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In an article published by L'Osservatore Romano today-- the sixth article commenting on the recent Vatican instruction on collaboration between the clergy and the laity-- the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reflected that the Vatican's warnings in that document were prompted by abuses which are common particularly in Northern Europe, but also in North America and Australia. It is important, he said, to avoid further confusion about the different roles of clerics and lay people.
Cardinal Ratzinger urged that any lay people who are being trained for collaborative ministries should be given "adequate, coherent theological and pastoral formation." That training, he added, should guard against the development of a "functional," or "pragmatic," or "utilitarian" view of Church ministry. It should also clearly indicate the special role of the sacerdotal priesthood, and inculcate a strong "sense of the Church." Such formation, the cardinal considered, will avoid two related problems: the "devaluation" of the priestly ministry and the "clericalization" of the laity.
Cardinal Ratzinger deplored the "relaxation" of Church norms regarding the roles of priests and lay workers, saying that this trend has led to theological confusion. When lay people no longer clearly understand the distinction between "extraordinary" ministers and ordained priests, he noted, there will be much less attraction to priestly vocations, and lay people may slip into an exaggerated understanding of the "priesthood of all believers"-- an understanding that is common in Protestant communions.
The Vatican instruction, the cardinal pointed out, is fully supportive of lay people and their work for the Church. A proper recognition of the lay vocation, he said, would lead to a deeper understanding for the responsibilities of lay people in evangelization, religious instruction, and the work of transforming society.
Speaking at his Wednesday catechetical audience, the Holy Father commented on "the rather slow understanding of the Kingdom of God in the world." He said that slow progress should lead believers to put their confidence in God's plan of salvation, and to recognize the need for patience. Noting that Jesus rebuked the impatience of his own apostles, and that the Old Testament is filled with evidence of the anxious desire to see the Messiah, the Pontiff said that Christians must await the favorable moment for evangelization, while always devoting their best energies to the task.
The faith is "put to the test" by many different obstacles, John Paul pointed out, and at times missionary work appears to be ineffective. At other times the growth of the Church is much more rapid, and conversions become more frequent.
Through all those times, the Pope taught, the responsibility of Christians is the same: to preach the Gospel throughout the world. The Holy Spirit will make up whatever is lacking in human efforts, he said, producing "new prodigies of grace in the work of evangelization." The Pope underlined the fact that evangelization is the responsibility of all Christians, regardless of their state in life; it is a duty for everyone who is baptized.
Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has a population of 2 million people, most of them ethnic Albanians. Unlike the majority of Serbs, who are Orthodox, these natives of Kosovo are mostly Muslim or Catholic. Bishop Sopi noted that the recent clashes have been most intense in Muslim neighborhoods. However, he noted that one recent burst of violence involved a police assault on women and children leaving a mid-day Mass at a local Catholic church.
For months Kosovo has been the site of heated disputes because the Serbian government has refused to allow traditional schools to continue educating children in Albanian. Bishop Sopi said that the only peaceful solution to the latest violence would come if and when the Serbian government honors the ethnic culture of the people in Kosovo, and allows the re-opening of the Albanian schools.
At midnight with 257 out of 356 precincts reporting, Lois Capps had received 66,424 votes to state Assemblyman Tom Bordonaro's 54,635. The election called to fill the seat vacated when Walter Capps died last October had been the object of intense campaigning by various special-interest groups honing their messages for the fall congressional elections. In his concession speech, Bordonaro congratulated his opponent, but said he will oppose her again in November. Capps' term will end in January.
While Democrat and liberal analysts tried to cast the vote as an indicator of trends for the congressional elections this fall, Republicans and conservatives said the campaign came down to local issues of education, health care, and the environment despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by special interests. They also pointed to other special congressional elections held in the past year in which Republicans won as indicators that no set trend can be predicted.