21-September-2002 -- Vatican Information Service |

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 21, 2002 (VIS) - This morning John Paul II received prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Western Regions 1 & 2) who just completed their "ad limina" visit.

In his speech, the Pope spoke about the collaboration of the lay faithful in diocesan life, especially in the sacred ministry of priests.

The Holy Father recalled the purpose of the Church in fulfilling in the world "the saving mission of Christ ... through the action of its members, within the limits of the function that each one exercises in the Mystical Body of Christ."

"Among the objectives of liturgical reform, established by Vatican Council II," he said, "was the need for all faithful to participate in liturgical ceremonies. ... In reality, however, in the years after the Council, with the purpose that this idea be implemented, 'confusion as to the functions of the priestly ministry and that of laity' spread erratically. ... These serious practical abuses were grounded frequently in doctrinal errors, especially concerning the nature of the liturgy, the common priesthood of Christians, the vocation and mission of lay people and the ordered ministry of priests."

After affirming that the liturgy is an "activity for all the faithful," the Pope emphasized that "by baptism all the faithful participate in Christ's priesthood; it is what is known as the 'common priesthood of the faithful,' while the 'priestly ministry' is characteristic of those who receive the Sacrament of Orders."

"To disregard the basic difference and the mutual ordination between priestly ministry and the common priesthood of the faithful," he continued, "has immediate repercussions in liturgical celebrations." In this sense, he reminded the pilgrims of the "scarce observance of certain laws and ecclesiastical norms, the arbitrary interpretation of the concept of 'replacement' and the lay tendency to be 'clerical'."

John Paul II indicated that "the lay faithful can exercise certain duties and functions in collaboration with the pastoral service, when they are expressly asked by their respective holy pastors."

The Holy Father ended by referring to the topic of the restoration of the permanent diaconate for married men, "which is an important enrichment for the mission of the Church after the Council. ... The collaboration which the permanent diaconate provides to the Church, especially where there is a shortage of priests, is without a doubt a great benefit for the life of the Church. ... Certainly, the service of the permanent diaconate is and will always be limited to the prescriptions of the law, since full ministerial power corresponds to priests to exercise; in this way, the risk of ambiguity which can confuse the faithful, especially in liturgical celebrations, is avoided."

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