| Year 2000 Canonical Studies, 2000, pp. 1-8
THE ROLE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH IN THE THIRD MILLENNUM
(Archbishop Henry D’Souza Archbishop of Calcutta)
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Inaugural Address:

1.0 In the post-synodal document Ecclesia In Asia, Pope John Paul II wrote: “With the Church throughout world, the Church in Asia will cross the threshold of the third Christian millennium marveling at all that God has worked from the beginning until now, and strong in the knowledge that “just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent” (EA 1).

1.1 This is indeed a dream. If it is to come true, the responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the lay faithful, more than on the priests and other religious workers. “By the grace and call of baptism and confirmation, all lay people are missionaries; and the arena of their missionary work is the vast complex worlds of politics, economics, industry, education, the media, science, technology, the arts and the sports” (EA 45). In fact the past history of some countries in Asia indicates the important role played by lay persons in the task of evangelization. Korea stands out as the foremost example; the faith was brought there and flourished because of laypersons who received it on their journeys to China. Japan too is a shining example. The faith was kept alive for years through laypersons. The same has been the case in more recent years for the Church in China and the Church in Vietnam and Cambodia - where clerical help was at the minimum and the faith continued to exist and to grow with the faith of the lay faithful. Even in our land, it is the through catechists and lay faithful that the faith has been kept alive and has flourished in villages and outlying stations.

1.2 The topic, chosen for your conference is “The role of the laity in the Church of the new millennium”, is very appropriate. It fits into the dream of the Holy Father for the evangelization of Asia. This dream in fact realizable only if the laity take their rightful place in the mission of the Church.

2.0 Some concerns:

2.1 Formation and the role of pastors: The document Ecclesia in Asia, is clear that the formation of the laity for the task ahead is the responsibility of the pastors. It says: “It is the task of the Pastors to ensure that the laity are formed as evangelizers able to face the challengers of the contemporary world, not just with worldly wisdom and efficiency, but hearts renewed and

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