1st Congress of Catholic Laity of Eastern Europe Opens in Kiev

Ecclesial Movements Among the Participants

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KIEV, Ukraine, OCT. 9, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The first congress of Eastern European Catholic laymen has opened in Kiev, evidence of the rebirth of their religious heritage.



"Deprived of freedom of action, if not directly of the right to exist, those martyred and heroic Churches persevered in adherence to Christ, in fidelity to the Successor of Peter, in the affirmation of the value of freedom in the midst of tribulations and not rarely at the price of blood," reads a statement of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, organizer of the congress.

Until Sunday, the Ukrainian capital will gather at least 300 members of the delegations representing the laity of 14 countries of the former Soviet Union. The delegations will be accompanied by their respective bishops.

Also attending the congress are members of associations and ecclesial movements present in Eastern Europe, and some consultors and members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Observers of other churches have also been invited.

Until Saturday morning, talks and round-table discussions will focus on the role of the laity in the life of the Church. In the afternoon, a liturgical memorial of the martyrs will be held.

The pontifical council said it intends to promote "awareness of the vocation of all Christians which derives from baptism and of the mission of all those baptized to take the Church of Christ to the world."

The Kiev congress is in line with the theological and ecclesial benefits resulting from the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium over the past decades, which have highlighted the importance of the laity in ecclesial life.

Cardinal James Stafford, who was the pontifical council's president until Oct. 4, will open the working sessions of the congress. His address will be followed by the greetings of the cardinal bishops of Lviv, Lubomyr Husar, pastor of the Ukrainians, and Marian Jaworski, pastor of the Latins.

The cardinals' greetings will be followed by the introduction of the delegations attending the congress, which include representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The first speaker today was to be Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, on the theme "The Mission of the Church at the Dawn of the Third Millennium."

On Friday and Saturday, the congress will be addressed by Metropolitan Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Diocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, and by Guzmán Carriquiry, undersecretary of the Vatican dicastery.