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New Vatican document to address role of Parish Priest

The Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy will soon release a new document on the role and identity of the parish priest, prepared at the request of Pope John Paul II, who suggested the need for such a document during the last plenary meeting of the Congregation last November.

The responsibilities of parish priests were discussed at length during the Second Vatican Council, and set forth in the decree Presbyterorum Ordinis. But the role has evolved, Vatican officials suggest, because of the shortage of priests in first world countries, where the supply of priests had previously been sufficient. The resulting problems, including the isolation of parish clergy working alone and the increased burden of work for priests, prompted the Pope to ask for a new treatment of the topic.

Catholic World News reports that the new instruction is also a response to "the growing confusion over the respective roles of priests and lay people in parish ministry". It refers to the Holy Father's allusion to the problem when he stressed the "irreplaceable" role of the parish priest, during his meeting with the members of the Congregation for the Clergy last November.

"It is a matter of fundamental importance that a parish must have a priest as pastor," the Pope said on that occasion. While collaboration with the laity is "desirable and often necessary," he continued, it "cannot in any way replace the involvement of the parish priest."

Catholic World News

Congregation for the Clergy
Presbyterorum Ordinis - Ministry and Life of Priests (Vatican II Decree)
No shortage of priests, researcher says (3/6/02)
Entrusting God's Word to the entire church (National Catholic Reporter)

9 Oct 2002