The present publication contains the proceedings of the Congress of Catholic Laity held in Rome, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, from 25 to 30 November 2000 on the theme: “Witnesses of Christ in the new millennium”.
Incorporated in the official calendar of the celebrations of the Great Jubilee, the holding of the Congress was warmly encouraged by John Paul II. “This Congress – he said while its preparations were still going ahead – will be above all a Jubilee event for all those who will participate in it. It will also be a recapitulation of the journey of the laity from Vatican Council II to the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation […]. To be held towards the end of 2000, it will be enriched by everything experienced in that year of grace of the Lord, nor will it fail to indicate to the lay faithful the tasks that await them in the various fields of mission and service to man at the beginning of the third millennium”.
The commitment of lay Christians “to seek with courage adequate responses to the demand for bread and work and to the needs for freedom, peace and justice, sharing and solidarity”, as the Holy Father wrote in his message to the Congress, and their consciousness of the duty to proclaim the gospel and bear witness to Christ, assumed a significant form in the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles and in a celebration in the Catacombs of Domitilla. This included a commemoration of the martyrs who in every age have confessed their faith in the Church, from Clement to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
The Congress of Catholic Laity ended with the missionary mandate. After the penitential procession of the participants and the passing through the Holy Door in the basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls, the gift made to them of an icon depicting Christ who sends out his disciples into the world sealed the commitment of the lay faithful to ensure that the Gospel be ever more light, salt and leaven of a new humanity.
The hope I entertain for the Church of the new millennium is based on the hope that God is working among the lay christifideles and was reinforced by the experience of the Congress of the Catholic laity. The testimonies, the reports, the exchanges that enlivened it, and whose contents are summed up in the final Message, speak in fact of a laity determined to walk in the footsteps of Christ with their eyes fixed on the first community of disciples of the Lord formed of Mary, John, Peter and Paul. A constellation that remains in every period, the insuperable model for the whole Church and for each believer.
Of all this, the documentation collected in the present volume offers a survey rich in content, perspective and guidance. I am confident that the lay faithful throughout the world will derive inspiration from it and that, especially in the light of the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, they will be encouraged to follow as closely as possible in the footsteps of the Lord and to transmit the Gospel to the new generations of disciples of Christ.
From the preface by Card. James Francis Stafford,
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
The Congress of Catholic Laity - Rome 2000, International Congress, 25-30 November 2000 (€15).