Parish Reform Must Include Catechetical Dimension, Says Pope

Explains That Programs Can't Be Limited to Dealing With Priest Shortage

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II cautions that the reforms under way in many French parishes facing a priest shortage must go beyond the administrative level and focus on ongoing formation and catechesis.



The Pope expressed this concern Saturday when he met with bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Lyon and Clermont, at the end of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

"Every ecclesial community, and the parish in particular, which is the fundamental cell of the life of the diocesan Church, must proclaim the Gospel, celebrate the worship owed to God and serve like Christ," the Holy Father affirmed. To do so, the faithful must rediscover the "authentic nature" of the Church, he said.

"It is not an administration or a business; above all, it is a spiritual reality, made up of men and women, called by the grace of God to become sons and daughters of God, who have entered in a new brotherhood by baptism that has incorporated them to Christ," the Pope explained.

Hence, the parish reforms under way in many dioceses must pay special attention to stimulate "the task of permanent formation and catechesis," the Holy Father said.

This reform must enable the faithful to be "ever more conscious of the richness constituted by the life of the parish," he added.

This richness is summarized in its three missions, John Paul II said. The first is "the prophetic mission, characterized by the task of proclaiming to all men the Good News of salvation."

The second is "the priestly mission, which consists in participating in the one priesthood of Christ by celebrating the divine mysteries." The third is "the royal mission, which is expressed in the service of all, as the Lord Jesus Christ does."

The Holy Father said that the missionary character of parishes depends on their capacity to live the spirit of communion.

"It is necessary to watch so that the parish community expresses the diversity of the members that compose it and the variety of their charisms, and that it be open to the life of associations and movements," the Pope said.

"It will then be a living expression of ecclesial communion, which puts the goods of each one at the service of all and is never enclosed in itself," he added.

John Paul II clarified that "to commit oneself to the mission abroad, far from impoverishing the parish or diocese, on the contrary will give them new strength." He added: "No one is exempt" in the Church "from the missionary dimension."