Cardinal says lay people prophets of our time

Describing lay people as "prophets of our time", Holy See Apostolic Penitentiary head, Cardinal Francis Stafford has called for the laity to develop social "networks of reconciliation" to help stem the fall in Mass attendance.

Cardinal Stafford made the comment on a visit to Boston where the church has faced major priest sexual abuse scandals, Catholic News Service reports.

The Cardinal said when he was archbishop of Denver one year, more than 2,000 people preparing to enter the church at Easter attended an archdiocesan Mass for them on the first Sunday of Lent. But when they were invited back for Pentecost, only a few hundred came back.

"That tells me we can get them, but we can't keep them," he said.

The falloff in Mass attendance indicates a failure to integrate the laity fully into a rich parish life, he said. Other churches do a better job of integrating their members, he said.

He said that when he was bishop of Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1980s he would sometimes attend Southern Baptist services and gatherings in plain clothes to learn how they built their communities. He saw that one of the keys was a wider expression of reconciliation among the laity, he said.

The Cardinal said he witnessed one example of a husband and father, who confessed to his congregation he was tempted to commit adultery during his extended business trips.

It was painful for the man, but more painful to the wife, who was there also, he said, but that community was strong enough to support the husband as he battled his temptations. More importantly, he said, it was strong enough to support the wife, who was humiliated by her husband's public confession.

Priests should embrace and encourage the laity as they build up social networks capable of spreading reconciliation, he said.

"They are the new prophets of our time - I really mean that, and you can take it for what it is worth," he added.

Because of his position in the church, Cardinal Stafford said it was important for him to come to Boston in the wake of the scandal of sexual abuse by priests.

Build reconciliation networks in church, Vatican cardinal says (Catholic Online, 25/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Apostolic Penitentiary (Holy See)
Apostolic Penitentiary (Wikipedia)

22 Feb 2007