Yaounde (Fides Service)- The participation of the laity in the triple function of the Church (sanctifying, doctrinal and pastoral) is the main theme of a Pastoral Letter “The place of the faithful in the mission of the Church ” issued by Dieudonné Watio, Bishop Nkongsamba, Cameroon. “For a long time in the Church” the Bishop writes, “laity were treated like children, they received but had nothing to give. With the Second Vatican Council, the situation changed. Instead of being only spectators the laity are now actors”.
Bishop Watio reflects on the priestly role of the lay faithful. “The participation of the laity in Our Lord’s priesthood comes not from the Sacrament of Holy Orders but from the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation which configure the Christian to Jesus Christ making him or her share in His priestly life. By virtue of this configuration to Christ, the High Priest, all Christians are called to exercise interior and exterior worship”. Among the modalities for participating in the mysteries of the Eucharist the Bishop encourages the offering of one’s life: “any suffering or trial united with the mystery of the Cross becomes for us a way of reproducing the image of Jesus Christ”. The laity have a fundamental role in the apostolate: “We can say that, while the hierarchy alone teaches with authority, the whole Church hands down tradition which consists not only in announcements but also in living the Christian life. The shared faith of the faithful, sensus fidelium, in matters of faith is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit; this faith is at the same time one of the sources from which the Ordinary Magisterium draws and the echo of its teaching; as such it has the infallibility promised by Christ to the believing Church. It can be said therefore that the believing people teaches, not because it has apostolic authority, but because of its faith lived with all the activity of life and thought which faith elaborates and nourishes. Credendo docent quodam-modo, as we say”.
The Bishop reflects on the different manner in which the laity teach: catechesis, preaching, witness of life. In this regard Bishop Watio affirms “It is above all through the laity of Catholic Action that the Church can make the light of the Gospel penetrate hostile or indifferent environments”.
The Bishop of Nkongsamba concludes encouraging the faithful to be fully active in the life of the Church: “I rely on each of you to make a harmonious contribution to this great family whose development depends on the readiness of each of its members, that is all of us.” (L.M.) (Fides Service 11/12/2003, lines 35 words 443)