Abandon outdated parish models Vatican says

New Vatican guidelines for parishes urge communities to abandon “outdated” models and to embrace a spirit of “missionary evangelization.”

Rather than prescribing new norms or policies for parish life, the guidelines encourage Catholics to think prayerfully about what their parishes are, and what they’re for.

According to the guidelines, parishes “represent a valuable opportunity for pastoral conversion that is essentially missionary.”

Parishes are called to go out of themselves. Instruments for reform are offered to help parishes work “in a spirit of communion and collaboration, of encounter and closeness, of mercy and solicitude for the proclamation of the Gospel.”

To meet its mission, parishes need “a renewed vitality… that favours the rediscovery of the vocation of the baptised as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a missionary of the Gospel.”

Pointing out central role of the Mass in parish life, the document says the Mass the parish provides the parish its mission, welcoming “the living presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord, receiving the announcement of the entire mystery of salvation.”

The parish needs to be “a sanctuary open to all” especially the poor. It is called to reach out to everyone and to remember the poor must always have a privileged place in the heart of the Church.

Nor is the parish a self-selected or self-defined community: it is a set of people with obligations to each other.

Noting how the digital world is changing parish life, the guidelines point out a parish is no longer attached only to its geographic location. Today, it is becoming a “community by adoption,” where a person is welcomed and nourished.

This means “any pastoral action that is limited to the territory of the parish is outdated, which is something the parishioners themselves observe when their parish appears to be more interested in preserving a nostalgia of former times as opposed to looking to the future with courage.”

As parishes are no longer gathering places for local communities, finding “new forms of accompaniment and closeness,” that host “diverse cultures” is recommended.

Shrines should be considered a “precious instrument” and more parish visits to shrines should be encouraged.

The guidelines also urge dioceses to consider developing new structures and roles that can coordinate activity between parishes, especially those in close geographic proximity to each other.

Priests are reminded that while they lead their parish, changes should be made in consultation with parishioners: “to remove ourselves from the life of the People of God hastens us to the desolation and to a perversion of ecclesial nature.”

At the same time, the parish pastor is entrusted with the full “care of souls” in the parish, a role unique to priests.

To avoid the “clericalisation of pastoral activity” laypeople must be allowed to be “protagonists of evangelization” through different ministries, which should be allowed to mature and grow on their own.



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