The Congregation for the Clergy releases the Instruction. In it, it acknowledges that “pastoral activity needs to go beyond merely the territorial limits of the Parish, to make ecclesial communion more clearly transparent by means of the synergy between ministers and diverse charisms, structuring itself as a ‘pastoral care for all’, at the service of the Diocese and of its mission.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Congregation for the Clergy released a new document, titled ‘The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church’.
In it, it says it aims to go beyond the traditional vision of the parish as a territorial unit in favour of the notion of ‘global village’, with a broader reach thanks to new technology and ways of life.
As such it can become an evangelising agent, an expression of the shared missionary responsibility of the People of God. In fact, the paper notes that the Church has room for everyone and everyone has a place in God’s unique family, mindful of everyone’s vocation.
The 28-page document is divided into 11 chapters, centred on the pastoral care of parish communities and the various clerical and lay ministries, seeking greater shared responsibility of all the baptised.
“With the Parish no longer being the primary gathering and social centre, as in former days, it is thus necessary to find new forms of accompaniment and closeness,” it reads.
The Instruction does not contain legislative changes, but proposes ways to better apply the existing legislation.
In “light of recent Magisterium, and considering the social contexts that are profoundly changed, the present Instruction is intended to focus the topic of renewal of the Parish in a missionary sense.”
“As a consequence, pastoral activity needs to go beyond merely the territorial limits of the Parish, to make ecclesial communion more clearly transparent by means of the synergy between ministers and diverse charisms, structuring itself as a ‘pastoral care for all’, at the service of the Diocese and of its mission.
“This means a pastoral activity that, through an effective and vibrant collaboration between priests, deacons, religious and laity, as well as among different Parish communities of an area or region, occupies itself with identifying together the questions, difficulties and challenges germane to evangelisation, seeking to integrate ways, methods, proposals and means suitable to confront them.”
The parish will then have to develop greater dynamism and pursue a pastoral conversion based on the proclamation of the Word of God, sacramental life and the witness of charity. It will have to promote a "culture of encounter" that leads to the development of a true "art of accompaniment”.
The parish priest is the “proper pastor” of the community. He is at the service of the parish, and not the other way around. As carer of souls, he must be a presbyter. Therefore, he cannot be a deacon or a lay person. He administers parish assets and is the parish’s legal representative and must be appointed for an indefinite period, although some exceptions are possible.
Deacons may serve at the parish level. They are not however “half-priests, half-laymen”. Noting what Pope Francis said, the document states that “The diaconate is a specific vocation, a family vocation that requires service. [. . .] The deacon is, so to say, the custodian of service in the Church. Every word must be carefully measured. You are the guardians of service in the Church: service to the Word, service to the Altar, service to the poor.”
The history of the diaconate shows “that it was established within the framework of a ministerial vision of the Church, as an ordained ministry at the service of the Word and of charity; this latter context includes the administration of goods. The twofold mission of the deacon is expressed in the liturgical sphere, where he is called to proclaim the Gospel and to serve at the Eucharistic table.”
As for consecrated people within parish communities, they must be “witnesses of a radical following of Christ", whilst lay people must participate in the evangelising action of the Church through a “generous commitment" to bear witness through a life that conforms to the Gospel and lived in the service of the parish community.
Lay people too can be Lectors and Acolytes (serving at the altar) on a stable basis, by special rite, without prejudice to their full communion with the Catholic Church, after receiving adequate training and pursuing exemplary personal and pastoral conduct.
Under exceptional circumstances, they may receive other assignments from the bishop, in “his prudent judgment", so as to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and the rite of the funeral, administer Baptism, assist at marriages , with prior permission of the Holy See, and preach in church or in an oratory in case of need. In any case, they may not give the homily during Mass.
The Instruction notes ls that “in every Parish a Finance Council must be constituted as a consultative body, presided over by the Parish Priest and formed of at least three other faithful to manage the parish assets.” As such it “is an important area of evangelisation and evangelical witness, both in the Church and in civil society”.
Conversely, the creation of the parish pastoral council is only “recommended". “The theological significance of the Pastoral Council is inscribed in the constitutive reality of the Church, that is, in her being ‘the Body of Christ’, that generates a ‘spirituality of communion’.”
“Far from being simply a bureaucratic organ, the Pastoral Council highlights and realises the centrality of the People of God as the subject and active protagonist of the evangelising mission”.
As Paul VI said: “It is the function of the pastoral council to investigate everything pertaining to pastoral activities, to weigh them carefully and to set forth practical conclusions concerning them so as to promote conformity of the life and actions of the People of God with the Gospel.”
Finally, the document notes that offerings during the celebration of the sacraments must be “a free act” and not “a ‘price to pay’ or a ‘fee to exact’, as if dealing with a sort of ‘tax on Sacraments’.”
“Among the recommended instruments for reaching this goal, one might think of receiving offerings in an anonymous way, so that everyone feels free to donate what they can, or what they think is just, without feeling an obligation to respond to an expectation or a price.”
For their part, presbyters should provide a virtuous example in the use of money, through a sober lifestyle and a transparent administration of parish assets and raise awareness among the faithful “so that they [can] contribute voluntarily to the needs of the Parish, which are ‘their needs’”. For this reason, “it is good that they learn spontaneously to take responsibility”. (FP)