beginning with one’s own family, that will help create what St John Paul II described as a culture of life that can put an end to the culture of death.
It is for this reason that the Vatican has united in a unique way the missions of these three councils. It is our hope that this new Pontifical Council will be able to clarify the role and mission of the lay faithful in the world today, all the while affirming the unique and distinct vocation of the religious and clergy, all of whom make up the Body of Christ, the People of God, the Church. – Tablet