Vatican symposium to explore relationship between priests and laity

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA


Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. / Franco Origlio/Getty Images News.

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican will hold an international symposium next week to discuss the theology of the relationship between Catholic priests and the laity.

The conference, “For a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood,” will take place Feb. 17-19 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. The symposium was first announced in April 2021.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, has organized the meeting together with the France-based Research and Anthropology Center for Vocations.

“The initiative proposes to reawaken enthusiasm for our faith in the gift of God and to give new zeal to the promotion of vocations,” organizers said.

According to a press release: “Bishops, clergy, laypeople and religious will meet for a moment of reflection and study on the relations between ordained ministers, and lay and religious members, with a view to harmonizing their contribution, which will be articulated and in line with the call to holiness addressed to each one.”

The three-day symposium will begin with an introduction from Pope Francis on faith and the priesthood today.

Around 500 priests, bishops, religious, and other Catholics are expected to attend.

The sessions will be chaired by the heads of dicasteries in the Roman Curia, while Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Vatican’s Christian unity council, will also be a featured speaker.

Theologians and other Catholic experts will present on topics including the Fathers of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, priestly celibacy, the pastoral challenges of the priesthood, vocational formation, and the complementarity of the different states of life.

A roundtable on women and ministry will take place on the second day, Feb. 18.

The symposium on vocations will be one of the first Vatican conferences to be held in-person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cardinal Ouellet told Vatican News on Wednesday that the conference will address the “fundamental priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood.”

“Usually, when we think of priesthood we think of the priests and bishops and so on, but the fundamental priesthood is the priesthood of the baptized: we are part of the Body of Christ and as such, we participate in the mediation of the Church, the participation of the Church in the Priesthood of Christ,” he said.

Ouellet also explained that while priestly celibacy will be a topic at the symposium, it is not within the conference’s scope “to decide whether we will keep obligatory celibacy or not.”

Other speakers at the event will include French theologian and Dominican priest Father Serge-Thomas Bonino, German biblical scholar Robert Vorholt, Italian theologian Father Piero Coda, and French theologian and religious Sister Alexandra Diriart.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will give the closing presentation on the topic of the priesthood and mission.

Each day of the symposium will include an opportunity to attend Mass.

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  1. The endangering “laicization of the clergy and the clericalization of the laity,” a confusion already warned against in the Documents of Vatican II…

    Combined with the refreshing but fluid exploratory style of the synodal documents (the Preparatory Document and the Vademecum), this event hopefully clarifies and even restores needed distinctions and responsibilities, earlier rather than later (e.g., complementarity of roles, not confusion; differing in kind as well as degree). The troubling aspect of the current form of synodality is that the “walking together” is translated into the additive politics of simply moving things along—that is, the stages of synthesis (parish, diocesan, continental, and Vatican?) are limited to “aggregated,” “compiled” and “collated feedback” and curious “minority reports.” Crockpot theology!

    While the apostolic and hierarchical communion of the Church is briefly reaffirmed, here and there, in the synodal documents, nevertheless, the successors of the apostles are too-much reduced to serving “primarily as facilitators.”

    At what points in the synodal process are, yes, the very likely drops of cyanide (e.g., accompaniment/accommodation of the homosexual lifestyle) removed from the composted super-synthesis at the Synod on Synodality in 2022-2023?

  2. Certainly laity should be apostles of the faith. Although when Cardinal Ouellet poses this charisma as a theological rather than pastoral agenda to be explored, then it suggests a confluence of the priesthood of the faithful by baptism, and the ordained appointed by laying on of hands by a bishop.
    What occurs when the distinction is blurred is mitigation of the explicit apostolic ministry of the ordained, and, in effect, the priesthood of Christ with which the ordained priesthood identifies. We are to look to Christ crucified both priest and victim as head of the Body and him alone.

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