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ADLIMINA-LAITY Dec-6-2004 (650 words) xxxi

Catholic laity must follow authoritative church teachings, pope says

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II said U.S. bishops need to remind lay Catholics of their duty to follow authoritative church teachings, whether in private life or in social roles.

The separation between church and state should be respected, but there can be no separation between one's personal faith and one's political and professional participation, he said.

The pope addressed the theme of the laity in a talk Dec. 4 to a group of U.S. bishops making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican. He began his remarks by saying he appreciated the "outstanding contribution" lay Catholics have made to the growth and expansion of the church in the United States.

But the pope said "serious pastoral problems" have been created by ambiguity over the relationships among personal conscience, truth and the social order.

He said lay men and women should be encouraged to harmonize their rights and duties as members of the church and as members of society. That means recognizing that in all worldly affairs they must be "guided by their Christian conscience," he said.

"A clear and authoritative reaffirmation of these fundamental principles of the lay apostolate will help to overcome the serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the church's binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with her authoritative teaching," he said.

He said there was an "urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis" on the lay apostolate.

This catechesis should highlight the importance of a properly formed conscience, the intrinsic relationship between freedom and moral truth, and the "grave duty incumbent upon each Christian to work to renew and perfect the temporal order in accordance with the values of God's kingdom," he said.

"While fully respecting the legitimate separation of church and state in American life, such a catechesis also must make clear that for the faithful Christian, there can be no separation between the faith which is to be believed and put into practice and a commitment to full and responsible participation in professional, political and cultural life," he said.

The pope told the bishops that promoting a clear understanding of doctrinal and moral teachings was an essential part of their ministry as teachers and pastors.

He asked the bishops to come up with ways to promote teaching and reflection on the doctrinal and moral aspects of the lay apostolate. In doing so, they should consult with lay Catholics considered "outstanding for their fidelity, knowledge and prudence," he said.

The pope said the relationship between pastors and laity should be one of "cooperation and shared responsibility." He said this relationship should be rooted in sound ecclesial principles and warned that it would be distorted by "uncritical importation of categories and structures drawn from secular life."

The bishops were from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. They spent a week meeting individually with the pope and consulting as a group with various Vatican departments.

In a brief speech to the pope, Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., thanked the pontiff for the personal time and interest he had given each of the bishops.

The bishops discussed the upcoming seminary visitation by a Vatican official when they met with officials at the Congregation for Catholic Education. Several bishops said the visitation is likely to begin next fall, at the start of the school year.

They said the congregation was still working on preparation of the "instrumentum laboris," or working document, for the visitation.

Bishop David E. Foley of Birmingham, Ala., said the group also discussed Catholic education at the elementary level, including the fact that attendance is slowly going up.

"At the university level, we talked about the importance of getting the professor to teach in unison with the bishop," he said.


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