"Time for Boldness," Pope Tells Laity of Former Soviet Nations

Message to a Congress of Eastern European Catholics

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KIEV, Ukraine, OCT. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A key responsibility of the laity is to prepare the ground for a vigorous rebirth of the Church in Eastern Europe, says John Paul II.



This "is a time of hope and boldness" for the laity, the Pope said in an address to the participants in the first Congress of Catholic Laity of Eastern Europe. The congress opened Wednesday in Kiev. It closes Sunday.

The meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, attracted 300 people, most of them youths from 14 countries of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by their bishops.

Also attending the meeting are members of associations and ecclesial movements present in the region, and guest observers from other churches, including the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow.

"You, who regained your freedom at the price of great suffering, never let it be debased in the race of false ideals formulated by utilitarianism, individualist hedonism [and] unbridled consumerism that characterize many parts of modern culture," the Holy Father said.

In fact, lay Catholics of Eastern Europe must safeguard their "rich Christian traditions," resisting the "insidious temptation to exclude God" from one's life or "to reduce the faith to sporadic and superficial gestures and episodes," the papal text states, as reported by Vatican Radio.

According to the Pontiff, "Old Europe, from West to East, is seeking its new identity." After "long decades of painful division, Europe once again breathes with two lungs," and cannot forget its roots," the Pope stressed.

"Europe must remember that Christianity was the lymph from which for 2,000 years it drew the most noble inspirations of the spirit," he emphasized.

Regarding the challenges facing the Eastern European laity, John Paul II said: "To you, who were indomitable witnesses of the faith in times of persecution, in the time of regained religious freedom, the Lord asks that the ground be prepared for the vigorous rebirth of the Church in your countries."

In this context, invaluable aid can be sought "from associations, ecclesial movements and new communities, from whose experience fruitful pedagogical ways have been born as well as a renewed apostolic impulse," the Holy Father added.

After reminding the participants that the responsibility of the laity in the mission of the Church was rediscovered after the Second Vatican Council, the Pope exhorted the faithful to allow Christ to shine in their personal life.

He invited the participants to make families "authentic domestic Churches" and parishes "real schools of prayer and Christian life."