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Castel Gandolfo, 10 August 2004

The Church needs Catholic Action!

Message for the First International Congress on Catholic Action

Last update: 22 March 2024


International Congress on Catholic Action
Duc in altum Catholic Action

Rome – Loreto, 31 August/5 September 2004


1. “Duc in altum, Catholic Action. Have the courage of the future!” This was the invitation I addressed to the delegates of the XI National Assembly of Italian Catholic Action, on 26 April 2002. I am pleased to see that this appeal of mine has been adopted as the commitment and motto for the International Congress on Catholic Action, which will open in Rome on 31 August 2004, on the initiative of the International Forum of Catholic Action and Italian Catholic Action, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
I wish to address my warmest greetings to all the leaders and assistants of Catholic Action from the different countries gathered at Domus Pacis. In a special way, I greet with fraternal affection the Cardinals and venerable Brothers in the Episcopate who have wished to participate in this important event.

2. “Having the courage of the future” is an attitude that does not arise from a voluntarist choice, but takes consistency and impetus from the memory of the precious gift that has been Catholic Action since its inception. Originating, according to my predecessor Pope Pius XI of v.m., from a ‘providential inspiration’, it has been an aggregative, structuring and propulsive force of that contemporary current of ‘promotion of the laity’ that found solemn confirmation in the Second Vatican Council. In it, generations of faithful have matured their vocation along an itinerary of Christian formation that has led them to the full awareness of their own co-responsibility in the building of the Church, stimulating their apostolic impetus in all spheres of life. How can we fail to recall, on this occasion, that the conciliar Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity acknowledged this praiseworthy tradition, strongly recommending it? (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem, 20). The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, as well as my numerous interventions on the occasion of the various Assemblies of Italian Catholic Action, have taken up the conciliar recommendations with vigour, helping to overcome some of the tarnished and difficult situations.
Today I would like to repeat once again: the Church needs Catholic Action! Memory must not be reduced to a nostalgic retreat into the past, but must become an awareness of a precious gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the Church, an inheritance that is called, at this dawn of the third millennium, to bring forth new fruits of holiness and apostolate, extending the ‘plantatio’ of the Association to many other local Churches in different countries.

3. The time has come for that revival to which your multiform realities bear witness. There are many indications that give hope in the kairos of a new springtime of the Gospel! This great responsibility that engages all of you together with your Pastors, and which involves the entire Church, calls for a humble and courageous decision to “begin again from Christ”, in the knowledge that you are sustained by the omnipresent power of the Spirit. All the lay faithful, aware of their baptismal vocation and the three commitments – priestly, prophetic, royal – that flow from it, can be involved in this great task. Confident in God’s grace and sustained by a lively sense of belonging to the Church as the ‘home and school of communion’, the lay faithful listen to the teachings and directives of the Pastors in order to be their efficient collaborators in the building up of the ecclesial communities to which they belong.
Every Christian is committed to witnessing how his or her life is changed by grace and moved by charity. “This will be possible if the lay faithful know how to overcome within themselves the gap between the Gospel and life, recomposing in their daily activities in the family, at work and in society, the unity of a life that finds in the Gospel the inspiration and strength to realise itself in its fullness” (Christifideles laici, 34). Catholic Action has always been, and still must be today, a forge for the formation of the faithful who, enlightened by the Social Doctrine of the Church, are engaged in the front line in the defence of the sacred gift of life, in safeguarding the dignity of the human person, in the realisation of educational freedom, in the promotion of the true meaning of marriage and the family, in the exercise of charity towards those most in need, in the pursuit of peace and justice, and in the application of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity to the various interacting social realities.

4. I know that your Congress, which began in Rome, will continue with the pilgrimage to Loreto and that it will culminate, on Sunday 5 September, in the Square of the Shrine, with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, during which I will be happy to inscribe in the Roll of the Blessed some members of Catholic Action who have been in their lives convincing models of evangelical coherence.
I am therefore preparing myself once again to make a pilgrimage to that beloved Shrine of Loreto, an international centre of Marian spirituality, where I will raise my prayer to Mary Most Holy so that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, you may always be ready to pronounce your fiat to the will of God, making yourselves witnesses to the Mystery of Christ for the salvation of the world.
In wishing abundant fruit for the work of the Congress, in view of an ever more incisive presence of Catholic Action in the service of the Kingdom of Christ, I send a special Apostolic Blessing to all.


(our translation)


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