Pope Francis has called on lay people to take on greater responsibility in the Church and in civil society in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, issued recently.
The Pope, however, underlined two great challenges facing laity in this regard: a lack of formation and “excessive clericalism”.
lack of formation among the laity is a real serious issue because lay
people are not equipped to take their full responsibility in the Church
and in the world,” said Donna Orsuto, professor of theology and lay
spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Parishes have a big responsibility to form the laity, she said, not only for service in the Church but also in civil society.
first thing is that we need a change of mindset,” she said. “When
people come to church on Sunday, the primary commitment is to help them
to be equipped to go out and share the Gospel in social, political and
economic sectors and in their families. Even parish life and homilies...
need to be constantly inviting lay people to be nourished by parish
life but then to go out into the world and to share the Good News.”
She said sometime parishes can become like a ghetto and parishioners tend to remain in their “cozy communities”.
course, we need to build community and to be nourished by the Lord’s
presence in the Eucharist and in the presence of our brothers and
sisters in community... but we can’t stop there,” she said. “There’s
always a missionary impetus, always a call to go out and to share the
Good News with those around us. We really need to, I think today,
re-capture that missionary spirit.”
the second challenge facing the laity, the Pope noted that: “in
particular churches sometimes room has not been made for lay people to
speak and to act due to an excessive clericalism, which keeps them away
“This is a very significant statement
because it’s inviting both priests sand laity to think about what are
creative ways for lay people to be involved,” said Orsuto, who is also a
founder of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas in Rome, which promotes and
offers formation to laity.
Lay people can bring professional
skills to parishes, to dioceses and even to the Roman Curia, she noted.
She also suggested one way to create more space for laity in the Church
“is to recognize the complementarity of women and men, working together
for the common good. In environments where they work together, new ideas
In the end, however, the responsibility to involve lay people belongs to Church leaders, she said.
responsibility in a way falls on Church leaders. Are you, Church
leaders, willing to invite lay people to be involved? Of course, lay
people must prepare themselves through study, through prayer, through
reflection to be able to embrace this responsibility when they are
asked,” she said. “But really the responsibility lies with Church