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EXCLUSIVE: Cardinal Arinze highlights lay people’s ‘distinctive role’ in the Church’s work of evangelization

Watch the cardinal's exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews in Rome.
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Lisa Bourne By Lisa Bourne

Lisa Bourne By Lisa Bourne

ROME, November 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In an exclusive video interview with LifeSiteNews in Rome this week, Cardinal Francis Arinze highlighted the essential role of the laity in the Church’s work of evangelization, and discussed his new book on the topic.

Watch the full interview below.

His book, The Lay Persons’ Distinctive Role, is published by Ignatius Press.

The Nigerian prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said the work of lay people “is to bring the spirit of Christ into the secular area. That means to bring the spirit of Christ into their family, their work, their leisure, their recreation, their profession.”

No matter the occupation, and including high-ranking politicians, he said, “Their duty is to bring the spirit of Christ into those areas of secular life.”

The cardinal explained that there are three major vocations in the Church; the religious faithful, whose role is sacrifice the things of this world and raise people’s minds to things of the next, the clerics, bishops, priests and deacons, whose work is to preach the Gospel, and celebrate the sacred mysteries, especially the Holy Eucharist, while also gathering the people of God together, and finally, the lay faithful.

“But the lay people, I tell you they are 99.9 percent of the Church,” said the cardinal, who authored the recent book The Lay Persons’ Distinctive Role.

“You see, the foundation is baptism, when we are baptized we are incorporated in Christ and in the Church,” Cardinal Arinze said. “Within the Church we all have a share in the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to spread the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.”

The African cardinal said that often some lay people and even clerics make the mistake of thinking that the lay apostolate is an extension of the clerical apostolate. “That is not correct,” he affirmed. “Or to imagine that lay people are simply helpers of the clergy.”

The Church’s lay members can assist the clergy, and that is good, he continued, “But that is not the height of the lay apostolate.”

Citing the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes, Cardinal Arinze said the role of the layperson is clear. “That distinctive role is to evangelize the secular areas of life,” he said, whether in family work, politics, government, international and national relations.

“When the lay people do that, they are not helping the clergy, they are carrying out their duty as followers of Christ,” the cardinal explained.

And he stressed that this something the Church could use more of.  “We need it! We need convinced lay people in all these areas, as husband and wife, as medical doctors, as lawyers, as members of Congress and Senate.”

To the question of how the average person can bring Christ to the world if they are not immediately sure how to evangelize, the cardinal told LifeSiteNews that one does not have to preach as the priest does at Sunday Mass.

Rather, a lay person first does his duty in each respective area of life, as youth respecting their parents, people being honest in their work, preparing for marriage in a chaste way, or by being a good spouse and member of the community.     

“Whichever you do, you are representative of Christ there,” said Cardinal Arinze. “You don’t have to preach to them. Your own action becomes your own evangelizing activity.”

He said as well that nobody is dispensed from this, stating, “You can see, every one of us is called.”

Cardinal Arinze had a message of encouragement to mothers, especially those with several children, who may face criticism in a world where for some the environment has begun to top human life in favor and esteem.

Mothers, he said, are often “the holiest person” in church on Sunday. “I say, don’t tell me it’s the cardinal or the priest.”

Listing the numerous roles and demands of motherhood, Cardinal Arinze expressed how mothers meet the needs of so many on all levels. “She keeps the whole family together, she leads them in prayer, and she helps them to love one another, to forgive one another,” he said, “to be a family like an air-conditioned room in the middle of summer.”   

“If we have such a woman,” Cardinal Arinze concluded, “give us her name, we’ll bring her name to the Congregation for (the Causes of) Canonization of Saints in the Vatican.”

Watch Cardinal Arinze's full interview with LifeSiteNews:

 

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