The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy issued a new instruction on pastoral care that specifies the role of lay men and women in the Church’s mission of evangelisation and offers guidance in parish reforms and restructuring.
The 22-page document, titled The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church, was released by the Vatican on 20th July.
While it does not introduce new legislation on pastoral care, the Vatican press office said it was developed by the congregation as a guide related ‘to the various projects of reform of parish communities and diocesan restructuring, already underway or in the planning process’. It also clarifies the role of the deacons, consecrated men and women, as well as the laity, in dioceses where there is a shortage or lack of priests.
Those entrusted with participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of the community, the document states, ‘will be directed by a priest with legitimate faculties, who will act as a ‘moderator of pastoral care,’ with the powers and functions of a parish priest, albeit without an office with its duties and rights’.
The document also instructs bishops to not designate deacons, consecrated and lay men and women who are given responsibilities in a priestless parish as ‘pastor, co-pastor, chaplain, moderator, co-ordinator, parish manager’, which are typically reserved for priests ‘as they have a direct correlation to the ministerial profile of priests’.
Picture: A priest wearing a face mask gives Communion to a woman religious during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family in Nairobi, Kenya, on 19th July 2020, the first day the government allowed churches to reopen for worship during the coronavirus pandemic. The Vatican issued a new instruction on 20th July on pastoral care that emphasises the role of lay men and women in the Church’s mission, but said most parishes must be led by priests. (CNS photo/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters).