As Catholics prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, all church members need to make a renewed effort to ensure laypeople are aware of their responsibility for the church and are allowed to exercise it, Pope Benedict XVI said.
"Co-responsibility requires a change of mentality, particularly regarding the role in the church of the laity, who should not be considered 'collaborators' of the clergy, but people who truly are co-responsible for the being and action of the church," the pope wrote in a message to the assembly of the International Forum of Catholic Action.
The Aug. 22-26 assembly in Iasi, Romania, brought together representatives of Catholic Action groups from around the world. The international forum promotes lay involvement in parish and community life, particularly through studying and acting on the principles of Catholic social teaching.
Pope Benedict's message, released by the Vatican Aug. 23, said the church needs a "mature and committed laity, able to make its specific contribution to the mission of the church" in a way that respects the different roles and ministries of its members.
The Vatican II dogmatic constitution on the church, "Lumen Gentium," described the style of relationships within the church as "familial," the pope said. Viewing the church as a family emphasizes shared responsibility, mutual support and joint action while, at the same time, recognizing the special role of guidance belonging to the church's pastors, he said.
The pope asked Catholic Action members to work with and for the church through their "prayer, study, active participation in ecclesial life, (and) with an attentive and positive gaze upon the world in a continuous search for the signs of the times."
He asked the members to help with the new evangelization, proclaiming salvation in Christ "with language and methods understandable in our age."
In addition, he encouraged them to continue studying and applying Catholic social teaching, particularly with the aim of bringing about a "globalization of solidarity and charity," which will further the church's mission of bringing hope to the world.