Lay Evangelizers and Faith in Action

Interview With New Member of Cor Unum

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ROME, JUNE 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI recently named Jean-Luc Moens to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery that oversees the Church's charitable activities.



Moens has served as president of FIDESCO, a nongovernmental organization that helps in development projects, since 1997. His next book on evangelization will be published in September.

In this interview with ZENIT, he tells about his work and the increasing role of laity in evangelization.

Q: Can you explain the focus and mission of FIDESCO?

Moens: FIDESCO is the International Federation for Economic and Social Development through Cooperation.

It is a NGO founded by the Emmanuel Community in 1981, currently operating in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, the United States, Australia, Rwanda, and Congo.

FIDESCO specializes in sending volunteers to take part in development projects and helping those in need in the diverse fields of education, agronomy, teaching, management, building, health, etc.

Volunteers who work with FIDESCO are young Catholics, motivated by their faith, to work for the poor. This is why we are called FIDESCO, or Fides-co, faith serving in cooperation.

FIDESCO illustrates how the Christian mission involves the entire person, both in the spiritual and material aspects.

Since it was created, FIDESCO has sent more than 1,000 young people to more than 40 countries.

At present, we have 120 volunteers on location and about 60 who are preparing to leave in September.
Q: Describe the profile of a FIDESCO volunteer.

Moens: FIDESCO proposes a one- or two-year commitment to serve the poor, following three guidelines:

1) To contribute professional competence toward a Church project in the field of development, education or compassion in underprivileged regions;

2) To be a witness to Christ -- FIDESCO actually arose from a request on the part of Africa's bishops to have technical volunteers capable of upholding their development projects, while at the same time giving a genuine Christian testimony;

3) To experience an unforgettable adventure -- since FIDESCO is also a school of life.

At first, FIDESCO's young volunteers set off with the intention of giving but, in fact, they realize that they receive far more in exchange.

Every one of them comes back transformed, enriched by the contact with others. For all of them, it is an occasion for true development.

In order to live this experience, FIDESCO proposes a time for discernment and training before departing.

We also follow-up with our volunteers upon their return to help them with their professional transition, which usually goes smoothly since employers appreciate a young person who has devoted time to a humanitarian ideal.

Q: Is your appointment as a layman to the pontifical council a new sign of the Church's focus on the laity?

Moens: I think that with regard to my appointment, it would be better to inquire from someone with more authority than myself. However, I believe that the naming of several lay people to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum is a sign.

It confirms the need for an increasingly dynamic commitment of Christians in the field of charity. Benedict XVI's appreciation for this dimension of the Christian testimony is well known.

From a broader standpoint, I am also aware that the Church's opening to the laity is nothing new.

After the Second Vatican Council, the synod on the laity in 1987, and Pope John Paul II's beautiful apostolic exhortation "Christifideles Laici," it seems clear to me that the role of the laity in the Church is being understood and valued more and more, particularly with regard to evangelization.

Throughout the whole Church, it is becoming more obvious that that apostolate is also a task to be carried out by lay people. FIDESCO is one example of this.

This does not mean a competition with the clergy but, rather, a wholesome complementarity. And this yields its fruits, even in terms of vocations to the priesthood!

Indeed, I have been impressed to discover that the new movements and communities that grant the laity an important role are also those where many vocations to the priesthood arise.

We must always bear in mind that all priests have started out as laymen!