The Church should always value the transformative power of faith-filled laity who are willing to serve the Gospel, Pope Francis said Friday.
“We need well-formed lay people, animated by a sincere and clear faith, whose life has been touched by the personal and merciful love of Christ Jesus,” the Pope told a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity June 17.
“We need lay people who take risks, who get their hands dirty, who are not afraid of making mistakes, who go forward. We need lay people with a vision of the future, not confined to the little things of life.”
He added that the Church needs lay people who “dare to dream.”
Pope Francis said many lay people would willingly and generously serve the Gospel if they were involved and valued by pastors and church institutions.
This is part of all Christians’ baptismal vocation, he said.
“Baptism makes each one of the lay faithful a missionary disciple of the Lord, salt of the earth, light of the world, and leaven that transforms reality from within,” remarked the Pope.
The Second Vatican Council’s mandate aimed to encourage the laity to be increasingly involved in the evangelizing mission of the Church, Pope Francis said, adding that this is not a “delegation” from the Church's hierarchy.
Rather, the lay apostolate is “participation in the salvific mission of the Church” destined by God himself by virtue of Christians’ baptism and confirmation.
He said the Church must be aware of being “the house of the Father where the doors are always wide open to each person, with his or her weary life.”
The Church must be “permanently outgoing” and “an evangelizing community that knows how to take the initiative without fear, to reach out to others, to seek out those who are distant and to reach out to crossroads, to invite in the excluded.”
Pope Francis encouraged those present to look to the distant parts of the world and to the many families in difficulty and in need of mercy.
He reflected on the lay associations that have had a long history as well as the many movements and new communities that have shown great missionary zeal. He said the Pontifical Council for the Laity has observed and assisted these developments, which include an increased role for women in the Church and the institution of World Youth Days.
For Pope Francis, World Youth Days are a “providential gesture” from St. John Paul II and a tool for evangelization of young generations.
He reflected on the history of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which was established under Blessed Paul VI more than 50 years ago.
It currently is the subject of curial reform efforts and is set to be suppressed, along with the Pontifical Council for the Family, in September, and replaced with a Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.
Nevertheless, he encouraged the pontifical council to “look anew with hope for the future.”
“Much remains to be done, broadening horizons and accepting the new challenges that reality presents to us,” the Roman Pontiff said.