Pope Francis Message, for the 50th anniversary of Pope St. Paul VI's motu proprio "Ministeria quaedam" on the Minor Orders Including Lector and Acolyte

Pope Francis released an official message, for the 50th anniversary of Pope St. Paul VI's motu proprio "Ministeria quaedam". His messages considers on the Apostolic Letter’s impact on instituted and extraordinary ministries, and relates his desire to open a dialogue with Bishops’ Conferences to continue what began fifty years ago. 
It has been fifty years since Paul VI's motu proprio "Ministeria quaedam" was published. The Apostolic Letter reformed the “minor orders”, including that of the Lector for ministry of the Word, and that of the Acolyte for the ministry of the Altar. It also established lay ministries. To mark the occasion, Pope Francis released a message on Wednesday expressing his desire to begin a dialogue with Bishops' Conferences around the world "in order to be able to share the richness of the ministerial experiences that in these fifty years the Church has lived both as instituted ministries (lectors, acolytes and, only recently, catechists) and as extraordinary and de facto ministries." (Vatican News)
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1. The 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter in the form of a "Motu Proprio" Ministeria quaedam of Saint Paul VI [AAS 64 (1972) 529-534], offers us the opportunity to reflect again on the theme of ministries. In the fruitful but not without tensions context that followed the Second Vatican Council, this document offered the Church a significant reflection which did not only have the result of renewing the discipline concerning the first tonsure, minor orders and subdeaconry in the Latin Church - such as stated in the title - but it offered the Church an important perspective that had the strength to inspire further developments.
2. In the light of that choice and the reasons that supported it, the two recent Apostolic Letters in the form of "Motu Proprio" in which I spoke on the subject of instituted ministries should be understood. The first, Spiritus Domini, of January 10, 2021, modified can. 230 §1 of the Code of Canon Law on the access of women to the established ministry of the Lectorate and Acolyte. The second, Antiquum ministerium, of May 10, 2021, established the ministry of Catechist. These two interventions must not be interpreted as an overcoming of the previous doctrine, but as a further development made possible because it is based on the same principles - consistent with the reflection of the Second Vatican Council - which inspired Ministeria quaedam. The best way to celebrate today's significant anniversary is precisely that of continuing to deepen the reflection on the ministries that Saint Paul VI initiated.
3. The theme is of fundamental importance for the life of the Church: in fact, there is no Christian community that does not express ministries. The Pauline letters, and others, amply testify to this. When - to grasp one example among the many possible - the apostle Paul addresses the Church in Corinth, the image that his words outline is that of a community rich in charisms (1 Cor 12.4), in ministries ( 1Cor 12.5), activity (1Cor 12.6), manifestations (1Cor 12.7) and gifts of the Spirit (1Cor The variety of terms used describes a widespread ministeriality, which is organizing itself on the basis of two certain foundations: at the origin of every ministry there is always God who with his Holy Spirit works everything in everyone (cf. 1 Cor 12: 4-6 ); the purpose of every ministry is always the common good (cf. 1 Cor 12.7), the building up of the community (cf. 1 Cor 14:12). Each ministry is a call from God for the good of the community.
4. These two foundations allow the Christian community to organize the variety of ministries that the Spirit arouses in relation to the concrete situation it lives. This organization is not a merely functional fact but is, rather, a careful community discernment, listening to what the Spirit suggests to the Church, in a concrete place and in the present moment of her life. We have illuminating examples of this discernment in the Acts of the Apostles, precisely with regard to ministerial structures, namely the group of the Twelve, having to provide for the replacement of Judas (Acts 1,15-26), and that of the Seven, having to resolve a tension community that had come to be created (Acts 6: 1-6). Every ministerial structure that arises from this discernment is dynamic, lively, flexible like the action of the Spirit: it must take root in it ever more deeply so as not to risk that dynamism becomes confusion, vivacity is reduced to impromptu improvisation, flexibility is transformed into arbitrary and ideological adaptations.
5. Saint Paul VI, applying the conciliar teachings, worked in the ministry quaedam a true discernment and indicated the direction to be able to continue the journey. In fact, accepting the requests of not a few Council Fathers, he revised the practice in force adapting it to the needs of that moment, and recognized the Episcopal Conferences the possibility of asking the Apostolic See to establish those ministries deemed necessary or very useful in their regions. Even the bishop's ordination prayer, in the part of the intercessions, indicates among its main tasks, that of organizing the ministries: "... arrange the ministries of the Church according to your will ..." (Pontificale Romanum, De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum , Editio typica altera, n. 47, p. 25: "... ut distribuat munera secundum præceptum tuum ...").
6. The principles mentioned above, well rooted in the Gospel and inserted in the broader context of the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, are the common foundation that allows us to identify, stimulated by listening to the concreteness of the life of the ecclesial communities, which are the ministries who here and now build the Church. The ecclesiology of communion, the sacramentality of the Church, the complementarity of the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, the liturgical visibility of each ministry are the doctrinal principles that, animated by the action of the Spirit, harmonize the variety of ministries.
7. If the Church is the body of Christ, all the serving (ministering) of the Incarnate Word must pervade its members, each of which - because of its uniqueness which responds to a personal call from God - manifests a trait of the face of Christ the servant: the harmony of their actions shows the world the beauty of him who "did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). The ordination prayer of deacons has a significant expression to describe the variety in unity: "By the work of the Holy Spirit you formed the Church, the body of Christ, varied and multiple in its charisms, articulated and compact in its members ..." ( Pontificale Romanum, De Ordinatione Episcopi, Presbyterorum et Diaconorum, Editio typica altera, n. 207, p. 121: "Cuius corpus, Ecclesiam tuam, cælestium gratiarum varietate distinctam suorumque conexam distinctione membrorum, compage mirabili per Spiritum Sanctum unitam ...").
8. The question of baptismal ministries touches on various aspects that must certainly be considered: the terminology used to indicate the ministries, their doctrinal foundation, the juridical aspects, the distinctions and relationships between individual ministries, their vocational value, the formative courses , the institutive event that enables the exercise of a ministry, the liturgical dimension of every ministry. Even from this summary list alone, one realizes the complexity of the theme: Certainly it is necessary to continue to deepen the reflection on all these thematic nuclei: however, if we were to pretend to define and resolve them in order to then live the ministry, most likely we would not succeed. to go a long way. As I recalled in Evangelii gaudium (nn. 231-233) reality is superior to the idea and "a constant dialogue must be established between the two, preventing the idea from becoming separated from reality" (n. 231).
The other principle that I mentioned, albeit in another context, in Evangelii gaudium (n. 222), can also help us: time is superior to space. More than the obsession with immediate results in resolving all tensions and clarifying every aspect, thus risking to crystallize the processes and, at times, to pretend to stop them (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 223), we must support the action of the Spirit of the Lord, risen and ascended into heaven, who "gave some to be apostles, others to be prophets, still others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers, to prepare brothers to carry out the ministry , for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, up to the perfect man, until we reach the measure of the fullness of Christ "(Eph 4: 11-13) .
9. It is the Spirit who, making us participate, in distinct and complementary ways, in the priesthood of Christ, makes the whole ministerial community, in order to build his ecclesial body. The Spirit works in the spaces that our obedient listening makes available to him for action. Ministeria quaedam has opened the door to the renewal of the experience of the ministry of the faithful, reborn from the water of baptism, confirmed by the seal of the Spirit, nourished by the living Bread which came down from heaven.
10. In order to listen to the voice of the Spirit and not stop the process - being careful not to want to force it by imposing choices that are the result of ideological visions - I believe it is useful to share, especially in the climate of the synodal journey, the experiences of these years . They can offer precious indications to arrive at a harmonious vision of the question of baptismal ministries and thus continue on our path. For this reason, in the coming months, in the ways that will be defined, I would like to start a dialogue on the subject with the Episcopal Conferences in order to share the wealth of ministerial experiences that the Church has lived in these fifty years both as instituted ministries (readers, acolytes and , only recently, catechists) both as extraordinary and de facto ministries.
11. I entrust our journey to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Keeping in her womb the Word made flesh of her, Mary carries within herself the ministry of her Son, in which she is made a participant in the way that she is proper to her. In this too she is the perfect icon of the Church, which in the variety of ministries guards the ministry of Jesus Christ, participating in her priesthood, each member in the way that is proper to him.

Given in Rome, at San Giovanni in Laterano, on 15 August 2022, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the tenth year of my Pontificate.