Laypeople are not “second-class members” of the Church but instead are called to participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ’s earthly ministry, said the pope.
He said the Second Vatican Council brought “a new way of looking at the vocation and at the mission of laypeople in the church and in the world.”
The pope issued this message on the occasion of a study day of the Pontifical Council of the Laity on the theme “Vocation and Mission of the Laity.” It was addressed to the council’s president, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.
The study day was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross to mark the 50th anniversary of the decree “Apostolicam actuositatem” on the vocation of the laity. The decree was issued at the end of the Second Vatican Council.
This new vision of the laity was expressed in two foundational Conciliar documents, namely “Lumen gentium” and “Gaudium et spes,” the pope said.
He said the Council did not regard the laity as being “at the service of the hierarchy” and to simply execute “orders from on high.”
Rather, the laity are “disciples of Christ who, by their baptism” and presence in the world are “called to animate every environment, every activity and every human relationship, according to the spirit of the Gospel,” bringing the “light, hope and charity” of Christ to these places that otherwise would not know the “action of God” and would be “abandoned to the poverty of the human condition.”
No one more than the laity can fulfill this essential task of “writing divine law” into earthly life, he said.
Regarding the decree on the laity, the pope said it recalls that the vocation of the Christian layperson is to the apostolate, not only to temporal works but also to the work of evangelisation and proclamation.
The also pope noted that these Conciliar documents have helped to develop lay formation in the Church.
Reiterating the words of St John Paul II and the late pope’s description of the Council as prophetic, Pope Francis urged both clergy and laity to continue to deepen their understanding of the Conciliar documents and to apply the teachings of the Council to the daily and current realities of every Christian community.