Pontifical council to discuss lay presence in politics

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The Pontifical Council for Laity will soon celebrate its annual plenary meeting in Rome. The council cited repeated calls by Pope Benedict XVI for a renewed commitment from the lay faithful to be active in the political sphere as the inspiration for this year's meeting.

The plenary or full assembly will take place from May 20-22 near the Vatican, and discussions will be based around the theme “Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community.”

The Pope has touched on the theme often.

In his message to the fifth general conference of Latin American bishops meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, the Pope said that “forming consciences, being an advocate of justice and truth and educating on individual and political virtues is the fundamental vocation of the Church in this sector.” He called particularly for Catholics to take on responsibility in public life, to provide support when necessary and to vocally oppose injustices.

Benedict XVI has spoken in various forums about the necessity for a new generation of Catholics in politics, calling specifically for coherence in the faith, “moral rigor, a capacity of cultural judgment, professional competence and passion of service for the common good.”

Most recently, during his visit to Portugal, he spoke to bishops of the need for “genuine witnesses to Jesus Christ, especially in those human environments where the silence of the faith is broadest and deepest." He referred specifically to the political arena as one such area.

The Pontifical Council will address the theme over the course of the three-day congress with a schedule of events that includes round table discussions and debates.

Among the major addresses during the meetings, Cardinal Camillo Ruini is scheduled to speak on the “Church and political community,” while Archbishop Rino Fisichella will cover “The responsibility of the lay faithful in politics.” Other talks will examine guidelines for formation of the lay faithful in politics and the role of politics in history and democracy.

The “fundamental and greatly anticipated moment” of the conference, according to the meeting's organizers, is the audience between participants and the Pope at noon on May 21.

The final day of the conference will see the dicastery’s secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens speak about the past programs of the council and what its future plans are.

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