Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vatican expert says parishes are not islands unto themselves

Father Nikolaus Schoch, OFM, who is the Assistant Promoter of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, said during a strip to Peru this week that amidst the challenges of today’s world, parishes must not be islands unto themselves, but rather must be integrated with the diocese and need involvement from the laity and the ecclesial movements.

The Archdiocese of Lima reported that Fr. Schoch said priests today are spread too thin with so many pastoral activities.

Faced with the problems of society and contemporary culture, they feel driven to rethink their lifestyles and priorities in their ministries, while at the same time they are aware of the need for ongoing formation, Fr. Schoch observed.

Parishes—and even dioceses—while they have their own autonomy, “must not be islands unto themselves, especially amidst today’s communications and transportation channels.”

“Parishes are living organisms of the one Body of Christ, the one Church, which welcomes and serves both members of the local community, as well as those who, for whatever reason, show up at a given moment in what often signifies the action of God’s grace in one’s conscience or life,” he said.

Pastors must not carry out their ministries isolated from one another, but rather in union with other priests and under the guidance of the Church’s leaders, Fr. Schoch underscored.

He called on priests to build a greater understanding among each other and to work together, especially older priests with younger ones. “Both are equally necessary for the Christian community and are appreciated by the bishops and the Pope,” he added.

Pastors are not obliged to personally carry out every single task in a parish, he pointed out, but rather, they should provide guidance for those who assist them so that all pastoral activity is accomplished in accord with sound doctrine and ecclesial discipline.

Priests must help the laity to discover and fulfill their specific vocation in communion with the other faithful.”

“The apostolate of the laity is in large part carried out in the associations and movements that act in full ecclesial communion and in obedience to the directives of their pastors. These associations of the faithful must be promoted and sustained,” he said.

However, he warned, all forms of exclusion or isolation must be avoided in parish life, and parishes must be protected from becoming management organizations that forget the spiritual needs of their parishioners.

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