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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 2 The Laity in Historical Context

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Since Vatican II, a Council that was concerned primarily with the nature and mission of the Church, ecclesiology has assumed a central position in Catholic theology, and the laity question has also come into focus in a new way in theological reflection.1 Indeed, in the wake of this Council lay activities have flourished, and efforts have been made in different parts of the world to apply and extend the Council’s teachings on the role of lay people in complex and varied situations. This chapter suggests that current theologies of the laity have likewise grown from an interchange between a ressourcement in the tradition and a dialogue with the contemporary. They seek to apply conciliar and papal teachings in the current context while drawing on the insights of other interpretations of lay experience. Therefore a critical survey of the historical development of the laity question in the Church, including a review of Vatican II’s theology of the laity, would help in the understanding of the role of lay people. This chapter will first provide a historical overview of the status of lay people prior to Vatican II. Secondly, it will summarise the main conciliar teachings on the laity and lay ministry. Finally, it will conclude with a review of the changing meaning of ministry and lay ministry after a brief analysis of Leonard Doohan’s theological approaches to the question of lay people.

The Laity Before Vatican Council II (1962–1965)

The terms “lay” or “laity...

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