December 28th, the day of our Community Christmas Celebration, also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, which Pope John Paul II wrote as his follow-up to the Synod of Bishops on the laity that took place in October 1987. Recently, the Pontifical Council for the Laity convened an Assembly to review the 20-years since CF. Our Holy Father met with the participants of the Assembly, at which time he delivered a brief message. In it, he notes how CF both recognizes and helps to discern the abundance of spiritual gifts being bestowed upon the laity:
The clear awareness of the Church’s charismatic dimension has brought about an appreciation and esteemed the more simple charisms that Divine Providence bestows on individuals as well as those that bring great spiritual, educational and missionary fecundity. Not by chance does the Document recognize and encourage the “new era of group endeavors of the lay faithful”. It is a sign of the “richness and the versatility of resources that the Holy Spirit nourishes in the ecclesial community” (n. 29), which indicate the ecclesial “criteria” necessary on one side for the discernment of Pastors and on the other side for growth of the life of lay associations, ecclesial movements and new communities.
He also expressed his gratitude to the PCL for nurturing the associations/movements/communities that have come to the Church for recognition:
In this respect I would like to thank the Pontifical Council for the Laity in a very special way, for the work completed during the last decades to welcome, accompany, discern, recognize and encourage these ecclesial realities, favoring the knowledge of their Catholic identity, helping them to insert themselves more fully into the great tradition and the living fabric of the Church, and promoting their missionary development.
Pope Benedict leaves the PCL with this charge:
Therefore I ask the Pontifical Council for the Laity to follow with diligent pastoral care the formation, witness and collaboration of lay faithful in the most varied situations, in which the authentic nature of human life in society is at risk. In a particular way, I confirm the necessity and urgency of the evangelical formation and pastoral accompaniment of a new generation of Catholics working in politics, that they be coherent with the professed faith, that they have moral firmness, the capacity of educated judgment, professional competence and passion for service to the common good.