Spain

The Church wants to enhance the evangelizing conversion of the laity in 2020

The Congress of the Laity 2020 will take place in mid-February in Madrid, There is expectation, enthusiasm and work. The aim is to promote a missionary conversion of the laity from their baptismal commitment, explains Luis Manuel Romero, coordinator of the congress, to Palabra.

Rafael Miner-January 8, 2020-Reading time: 6 minutes

The Congress of the Laity organized by the Spanish Bishops' Conference (CEE) in February has "two key words: process and synodality. That is, the Congress is not an event or a one-weekend event (Madrid, February 14-16, 2020), but a synodal process, a journey that we began a few months ago in the pre-Congress stage, listening to the laity in the dioceses, movements and associations." The speaker is Luis Manuel Romero Sánchez, director of the Episcopal Commission for the Secular Apostolate (CEAS) and coordinator of the Congress of the Laity 2020. 

"The starting point is to help rediscover that all the baptized, therefore also the laity, are called to be missionary disciples, to discover the importance of living the baptismal commitment in the Church and in the world....Luis Manuel Romero adds, "and its success is "that there be a continuity, the post-congress, which will mean the return to the dioceses with the desire to revitalize and energize the laity".

Luis Manuel Romero knows the upcoming congress in detail, and we asked him a few questions. 

Origin of the Congress

-What was the genesis of the 2020 Laity Congress and what are, in summary, the objectives of its celebration for the coming months and years?

This initiative of the preparation and organization of the Congress of the Laity is a proposal of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which is entrusted to the Episcopal Commission for the Lay Apostolate, and is born as a result of the plenary assembly of April 2018, where a paper on the laity is presented. Then, the Assembly decided that it would be appropriate to organize a congress of the laity, to energize and promote the lay apostolate in our dioceses. And it is made to coincide with a congress that was to be held at the conclusion of the Pastoral Plan of the EEC (2016-2020): Church in mission at the service of our people.

The Congress of the Laity, in line with the magisterium of Pope Francis, who is asking us, in this change of era, for a new evangelizing spirit, which consists of a missionary pastoral conversion, has as its general objective: to promote the pastoral and missionary conversion of the laity in the People of God, as a sign and instrument of the proclamation of the Gospel of hope and joy, to accompany men and women in their yearnings and needs, on their journey towards a fuller life. 

The theme of the Congress, People of God on the way outThe purpose is to strengthen the role of the laity in a Church that is the People of God, synodal, whose fundamental vocation is evangelization, mission in the world, in the environments.  

Other specific objectives are: a) to become aware of the baptismal vocation of the laity for the mission; b) to promote political charity; c) to transmit, through discernment, a look of hope in the face of the challenges of our society; d) to foster communion and e) to make visible the reality of the laity. 

Target audience and objectives

-Who is involved, to whom is it addressed in a special way, and from whom is a more intense participation expected? All the Christian faithful? 

The main addressees of the process, in general, and of the Congress, in particular, are: the non-associated lay people of the parish, who are the vast majority. We refer to the lay faithful who are in various parish and diocesan areas: family, youth, elderly, teaching, university, catechesis, Caritas, brotherhoods and confraternities. Also lay associates, members of movements and associations, present in our dioceses and at the national level; and thirdly, those baptized who have not yet been incorporated into the life and pastoral dynamics of our parishes and movements and associations. This process can help the emergence of new reflection groups for lay people who are not participating in anything or are more distant from the Church.  

-It seems to be given priority to formative processes in five aspects (being Christians in the heart of the world, charismatic vitality, what is MAG+S, five-point formation, and marriage encounter). 

The Congress will revolve around four itineraries: the first announcement, accompaniment, formation processes and presence in public life. And in the background there are two transversal issues: discernment and synodality. We have chosen these themes because we think they are the fundamental aspects that Pope Francis is highlighting in his Magisterium for the Church in general and in a particular way for the laity, who are the vast majority of the People of God. 

And if I had to underline some of these issues, I would highlight the transversal themes. The Congress has to help us to situate ourselves as Church in Spain in the key of discernment, of mutual listening and of the Holy Spirit, in order to glimpse new evangelizing paths. 

"The Congress will revolve around four itineraries: the first announcement, accompaniment, formation processes and presence in public life. And in the background there are two cross-cutting issues: discernment and synodality."

Luis Manuel Romero2020 Laity Congress Coordinator

Moreover, synodality should be the renewed face of our Church, which desires to have a multifaceted image. It is essential at this time to foster communion between pastors, religious life and the laity, avoiding the tendency to clericalism, feeling that we are all co-responsible for the evangelizing mission. 

-Can you offer the support of any document of Pope Francis and/or previous Popes, which can serve as reading and training for all those who wish to participate or be more aware of the Congress?

The Congress, in terms of the reflection it is following, has its roots in the Magisterium that appears in the Second Vatican Council and in a particular way in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium

Then we can find two important texts of the universal and particular Magisterium of the Church in Spain, which refer to the laity as a specific theme: the apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici (John Paul II, year 1988) and the document Lay Christians, Church in the world (EEC, 1991). 

And at the present time, we are inspired by the magisterium of Pope Francis, especially his programmatic apostolic exhortation, from a pastoral point of view: Evangelii gaudium (year 2013). 

Missionary vocation and accompaniment

-One of the members of the Executive Committee, Isaac Martín, has stressed the process character of this congress, and what are called four itineraries in the vocation and mission of the laity are being highlighted. Can you explain this issue?

There are two key words to understand this initiative of the Congress of the Laity: process and continuity. That is to say, the Congress is not an event or a one-weekend event, but a synodal process, a path that we started a few months ago in the pre-Congress stage, listening to the laity in the dioceses, movements and associations.

The weekend of February will be a time of communion, dialogue and deepening of what has been previously reflected upon. And the success of the Congress is that there will be a continuity, the post-congress, which will mean the return to the dioceses with the desire to revitalize and energize the laity. In all this process we are guided by those four itineraries that I have already mentioned (first announcement, accompaniment, formation processes and presence in public life) and that will mark a path for the future in our church. 

-It seems that another of the topics to be addressed will also be accompaniment in different life situations, a topic that was discussed at the Synod on young people. Is this the case?

The issue of accompaniment is crucial in our Church at this time, because the explicit proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ must be followed by continuity. I think that an error in our pastoral ministry, at least in recent years, has been to forget the question of accompaniment and that is why many young people, especially, have left the Church. 

Many lay people ask to feel accompanied by pastors and their Christian communities, especially when they decide to carry out a Christian commitment in the world, in the environments, in the peripheries. 

"The Congress has as its starting point to help rediscover that all the baptized, therefore also the laity, are called to be missionary disciples."

Luis Manuel Romero2020 Laity Congress Coordinator

In the Congress of the Laity we cannot forget this question of accompaniment, because following the example of Jesus with his disciples and with other people, the Church has to favor today more than ever the culture of encounter against the culture of discarding. The need/task of accompanying, in every concrete reality, reflects very well the pastoral feeling of this time because it puts into action the mission of compassion that every believer has received in order to make the Lord and his Kingdom present, through a relationship characterized by hospitality, pedagogy and mystagogy. 

-Does the congress plan to touch in any way on the vocation of missionary disciples and evangelization?

The Congress has as its starting point to help rediscover that all the baptized, including the laity, are called to be missionary disciples, to discover the importance of living the baptismal commitment in the Church and in the world. 

The aspect of evangelization, of witness in the midst of the world, will be very present in the fourth itinerary, which refers to the presence in public life. We cannot forget that it is up to the laity, in their own particular way, even if not exclusively, to give witness to their faith in the environments, in the heart of the world. 

-Are there any other topics you consider of interest for the next Congress of the Laity?

I would like to emphasize that this Congress of the Laity is a synodal process that seeks, in a climate of discernment and listening, to help us to become more and more the People of God going forth, in which we feel in communion, co-responsible for the evangelizing mission that the Lord has entrusted to us.

I encourage all of us to approach this Congress with an attitude of joy and hope, with confidence in the Holy Spirit who guides the Church. 

I am convinced that the laity are not the past, nor the future of our Church, but the present.

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