Catholic bishops in the Philippines affirmed the important role of lay people in the Church’s response to crises and in the pursuit of its mission to serve the poor.
The country’s church leaders called for an “empowered laity” as the Philippine Catholic Church observes National Laity Week from September 19 to 26.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, acting president of the bishops’ conference, said an “empowered laity is a compliment” to the clergy.
“When [lay people] allow our parishes to become inward-looking and self-referential instead of mission-oriented, it could only mean the Church remains sick with the terrible disease of clericalism,” said the prelate.
He urged the laity to “meaningfully and effectively participate in the mission of the Church, not just through ‘churchy ministries,’ but more especially through transformative involvement in society and in the world.”
In an interview with LiCAS.news Bishop David warned that if lay people remain passive and apathetic to the sufferings of others, “it means that we have failed in our role as ordained ministers of the Church.”
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the laity have “an important and irreplaceable role” in the Church’s response to the current health and economic situation.
He said the generosity of lay people to help those who are in great need is the core of every mission for the sick, the hungry, and the needy.
This year’s observance carries the theme “Shema: Hear the groaning of Mother Earth, Hear the cry of the Poor, and Hear the call and promise for unity and solidarity.”
Bishop Pabillo, who heads of the Commission on Laity of the bishops’ conference, encouraged the faithful “to hear all these cries” and “to respond.”
“We are summoned not just to hear but to listen and to respond. May this celebration impress on the laity the importance of their vocation,” he said.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos called on the lay faithful to “use our collective power” to champion the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si.
The prelate said the Week of the Laity, which coincides with the observance of the Season of Creation, “invites us to choose a simple and sustainable lifestyle.”
He called on Catholic faithful working in government agencies and in the energy sector to uphold the promotion of renewable energy.
“It is part of integral evangelization, particularly of an integral ecology that our Holy Father speaks about that our laity as consumers make a clear stand on clean energy sources,” he said.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon, reminded the faithful that they are “the biggest portion of the Church,” adding that “all are endowed with the dignity of the common priesthood.”
“The essence of the ordained priesthood is to serve the common priesthood, which in turn is obliged to offer true sacrifice,” said the prelate.
During this time of the pandemic, Bishop Bastes said the “general priesthood is called to do service for others even unto sacrificing their lives so that others may live.”
On September 26, the Archdiocese of Cebu will host the closing ceremony of the National Laity Week, following a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.