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Lay People in the Asian Church

A Critical Study of the Theology of the Laity in the Documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences with Special Reference to John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation «Ecclesia in Asia» and the Pastoral Letters of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conf

Peter Nguyen Van Hai

This book investigates the role of the laity in the Asian Church. Lay people have three responsibilities: proclaiming the Gospel, be a witness of life, and the triple dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor. Focusing on the triple dialogue, the bishops of Asia have offered fresh ideas to address three global trends in society: the revolution in communications technologies which blurs the cultures; the conflicts between followers of different religions; and the advance of globalisation which leaves in its aftermath the poverty of the masses.
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Chapter 1 Rediscovering the Importance of Lay People in the Asian Church

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As one of the main preoccupations of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) the vocation and mission of the laity was the subject of an entire conciliar Decree and several sections of two Constitutions on the Church.1 In the first Constitution, Lumen Gentium,2 the Council emphasised the basic equality of all the baptised,3 and the common priesthood of all the faithful in the Church as the people of God.4 ← 1 | 2 → Thereby, it provided the dogmatic foundation for the development of a practical theology of the laity in Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.5 At the heart of this Decree is a revolutionary claim that Christ himself calls every faithful to serve the mission of the Church.6 In the second Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, the Council highlighted the special responsibility of lay people in the modern world.7

With these teachings, Vatican II, following the twin strategy of ressourcement (returning to Christian sources in Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and philosophy) and aggiornamento (renewal or updating the Church), effectively ← 2 | 3 → renewed the hierarchical and institutionalised ecclesiology,8 and signalled a shift in the Church’s understanding of the identity and role of lay people.9 First, it abandoned an attitude that was prevalent for centuries, which took for granted a passive role for the laity. Second, it advocated the active participation of lay people in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission of Christ,10 considering it as a duty...

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