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The laity work to spread the Kingdom

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 9 February 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the previous Christological catecheses, we described the kingly office, which is one of the offices proper to Christ. It is an office foreseen and foretold in the messianic tradition of the Old Testament. Christ gave the Church he founded a share in this kingship, as we explained in the ecclesiological catecheses. Now we can and should cast on the laity the light of that doctrine regarding the Church, the mystical and pastoral unity that continues the work of redemption in the world. If lay people are part of the Church, and indeed are the Church, as Pius XII said in his famous address in 1946, it follows that they too are incorporated in the kingship of the Church's supreme shepherd.

2. As the Second Vatican Council recalls in Lumen Gentium, Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man for our salvation, completed on earth the work of redemption, which culminated in the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection. Before going up to heaven he said to his disciples: "Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18). He himself linked this assertion with his conferral on the disciples of the mission and authority to preach the Gospel to all nations, to all people, and to teach them to observe all his commandments (cf. Mt 28:20). Their sharing in his kingship consists in this. Indeed, Christ is a king inasmuch as he reveals the truth he has brought from heaven to earth (cf. Jn 18:37) and which he entrusted to the apostles and the Church that they might spread it in the world in every age. Living in the truth received from Christ and working to spread it in the world is thus the task and duty of all the Church's members, including the laity. The Council stated this (cf. LG 36) and the Exhortation Christifideles Laici emphasized it (n. 14).

3. The laity are called to exercise their "kingship as Christians" (cf. CL 14) by inwardly living the truth through faith and by their outward witness of charity. They work diligently so that through them as well faith and charity may become the leaven of new life for everyone. As Lumen Gentium states: "But the Lord wishes to spread his kingdom also by means of the laity, namely, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace" (LG 36).

Again according to the Council, the laity's sharing in the growth of the kingdom is carried out especially by their direct, concrete activity in the temporal order. While priests and religious are dedicated to the more specifically spiritual, religious sphere for the conversion of individuals and the growth of Christ's Mystical Body, the laity are called to be involved in spreading Christ's influence in the temporal order, working directly in this order (cf. AA 7).

4. This fact presupposes that lay people, like the whole Church, have a vision of the world. In particular, they have an ability to evaluate human affairs that recognizes their positive value as well as the religious dimension already expressed in the Book of Wisdom: "In your wisdom you have established man to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and justice" (Wis 9:2-3).

The temporal world cannot be considered as a self-contained system. This immanentist, "worldly" conception cannot be maintained at the philosophical level. It was radically rejected by Christianity, which learned from St. Paul, echoing Jesus, the order and purposeful dynamism of creation as the setting of the Church's very life: "All these are yours" the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, as if to highlight the new dignity and power of Christians. However he immediately adds: "You are Christ's and Christ is God's" (1 Cor 3:22-23). This text can be accurately paraphrased by saying that the destiny of the entire universe is tied to this belonging.

5. This vision of the world, beginning with Christ's kingship shared by the Church, is the foundation of an authentic theology of the lay state regarding the Christian role of lay people in the temporal order. As Lumen Gentium states: "The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of his word. May the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with his saving light....

6. And again: "Let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values" (LG 36; cf. CCC 909).

"Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits. They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers--whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed. In a word, 'Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body'" (LG 38).

This program for enlightening and enlivening the world goes back to the earliest period of Christianity, as attested, for example, by the Letter to Diognetus. Today too this is the royal road to be followed by the heirs, witnesses and co-workers of Christ's kingdom."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’accueille avec joie les membres de l’Ecole de la Foi et des Ministères, centre de formation qui fête le XXVème anniversaire de sa fondation par le Père Jacques Loew. J’encourage les participants à profiter de ce temps d’étude pour enraciner leur amour du Seigneur, afin de nourrir leur apostolat futur auprès de leurs frères, dans les nations dont ils sont originaires. J’adresse un salut particulier aux jeunes lycéens et à leurs accompagnateurs. Que ce séjour à Rome soit pour chacun l’occasion de découvrir le Christ et son message, qui donne du sens à toute existence, à travers ceux qui ont transmis sa Parole et donné leur vie pour Lui! A tous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the grace and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dem innigen Wunsch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, Ihr möget Euch dieser besonderen Aufgabe in der Welt und in der menschlichen Gesellschaft neu bewußt werden, erteile ich Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen und allen, die Euch nahestehen, von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Junto a estas reflexiones, presento mi más afectuoso saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitantes procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España. En particular, al grupo de Diputados mexicanos y esposas, y a los estudiantes de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina). Que vuestra visita a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, fortalezca vuestra fe para dar valientemente testimonio de ella en vuestra vida familiar, profesional y social.

En señal de benevolencia y prenda de la constante asistencia divina os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski - poczynając od tych biskupów i arcybiskupów, którzy tutaj są z grupą biskupów z ruchu “ Focolari ” - oraz nastêpujące grupy: z Krakowa, z parafii Najświętszej Maryi Panny Matki Kościoła; z Niepołomic, z parafii Dziesieciu Tysięcy Męczenników i św. Karola; z dekanatu w Dąbrowie Tarnowskiej i Szczucinie; z Jarosławia - ministranci; z Polkowic w diecezji legnickiej - parafia Matki Bożej Królowej Polski; z Ostrowa Wielkopolskiego - parafia św. Antoniego. Prócz tego uczestnicy grup turystycznych: z Katowic, z Opola i Łodzi - “Mistral”, “Itaka”, “Odys”; oraz inni jeszcze uczestnicy tej audiencji, pochodzący bądź z kraju, bądź z emigracji.

Ai gruppi di fedeli italiani

Accolgo con gioia i numerosi Vescovi, convenuti da vari Paesi del mondo per un incontro promosso dal Movimento dei Focolari. Sento il bisogno di elevare in questo momento una speciale preghiera per il compianto Monsignor Klaus Hemmerle, che di tali incontri fu l’iniziatore: il Signore gli doni il premio del suo zelante impegno apostolico.

Fratelli carissimi, il tema della vostra riunione - il legame tra evangelizzazione e testimonianza dell’amore reciproco e dell’unità - sta particolarmente a cuore al Successore di Pietro che ha uno specifico compito a servizio dell’unità. Dopo duemila anni di Cristianesimo, sentiamo più che mai urgente ed esigente il desiderio di Gesù: “Che siano una cosa sola, perché il mondo creda” (Gv 17, 21). È un desiderio che ci incalza e non ci dà pace, finché non si sia realizzato. Auguro che le riflessioni e le testimonianze di questi giorni aiutino ciascuno di voi nel lavoro quotidiano al servizio del Vangelo e della comunione ecclesiale, a servizio dell’unità voluta da Cristo.

Do il benvenuto alla rappresentanza della Scuola di Fanteria di Cesano di Roma. Cari militari, mentre vi preparate a svolgere un compito qualificato per il bene della Nazione, sappiate dare la giusta importanza alla formazione spirituale e morale, facendo tesoro del patrimonio di valori che la fede cristiana vi offre.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora il mio cordiale saluto ai giovani presenti a questa Udienza, ai cari ammalati ed alle coppie di sposi novelli. Carissimi, in un mondo che continua ad essere lacerato da contrasti profondi e apparentemente insanabili, siate segno di un progetto di liberazione totale che affonda le sue radici nella Parola del Vangelo.

Voi, giovani, portate nella società l’entusiasmo del vostro impegno di speranza e di condivisione. Voi, ammalati, offrite l’apporto prezioso della vostra preghiera e dell’offerta quotidiana della sofferenza. E voi, cari sposi novelli, costruite una comunità familiare fondata sull’amore autentico, sul dialogo sincero e sulla solidarietà con il prossimo.

La mia Benedizione vi accompagni sempre!

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