| Year 2000 Canonical Studies, pp. 9-39
THE ROLE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH IN THE NEW MILLENNUM
(AArchbishop Antony Anandarayar Archbishop of Pondicherry)
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Introduction

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation the Holy Father Pope John Paul II declared prophetically that the third millennium will be of the lay people. There seems to be an implicit admission that the second millennium has not been that of the laity1. There has been a number of studies on the role and mission of the laity in the last fifty years. The documents of Vatican II, specifically Lumen Gentium, Apostolicam Actuasitatem and Ad Gentes, the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici and the Codes of Canon Law CIC 1983 & CCEO have dwelt on laity quite elaborately. Still, laity have to come to their own in the Church and realize more fully the vision of holy Father.

1. Evolution of the Role of Laity

1.1 Etymological Meaning

The terms lay, layman, and laity are all derived from the Greek word ‘laikos’ which is an adjective, meaning popular or common or not sacred or secular. It refers to a person who does not belong to the specific category of those who govern but is a member of the common people. In the Bible, the word ‘laos’ is used both in the inclusive and exclusive meanings. While in the inclusive usage it includes all the members, in the exclusive usage, it makes a distinction between the leaders and the rest of the people. One cannot accept the proposition that exclusive usage is of a later origin since even Clement of Rome in his letter to the Church of Corinth used the term in this sense and philological studies confirm this2.

1.2. The Role of the Laity in the Early Church

The Early Christians community was very conscious about its special status as the Chosen race, a Royal priesthood, a Holy nation, God’s own people. For his reason the Fathers often address letters or treatises to the laity and emphasize the duty of every Christian, without distinction, to work for the good of the brothers according to their individual charisms. The laity shared in the administration. In the first centuries the common faithful took part in the election of presbyters and bishops and spoke in synodal meetings.

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1. George Nedungatt, Laity and Church Temporalities Appraisal of a Tradition, Dharmaram Publications, Bangalore, 2000, p. 67.

2. Ibid. p. 70

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