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The Spirit bestows abundant lay charisms

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 21 September 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. A great hope enlivens the Church on this eve of the third millennium of the Christian era. She is preparing to enter it with an intense effort to renew all her forces, among which is the Christian laity.

The more vivid awareness that lay people have been acquiring of their own mission in the Church's life, in conjunction with a notable development of ecclesiology, is a positive reality in the history of the last century. Too often in the past the Church seemed to lay people to be identified with the hierarchy, so that their attitude was rather that of someone who must receive and not of someone called to action and a specific responsibility. Fortunately, today many realize that, in union with those who exercise the ministerial priesthood, lay people too are the Church and have challenging tasks in her life and growth.

2. The Church's pastors themselves invited the laity to assume this responsibility. In particular, Pius XI's promotion of Catholic Action opened a decisive chapter in the development of the laity's work in the religious, social, cultural, political and even economic fields. The historical experience and doctrinal development of Catholic Action provided new incentives, opened new perspectives, and kindled new fires. The hierarchy proved more and more favorable to lay action, even to that kind of apostolic mobilization Pius XII often sought. In his 1952 Easter message, he urged and invited: "At the priests' side let the laity speak, who have learned to penetrate hearts and minds with words and love. Yes, bearers of life, permeate every place: factories, workshops, fields, wherever Christ has a right to enter" (Discorsi e radiomessaggi de Sua Santità Pio XII, vol. XIV, p. 64). Pius XII's appeals invigorated many initiatives of Catholic Action and of other associations and movements, which increasingly spread the activity of lay Christians in the Church and in society. The subsequent interventions of Popes and bishops, especially at Vatican II (cf. the Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem), at the synods and in many post-conciliar documents, increasingly confirmed and promoted a reawakening of the laity's ecclesial awareness, which today is a source of hope for the Church's growth.

3. It is possible to speak of a new lay life, rich in immense human potential, as fact. The true value of this life comes from the Holy Spirit, who abundantly bestows his gifts on the Church, as he has done since the beginning on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:3-4; 1 Cor 12:7f.). In our day too, many signs and great witness have been given by individuals, groups and movements generously dedicated to the apostolate. They show that the marvels of Pentecost have not ceased, but are renewed abundantly in the Church today. It is obvious that in addition to a considerable development in the doctrine of the charisms, there has also been a new flowering of active lay people in the Church. It is not by chance that the two facts have occurred at the same time. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit, the effective and vital source of everything in the Christian life that is really and authentically evangelical.

4. As everyone knows, the Holy Spirit's action is not displayed only in impulses and charismatic gifts, but also in the sacramental life. From this aspect too we can joyfully recognize that many signs of progress have been noted in the value put on the sacramental life of lay Christians.

There is a trend to appreciate Baptism better as the source of the whole Christian life. Further progress must be made in this direction, in order better and better to discover and exploit the riches of a sacrament whose effects extend throughout one's whole life.

It will also be appropriate to put greater stress on the value of the sacrament of Confirmation, which, by a special gift of the Holy Spirit, bestows the ability to give an adult witness of faith in Christ and to take up one's own responsibilities more consciously and deliberately in the Church's life and apostolate.

Making the most of the sacrament of Marriage is of primary importance for the sanctification of the spouses themselves and for the formation of Christian homes, on which the future of God's people and of all society depends. Groups and associations for deepening marital spirituality are working in this direction. Tireless and unceasing progress must also be made along these lines.

A more intense, conscious and active participation by the laity in the Eucharistic celebration allows us to see a vigorous affirmation of witness and apostolic involvement in Christian communities. Here one always finds the living source of union with Christ, of ecclesial communion and of zeal in evangelizing.

Perhaps in recent years less attention has been paid to the sacrament of Reconciliation. We must hope that more intense efforts will be made once again to esteem the reception of this sacrament. The gift of spiritual healing that comes from God, a new fervor in one's interior life, a new clearness of vision and a sincere commitment to Church service derive from this sacrament. However, we must not forget that in the case of serious sin, sacramental confession is necessary for receiving the Eucharist.

5. As these simple observations on the situation for the laity in the Church today show, promoting the apostolate of the laity requires a corresponding development in their formation (cf. CL 60). This primarily means cultivating the spiritual life. It is a joy to observe in this regard that the laity increasingly have at their disposal suitable means to grow in this way--from prayer groups and spiritual associations in many parishes, to meetings for reading and discussing the word of God, days of recollection and courses of spiritual exercises. Religious radio and television broadcasts are also an effective tool for faith enrichment and for giving direction to the Christian people in their spiritual life and worship.

6. In our world, marked by widespread growth in the cultural level of various classes of people, lay persons involved in Church-related tasks have an ever greater need of good doctrinal formation (cf. CL 60). Here too it is a pleasure to see notable progress. Many lay people are seeking a greater understanding of the doctrine of the faith. The increased number of institutes for religious studies is significant. Theology courses and conferences, which were once reserved to those preparing for the priesthood, have become more and more open to the laity. These courses and conferences are attended not only by those who must be certified in religious education, but by many others who desire a more complete formation, which will benefit their family, friends and acquaintances. Another sign of hope is the deep interest with which the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been received in various parts of the world.

7. Progress in the doctrinal formation of the laity has also been made with regard to a better knowledge of the Church's social teaching. Those who are involved in economic and political life at all levels must be inspired by the principles of this teaching in their programs of action. We would like to see the progress achieved thus far continue to increase. Unfortunately the Church's social teaching is too little known. It is the responsibility of today's socially and spiritually well-trained Christian laity to seek appropriate ways to apply these principles, thus effectively contributing to building a society of greater justice and solidarity.

8. While arousing a feeling of gratitude to the Lord, who is ever wondrous in his gifts, the promotion of the laity's life in the Church also justifies an outburst of new hope. Christian lay people are also sharing more and more actively in the Church's missionary effort. The prospects for preaching the Gospel in the world today depend considerably on their contribution. In the laity the face of God's people is revealed in all its splendor, a people on the way to their own salvation. Precisely for this reason, they are committed to spreading the light of the Gospel and bringing Christ to life in the minds and hearts of their brothers and sisters. We are sure that the Holy Spirit, who has developed the spirituality and mission of lay people in the Church today, will continue his activity for the greater good of the Church tomorrow and forever.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Zum Schluß dieser Gedanken über die grobe Bedeutung der Laienarbeit in der Sendung der Kirche erneuere ich meinen herzlichen Willkommensgruß an Euch alle, liebe Schwestern und Brüder. Mein besonderer Grub gilt dem Postchor Klagenfurt, der Gruppe der Komturei St. Matthias zu Trier des Ritterordens vom Heiligen Grab sowie den Vikaren und Vikarinnen des Predigerseminars in Soest.

Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim sowie all jenen, die uns in diesem Augenblick über Radio und Fernsehen geistlich verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski.

Pragnę na pierwszym miejscu przywitać dzisiaj rektora, senat i pracowników nauki z Akademii Górniczo-Hutniczej w Krakowie (AGH). Wasza pielgrzymka do Rzymu związana jest z 75. rocznicą powstania tej uczelni po I wojnie światowej. Jako krakowianin wiem dobrze, jakie znaczenie miało AGH w życiu naszego miasta, w życiu akademickim, a także w powiązaniu Krakowa ze Śląskiem. AGH - uczelnia górniczo-hutnicza przeznaczona dla Śląska - powstała w Krakowie i była dalszym ciągiem tego historycznego związku pomiędzy Śląskiem a Krakowem, który tyle znaczył dla dziejów Polski. W tym wypadku kierunek był z Krakowa na Śląsk. Kraków dostarczał na Śląsk fachowców, inżynierów, specjalistów od górnictwa i hutnictwa, co miało po I wojnie światowej i obecnie również kapitalne znaczenie dla Polski. Wówczas, na początku pierwszej niepodległości, i teraz, w kontynuacji tej niepodległości. Proszę ode mnie pozdrowić całe AGH, wszystkich jej profesorów, uczonych, studentów, nową generację. Tę starszą pamiętałem osobiście i miałem z nią wiele kontaktów - wspominam szczególnie niektórych profesorów - a z tą młodszą mam kontakt dzięki dzisiejszej obecności tutaj rektora, senatu i przedstawicieli AGH w nowym kształcie. Szczęść Boże! Tak się mówi po górniczemu, szczęść Boże!

Pragnę pozdrowić prócz tego: z Krakowa - parafię św. Józefa z Podgórza, z diecezji bielsko-żywieckiej - grupę trzeźwościową z ks. Władysławem Zązlem. Niech Bóg błogosławi w tej waszej trzeźwościowej pracy zarówno na Żywiecczyźnie, jak na Podhalu, jak i w całej Polsce. Prócz tego pozdrawiam wiernych z Pietrzykowic i Markowic Górnych z tej samej diecezji. Witam innych pielgrzymów, licznie dzisiaj zgromadzonych w Bazylice św. Piotra: z Bydgoszczy, Rzeszowa, Lublina i z archidiecezji lubelskiej, z Łodzi, Legnicy, Polanicy-Zdroju, Poznania i z archidiecezji warszawskiej.

Bardzo liczny jest udział Lublina w dzisiejszej audiencji. Witam współpracowników księży pallotynów z całej Polski. Osobno witam gdańszczan, stoczniowców oraz ich rodziny. Witam członków “Solidarności” oraz emerytów. Wasza obecność w Rzymie w tym miesiącu ma szczególną wymowę. Szczęść Boże dla Gdańska i dla stoczni, i dla parafii św. Brygidy, i dla całego środowiska.

Z Wrocławia - witam parafię św. Bonifacego, z Włocławka - pracowników urzędu miejskiego, z Limanowej - przedstawicieli Liceum Ogólnokształcącego im. Władysława Orkana, z Dortmundu w Niemczech - Chór “ Polonia ”. Wszystkim obecnym, waszym rodzinom i bliskim, w szczególności chorym, wszystkim parafiom i diecezjom, i całej naszej Ojczyźnie z serca błogosławię.

Pragnę dodać, że dokładnie dzisiaj przypada 30. rocznica śmierci w Rzymie abpa Józefa Gawliny, biskupa polowego, który towarzyszył armii polskiej w czasie II wojny światowej na wszystkich frontach świata. Niech Pan Bóg da mu wieczne odpoczywanie i niech armia polska dzisiaj cieszy się znowu tym biskupem polowym, który wrócił na swoje miejsce w naszej nowej III Rzeczypospolitej. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’adresse un salut cordial aux personnes de langue française présentes ici ce matin. Je leur souhaite un excellent séjour à Rome, à la découverte passionnante du message de foi transmis par nos aînés au cours des âges. A tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Paterson who are visiting Rome and the Holy Land in the company of their Bishop. My greeting also goes to the students from the University of London. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from England, Scotland, Ireland, Singapore, Australia and the United States, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora cordialmente a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española; de modo particular al Señor Obispo de Ávila y a sus condiscípulos sacerdotes de Valencia, que celebran los 25 ańos de su ordenación; a los superiores y alumnos del Pontificio Colegio Mexicano de Roma; a los religiosos aquí presentes; a las diversas parroquias y grupos de España. Saludo igualmente a los empresarios de El Salvador; al coro venezolano “Cecilio Acosta” de Los Teques, así como al grupo argentino de Monte Buey. Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os imparto con gran afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo cordialmente todos os ouvintes de língua portuguesa, em especial os presentes: peregrinos de Portugal da Paróquia de Tomar, e os grupos brasileiros, de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais e Bahia. Sede bem-vindos! Grato pela vossa visita, desejo e peço a Deus que leveis deste encontro a consciência da dignidade da vossa vocação de cristãos, e da responsabilidade de serem Igreja, de terem uma missão específica, sublime e necessária, já que foi querida por Deus. E, em seu nome, vos abençoo.

Ai pellegrini danesi

Il Vescovo di Roma vi dà il benvenuto. Preghiamo per la vera unità dei cristiani in Gesù Cristo. Dio benedica voi e tutta la Danimarca.

Ad un gruppo di fedeli luterani proveniente dalla Svezia

Chiediamo, con tutti gli altri cristiani, l’unità come Dio la vuole, quando Dio la vuole. Dio benedica voi e tutta la Svezia!

Ai fedeli sloveni presenti all’udienza generale

Saluto i pellegrini di Sentjernej na Dolenskem in Slovenia, che avete messo nel proprio programma pastorale pure la visita al centro del Cristianesimo, rendendo omaggio alle tombe dei Principi degli Apostoli, nonché l’incontro con il Successore di San Pietro. La Regina del Rosario, Vi accompagni tutti come pure ognuno individualmente. Con questo desiderio vi impartisco la mia benedizione apostolica.

Il Santo Padre ha poi rivolto un saluto ai Croati e Bosniaci

Saluto cordialmente i ragazzi profughi della Bosnia Erzegovina, ospitati in questi giorni a Portoferraio; e un gruppo di medici di Mostar. Carissimi, il mio saluto è accompagnato dalla fervida preghiera a Dio affinché Egli conceda la pace nella giustizia a tutte le martoriate popolazioni della Croazia e della Bosnia Erzegovina, e sostituisca le sofferenze di quella moltitudine dei profughi e degli esuli con la gioia del ritorno alle proprie case, il che, infatti, è una delle condizioni del ristabilimento della pace.

Agli ungheresi

Saluto con affetto il Reverendissimo Mons. Ferenc Keszthelyi, Vescovo di Vác nonché il Sig. Iván Platthy, Direttore Generale della Sezione per le Chiese presso il Ministero della Cultura e dell’Educazione insieme ai rappresentanti di diverse Chiese e Religioni. Un cordiale benvenuto anche a voi, cari pellegrini di Budapest, Keszthely, Mezokövesd e Vác. Collaborate anche voi con quanti esercitano il sacerdozio ministeriale e con l’aiuto dei doni dello Spirito Santo siate attivi nei diversi campi della vita ecclesiale e dell’impegno pastorale. Con la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai lituani

Cari lituani! In questo mese di settembre si compie il primo anniversario della mia visita in Lituania e negli altri due Paesi Baltici. Spero con tutto il cuore che il ricordo dei nostri incontri e delle nostre fervide comuni preghiere non cesserà mai di contribuire alla crescita dei valori umani e spirituali in ciascuno di voi e nell’intera società lituana. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai cechi

Do il benvenuto ai fedeli di Veligrad in Moravia e a tutti i pellegrini provenienti dalla Boemia e dalla Moravia. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo. Oggi celebriamo la festa di San Matteo Apostolo ed Evangelista. La sua risposta alla vocazione da parte di Cristo continui a illuminare la nostra vita cristiana: anche a noi Gesù ripete: “Seguimi!” (cf. Mt 9, 9). Con questi voti vi benedico di cuore.

Agli slovacchi

Saluto di cuore i pellegrini slovacchi da Michalovce e da Sala, da Bratislava e Lieskovec, da Presov, Lucenec e dintorni, come anche l’Unione cattolica da Trnava. Cari fratelli e sorelle, mentre in molte regioni vi sono ancora sanguinosi scontri, a voi è stata data la possibilità di mettervi tranquillamente in pellegrinaggio verso Roma. Ringraziate Dio che nella vostra Patria regna le pace. Conservatela con vicendevole comprensione e perdono. Siate operatori di pace anche per le altre regioni e unitevi a me nella preghiera per la pace nel mondo. Molto volentieri imparto a voi la mia benedizione apostolica con l’augurio che la vostra Patria possa continuare a svilupparsi nella pace. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Rivolgo ora un cordiale pensiero a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, presenti a questa Udienza, in particolare, al gruppo di Maestri del Lavoro di Puglia e al gruppo di fedeli della Parrocchia Arcipretura “Santa Lucia” di Mistretta, che sono venuti per far benedire un’icona dedicata a “Santa Maria della Comunicazione”.

Carissimi, vi esprimo la mia gratitudine per la vostra partecipazione ed auspico che il Signore accompagni sempre con la sua grazia le vostre aspirazioni e i vostri propositi.

Formulo un augurio tutto speciale agli studenti di filosofia e teologia del “Centro di Studi Superiori dei Legionari di Cristo” e del “Collegio Internazionale Maria Mater Ecclesiae”, provenienti da diversi Continenti. Mentre assicuro un particolare ricordo nella preghiera perché possiate rispondere fedelmente alla chiamata del Signore, vi saluto con affetto insieme ai vostri superiori.

Ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli

La festa dell’evangelista San Matteo, che la Chiesa Universale celebra oggi, mi offre lo spunto per un pensiero ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli. Sappiate mettervi alla scuola del Vangelo, voi, giovani, che cercate di conoscere il Cristo e desiderate seguirlo. La parola del Vangelo offrirà a voi la possibilità di iniziare con Gesù un colloquio che non dovrete mai interrompere in nessuna fase della vostra crescita e della vostra maturazione.

La parola del Vangelo sarà di conforto per tutti voi, cari ammalati, che nel racconto della vita di Cristo incontrate i gesti di guarigione e di salvezza che Egli ha distribuito in tutto l’arco del suo ministero.

Voi, sposi novelli, potete trovare nelle parole di Cristo una guida sicura per fortificare nella vostra famiglia le virtù del sacramento coniugale: la fedeltà, l’unità, la fecondità nell’amore. E il Signore che vi esorta a costruire la vostra casa sulla ferma roccia della sua verità.

A tutti la mia benedizione.

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