Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis Antiquum ministerium

Pope Francis has instituted by means of this letter the lay ministry of catechist. A ministry that "has a strong vocational value" and "requires due discernment by the Bishop and is evidenced by the Rite of Institution.

David Fernández Alonso-May 11, 2021-Reading time: 9 minutes


Antiquum ministerium


1. The ministry of Catechist in the Church is very ancient. It is a common opinion among theologians that the first examples are to be found in the writings of the New Testament. The service of teaching finds its first germinal form in the "teachers", to whom the Apostle refers when writing to the Corinthian community: "God has appointed everyone in the Church in this way: first of all there are the apostles, secondly the prophets, and thirdly the teachers; then come those who have the power to work miracles, then the charisms of healing sickness, of assisting the needy, of government and of speaking a mysterious language. Are they all apostles? or all prophets? or all teachers? Or are they all prophets, or are they all teachers, or can they all work miracles, or do they all have the charism of healing illnesses, or do they all speak a mysterious language, or do they all interpret these languages? Prefer the more valuable charisms. Moreover, I want to show you an exceptional charism" (1 Co 12,28-31).

At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke himself affirms: "I too, illustrious Theophilus, have carefully investigated everything from its origins and it seemed good to me to write you this orderly account, so that you may know the solidity of the teachings in which you were instructed" (1:3-4). The evangelist seems to be well aware that with his writings he is providing a specific form of teaching that allows him to give solidity and strength to those who have already received Baptism. The apostle Paul returns to this theme when he recommends to the Galatians: "Let him who is instructed in the Word share all good things with his catechist" (6:6). The text, as can be seen, adds a fundamental peculiarity: the communion of life as a characteristic of the fruitfulness of the true catechesis received.

2. From its origins, the Christian community has experienced a broad form of ministry that has taken the form of the service of men and women who, obedient to the action of the Holy Spirit, have dedicated their lives to the building up of the Church. The charisms, which the Spirit has never ceased to infuse in the baptized, found at certain times a visible and tangible form of direct service to the Christian community in multiple expressions, to the point of being recognized as an indispensable diaconia for the community. The apostle Paul is an authoritative interpreter of this when he testifies: "There are different charisms, but the same Spirit. There are different services, but the Lord is the same. There are diverse functions, but it is the same God who works all in all. To each one, God grants the manifestation of the Spirit for the benefit of all. To one, through the Spirit, God grants to speak with wisdom, and to another, according to the same Spirit, to speak with intelligence. To one, God grants, by the same Spirit, faith, and to another, by the same Spirit, the charism of healing diseases. And to others to work miracles, or prophecy, or the discernment of spirits, or to speak a mysterious language, or to interpret those languages. All this is done by the one and only Spirit, who distributes to each one his gifts as he wills" (1 Co 12,4-11).

Therefore, within the great charismatic tradition of the New Testament, it is possible to recognize the active presence of the baptized who exercised the ministry of transmitting the teaching of the apostles and evangelists in a more organic and permanent way, linked to the different circumstances of life (cf. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Const. Dei Verbum, 8). The Church has sought to recognize this service as a concrete expression of a personal charism that has greatly favored the exercise of her evangelizing mission. A glance at the life of the first Christian communities that were committed to the spread and development of the Gospel also today urges the Church to understand what new expressions can be used to continue to be faithful to the Word of the Lord in order to bring his Gospel to every creature.

The entire history of evangelization over the past two millennia shows how effective the mission of catechists has been. Bishops, priests and deacons, together with so many consecrated men and women, dedicated their lives to catechetical teaching so that the faith could be a valid support for the personal existence of every human being. Some, moreover, gathered around themselves other brothers and sisters who, sharing the same charism, constituted religious Orders dedicated entirely to the service of catechesis.

We cannot forget the countless lay men and women who participated directly in spreading the Gospel through catechetical teaching. Men and women animated by a great faith and authentic witnesses of holiness who, in some cases, were also founders of Churches and went so far as to give their lives. Even today, many capable and steadfast catechists are at the head of communities in various regions and carry out an irreplaceable mission in the transmission and deepening of the faith. The long list of blessed, saints and martyr catechists has marked the mission of the Church, which deserves to be known because it constitutes a fruitful source not only for catechesis, but for the whole history of Christian spirituality.

4. Since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Church has perceived with renewed awareness the importance of the commitment of the laity in the work of evangelization. The Council Fathers have repeatedly stressed how necessary is the direct involvement of the lay faithful, according to the various forms in which their charism can be expressed, for the "evangelization of the world".plantatio Ecclesiae"and the development of the Christian community. "Worthy of praise is also that most worthy legion of the work of the missions among the Gentiles, that is, the catechists, men and women, who, full of apostolic spirit, give with great sacrifices a singular and entirely necessary help for the propagation of the faith and of the Church. In our day, the office of catechists is of extraordinary importance because there are so few clerics to evangelize so many people and to exercise the pastoral ministry" (CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Decr. Ad gentes, 17).

In addition to the rich conciliar teaching, it is necessary to refer to the constant interest of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Synod of Bishops, the Episcopal Conferences and the various Pastors who, in the course of these decades, have promoted a notable renewal of catechesis. The Catechism of the Catholic Churchthe Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendaethe General Catechetical Directorythe General Directory for Catechesisthe recent Directory for Catechesisas well as many Catechisms The national, regional and diocesan catechetical programs are an expression of the central value of catechetical work, which places the instruction and ongoing formation of believers at the forefront.

5. Without detracting in any way from the proper mission of the Bishop, who is the first catechist in his diocese together with the presbyterate, with whom he shares the same pastoral care, and from the particular responsibility of parents with regard to the Christian formation of their children (cf. CIC c. 774 §2; CCEO c. 618), it is necessary to recognize the presence of lay men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, feel called to collaborate in the service of catechesis (cf. CIC c. 225; CCEO cc. 401. 406). In our own day, this presence is even more urgent because of the renewed awareness of evangelization in the contemporary world (cf. Evangelii gaudium163-168), and to the imposition of a globalized culture (cf. Encyclical Letter, p. 4). Fratelli tutti100. 138), which calls for an authentic encounter with the younger generations, without forgetting the need for creative methodologies and instruments that make the proclamation of the Gospel coherent with the missionary transformation that the Church has undertaken. Fidelity to the past and responsibility for the present are the indispensable conditions for the Church to carry out her mission in the world.

Awakening the personal enthusiasm of each baptized person and rekindling the awareness of being called to carry out one's own mission in the community requires listening to the voice of the Spirit who never ceases to be present in a fruitful way (cf. CIC c. 774 §1; CCEO c. 617). Today too, the Spirit calls men and women to go out to meet all those who hope to know the beauty, goodness and truth of the Christian faith. It is the task of Pastors to support this journey and to enrich the life of the Christian community with the recognition of lay ministries capable of contributing to the transformation of society through "the penetration of Christian values into the social, political and economic world" (Evangelii gaudium, 102).

6. The lay apostolate possesses an indisputable secular value, which calls for "seeking to obtain the kingdom of God by managing temporal affairs and ordering them according to God" (CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Const. Lumen gentium, 31). Their daily life is intertwined with family and social ties and relationships that make it possible to verify to what extent "they are especially called to make the Church present and active in those places and circumstances where it can only become salt of the earth through them" (Lumen gentium, 33). However, it is good to remember that in addition to this apostolate "the laity can also be called in various ways to a more immediate collaboration with the apostolate of the Hierarchy, just like those men and women who helped the apostle Paul in evangelization, working hard for the Lord" (Lumen gentium, 33).

The particular role of the catechist, however, is to be specified in the context of other services in the Christian community. Catechists, in fact, are called in the first place to show their competence in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith, which is carried out in its various stages: from the first proclamation that introduces the kerygmaThe teaching that makes people aware of their new life in Christ and prepares them in particular for the sacraments of Christian initiation, to the ongoing formation that enables each baptized person to be always ready "to give an answer to all who ask them to give a reason for their hope" (1 P 3,15). Catechists are at the same time witnesses to the faith, teachers and mystagogues, companions and pedagogues who teach in the name of the Church. This identity can only be developed with consistency and responsibility through prayer, study and direct participation in the life of the community (cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PROMOTION OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION, Directory for Catechesis, 113).

7. With foresight, St. Paul VI promulgated the Apostolic Letter Ministeria quaedam with the intention not only of adapting the ministries of Lector and Acolyte to the new historic moment (cf. Spiritus Domini), but also to urge the Episcopal Conferences to be promoters of other ministries, including that of Catechist: "In addition to the ministries common to the whole Latin Church, nothing prevents the Episcopal Conferences from asking the Apostolic See to institute others which for particular reasons they consider necessary or very useful in their own region. Among these are, for example, the office of Ostiarioof Exorcist and of Catechist". The same urgent invitation reappeared in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi when, asking to know how to read the current needs of the Christian community in faithful continuity with the origins, he exhorted to find new ministerial forms for a renewed pastoral care: "Such ministries, new in appearance but closely linked to experiences lived by the Church throughout her existence - for example, that of catechist [...] - are precious for the establishment, life and growth of the Church and for her capacity to radiate around her and towards those who are far away" (SAINT PAUL VI, Exhort. appendix II, p. 4). Evangelii nuntiandi, 73).

It cannot be denied, therefore, that "awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church has grown. There is a large number of laity, although not enough, with a deep-rooted sense of community and great fidelity in the commitment to charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith.Evangelii gaudium, 102). It follows that receiving a lay ministry such as that of Catechist gives greater emphasis to the missionary commitment proper to each baptized person, which in any case should be carried out in a fully secular manner without falling into any expression of clericalization.

8. This ministry possesses a strong vocational value that requires due discernment on the part of the Bishop and is evidenced by the Rite of Institution. In fact, this is a stable service rendered to the local Church according to the pastoral needs identified by the local Ordinary, but carried out in a lay manner as required by the very nature of the ministry. It is desirable that men and women of deep faith and human maturity be called to the instituted ministry of Catechist, who are actively involved in the life of the Christian community, who can be welcoming, generous and live in fraternal communion, who have received the proper biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation to be attentive communicators of the truth of the faith, and who have already acquired a previous experience of catechesis (cf. CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Decr. Christus Dominus14; CIC c. 231 §1; CCEO c. 409 §1). They are required to be faithful collaborators of priests and deacons, ready to exercise ministry wherever necessary, and animated by true apostolic enthusiasm.

Consequently, after having weighed each aspect, by virtue of apostolic authority

the lay ministry of Catechist

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will soon publish the Rite of Institution of the Lay Ministry of Catechist.

9. I therefore invite the Bishops' Conferences to make the ministry of catechist effective by establishing the necessary itinerary The members of the Institute will be able to identify the most coherent forms of formation and the normative criteria for accessing it, finding the most coherent forms for the service that they will be called to carry out in conformity with what is expressed in this Apostolic Letter.

10. The Synods of the Oriental Churches or the Assemblies of the Hierarchs may adopt what is established herein for their respective Churches. sui iurisbased on its own particular law.

11. Pastors should not fail to make their own the exhortation of the Council Fathers when they recalled: "They know that they have not been instituted by Christ to assume alone the whole salvific mission of the Church in the world, but that their eminent function consists in shepherding the faithful and recognizing their services and charisms in such a way that all, in their own way, cooperate unanimously in the common work" (Lumen gentium, 30). May the discernment of the gifts that the Holy Spirit never ceases to bestow on his Church be for them the necessary support to make the ministry of Catechist effective for the growth of their own community.

That which has been established with this Apostolic Letter in the form of a "Motu Proprio", I order that it be firmly and stably in force, notwithstanding any contrary disposition, even if worthy of particular mention, and that it be promulgated through its publication in L'Osservatore RomanoThe following day, and subsequently to be published in the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on the 10th day of May in the year 2021, the liturgical memorial of Saint John of Avila, priest and doctor of the Church, ninth of my pontificate.


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