Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

GENEVA, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Intelligent use of the economy, market and culture is needed to attain objectives coinciding with our values as Christians and members of the human family, says a Holy See representative.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, spoke of the necessary avenues to help developing nations escape poverty.

Q: What tools does Vatican diplomacy use to evaluate the most underprivileged in the world?

Archbishop Tomasi: The Holy See works within the international sphere, with the United Nations and in the U.N.-related agencies, as an “observer” state; this gives the Holy See the right to intervene and take part in non-voting activities, thus allowing the Holy See to act more freely than other states.

Furthermore, the Holy See endeavors to promote a line of discourse to support and aid the least developed countries, particularly those suffering in conditions of extreme poverty.

Specifically, the Holy See tries to generate a public culture, a world opinion within the international sphere, by declaring that developed countries are not only in a position to choose to support poorer populations, but that they bear the ethical responsibility to do so.

Then, the Holy See tries to offer actual help to these populations, not only in the form of financial support, which sometimes contributes to corruption, but, above all, through technical training, the exchange of information and licenses, all to help facilitate production.

And, with the aid of existing international structures and U.N.-related entities, such as the U.N. Conference for Trade and Development, we try to equip less wealthy countries with the ability to take part in trade, keeping in mind that participation is one of the most important concepts in the Church’s social doctrine.

According to this concept, everyone is entitled to take part in international life, to have access to common goods in a fair, proportionate and justified manner.

Q: What is your position in the debate about debt forgiveness for poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: For years, particularly since the Jubilee of the year 2000, several private organizations, the Church, and the Holy Father himself, have issued exhortations on the subject of debt forgiveness for poor countries because even payment of the interest is so burdensome that it obstructs development.

Therefore, I am in favor of debt forgiveness for the poorest countries as soon as possible, so that some of the resources that thus become available can be channeled toward social development, health care, children’s education, drinking water systems, all for a gradual improvement of living standards.

Q: Do you consider the developed world to be adequately informed and involved in the problems of poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: Public opinion is often distracted by many things that are not so essential. Occasionally, great tragedies or humanitarian campaigns draw attention for a while.

Some time back, we had the tsunami in Southeast Asia, which brought about people’s very constructive, positive and generous response. But we have other “tsunamis.” We have thousands of people dying of hunger, malaria or AIDS every day while nothing is said about these silent tragedies.

The media sometimes reports on these, issuing information, but it is then lost because the news items are not dramatized, and public attention wanders.

The fact that there are wars going on, people dead as the result of conflicts in Africa, Asia or the Middle East, is viewed with a certain degree of indifference. It is almost as if we have grown accustomed to the normalcy of these tragedies.

In my opinion, for people to see on the news that 100 people have been assassinated in Baghdad, another 20 in Mogadishu, and 50 refugees have died in a tragedy in Africa, is sometimes not very different from watching an entertainment movie after the news bulletin.

Therefore, it is important for Christians to sensitize people through the network of parishes, groups and movements, about the need for solidarity toward the most disenfranchised, to work together toward peace, for a bit of progress and for a better standard of living for these distant people.

Q: What are your thoughts on multilateral diplomacy versus bilateral dialogue in the international community?

Archbishop Tomasi: I would say, above all, that there is still a strong desire to struggle and negotiate in order to continue on a multilateral level, to seek solutions to current problems, particularly in the field of trade.

For example, the director general of the World Trade Organization insists on the fact that we must definitely continue to grow together in the same direction in order to be truly effective in the long term, even in the case of developed countries.

However, at the moment, there is the temptation in Europe and in other states to try to bypass common action through bilateral negotiations. This tendency can have very dangerous consequences because the stronger party tends to impose its terms on the weaker one, so that the negotiation is not really equitable.

In the long term, this can just lead to the maintenance of the status quo, in other words, the coexistence of rich and poor countries, which, in fact, does not succeed in combating poverty.

Q: As permanent observer of the Holy See in Geneva, do you consider international organizations in the field of economics, especially the World Trade Organization, as directing their course of action toward the sustained development of Third World nations?

Archbishop Tomasi: I attended the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference at the end of 2005, when the WTO tried to evaluate the “Doha Development Round” [from November 2001].

On that occasion, it became clear that, despite the extremely tough bargaining, it is possible to reach agreements that are beneficial to all concerned. Therefore, these international structures, which are necessary to achieve the globalization of the economy, the market, and culture, must be used intelligently.

We have to make an intelligent use of these structures in order to attain objectives that are truly in line with our fundamental values as Christians and as members of the human family.



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Economic and Social Impact of Aging Societies

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, SEPT. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Decades of declining birthrates are causing a rapid aging of many nation’s populations.

Romanian President Traian Basescu recently warned that his country’s population was declining and that more needs to be done to support women who have children, the Associated Press reported Sept. 18.

“Romania urgently needs to revise its demographic policies,” he told participants at a conference on population and development in the city of Sibiu. The nation has 4 million people in the work force, while retirees number 6 million, according to the Associated Press.

Germany is another country feeling the pinch of a declining and older population, the New York Times reported Sept. 23. The population started declining in 2003, with a drop of 5,000 that year. By 2006 the decrease reached 130,000.

The German population is experiencing “exponential negative growth,” Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, told the New York Times.

The situation in Japan is also causing widespread concern, reported the British newspaper the Telegraph in a June 1 article. The population peaked at 128 million in 2005 and some forecasts expect it to drop below 100 million by 2050.

These demographic changes are not only a problem for rich countries, noted an Associated Press report on April 11. Some countries “‘will grow older before they grow richer,” said Somnath Chatterji, team leader of the World Health Organization’s Multi-country Studies Unit, at a U.N. conference earlier this year.

Getting older

“Something that took France over a century,” Chatterji said, “has happened in a matter of two decades in other countries.” China, for example, has one of the fastest-growing older populations in the world. The number of people more than 65 years old is growing at nearly 3% a year, compared with a rate of less than 1% for the overall population, Jiang Fan, China’s vice minister of national population and family planning, told the conference.

In a number of countries, births have increased but even so, remain at a low level. The government agency Statistics Canada released Sept. 21 the population data of its country for 2005. Births reached their highest level in seven years, mainly due to an increase in childbearing by women in their 30s.

Canada’s total fertility rate in 2005 was 1.54 children per woman, an increase from 1.53 in the previous year, and the highest rate since 1998. Nevertheless, Statistics Canada added that this is still well below what is known as the replacement level fertility, normally set at 2.2 children per woman.

Italy also recorded a slight increase, reported the agency ANSA on May 5. In 2006, the total fertility rate per woman rose to a 16-year high of 1.35. This is still below the European Union average of 1.52 and well below replacement level.

Europe in focus

The European demographic situation was the subject of this year’s Munich Economic Summit, held June 21-22. The summit brings together academics and leaders from politics, industry and finance. It is organized by Germany’s CESIfo economics think tank and backed by the BMW Herbert Quandt Foundation.

“The demographic changes that Europe experiences today are without precedent in its history,” said Jürgen Chrobog, chairman of the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, in his opening speech.

The low birthrates in Europe will lead to a decline of the labor force by roughly 21 million within the next 25 years, he observed, leading to negative consequences for economic output and competitiveness.

A combination of increasing longevity and low fertility constitute a “demographic time bomb” due to deficiencies in pension and family policies, warned Edward Palmer of Sweden’s Uppsala University.

Generally speaking, he noted, countries in Europe with higher fertility rates, such as France and the Scandinavian countries, are the ones with the most generous family policy. Given that the birth of each child involves a potential loss of income during the early years of childhood as well as the risk of missing out on work opportunities, Palmer called for family policies to provide adequate compensation.

Vladimir Spidla, European Union commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, also spoke at the meeting. Currently 16% of the European population is over the age of 65. If there are no changes in birthrates and immigration, by 2050, the proportion of old people will have almost doubled, he observed.

To help Europe bring about a demographic renewal, Spidla, among other points, recommended a greater attention to family needs. The decision to have children is a private matter, he acknowledged. He observed, however, surveys show that many women and men want more children than they actually bring into the world.

“Potential parents are afraid that looking after children would be a problem, or that they would have to decide between career and time with their children, or that it would be too expensive,” Spidla explained. “It is thus imperative that we improve the social and economic conditions for families and children.”

Unprecedented

A global overview of aging came in a recent report by the Population Division of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. In its study “World Population Ageing,” the agency highlighted the unprecedented nature of rapid aging in many nations.

At the world level, the number of persons aged 60 or over is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time in 2047. Already, in 1998, in the more developed regions, the number of children — those aged under 15 — dropped below that of older persons in 1998.

In 2000, the population aged 60 years or over numbered 600 million, triple the number present in 1950. In 2006, the number of older persons had surpassed 700 million. By 2050, 2 billion older persons are projected to be alive, implying that their number will once again triple over a span of 50 years.

In the more developed regions, more than one-fifth of the population is currently aged 60 years or over, and by 2050 nearly one-third of the population in developed countries is projected to be in that age group.

In the less developed regions, older persons account today for just 8% of the population, but by 2050 they are expected to account for one-fifth of the population.

The Population Division also cautioned that the pace of population aging is faster in developing countries than in developed countries. Moreover, the aging in developing countries is taking place at lower levels of socioeconomic development than has been the case for developed countries.

Then there is the number of people potentially in the work force as a ratio to those who are already retired. The number of persons aged 15 to 64 per each older person aged 65 or over, has already declined from 12 to 9 between 1950 and 2007. By 2050, this is expected to drop to only 4 potential workers per older person, which will have a severe impact on taxation and social security policies.

In addition to the economic impact, the changes caused by aging will have a major influence on intergenerational questions of equity and solidarity, the U.N. report commented.

It is also unlikely, the U.N. agency continued, that fertility levels will rise again to the high levels common in the past. Therefore, the aging trend looks like it might be irreversible, making the young populations (that were common until recently) likely to become rare over the course of this century. The anti-family policies of many governments and international agencies are indeed set to bear bitter fruit in coming decades.



Annual Report Reveals Big Increase in Trade

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- World military expenditure grew 3.5% in 2006, reaching $1,204 billion. On June 11 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published the latest edition of its annual yearbook that provides an ample panorama of armaments and global security issues.

Last year’s increase means that between 1997-2006 world military expenditure rose by 37%. Moreover, almost 50% more conventional weapons were transferred internationally in 2006 than in 2002.

Elisabeth Sköns, one of those involved in writing the report, commented: “It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives, if we talk about avoiding premature deaths and disability due to current dangers.”

“For example, we know that millions of lives could be saved through basic health interventions that would cost a fraction of what the world spends on military forces every year,” she said in a press release accompanying the report’s publication.

The report pointed out that world military expenditure is unevenly distributed to an extreme degree. In 2006, the 15 countries with the highest spending accounted for 83% of the global total. The United States spent $528.7 billion. Military spending by the U.S. has increased sharply due to the cost of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report noted that in 2006 China’s military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, reaching $49.5 billion. For the first time it surpassed that of Japan ($43.7 billion), thus making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world. In fact, Japan decreased its military spending last year, for the fifth consecutive year. India was the third biggest spender in Asia, at $23.9 billion.

Sales up

The arms sales of the 100 largest arms-producing companies in the world (figures for 2005) increased by 3% in real terms compared to 2004, and by 18% for 2002. American companies dominate the top 100 with 40 U.S. firms accounting for 63% of the groups’ arms sales of $290 billion in 2005.

Some 32 Western European companies accounted for another 29% and 9 Russian companies for 2%. Companies based in Japan, Israel and India, in descending order, accounted for most of the remaining 6% of world arms sales.

The report explained that an important factor behind changes in the arms industry is the high and rising costs of advanced weapon systems. In fact, most governments cannot afford to maintain their current levels of arms procurement due to the increasing costs.

In terms of the international trade in conventional arms, the United States and Russia were the largest suppliers in the five-year period of 2002-2006, each accounting for around 30% of global deliveries. Exports from European Union members to non-European Union countries accounted for just over 20% arms delivered. The list of the top-10 arms importers is headed by China and India, but there were also five Middle Eastern countries in the top 10.

The report added that 2006 saw new attention given to the problem of state supplies of weapons to rebel groups, due to the arsenal acquired by Hezbollah from Iran and used in its war with Israel. There is little transparency regarding arms transfers, the report lamented. Although there were improvements in this area in the 1990s, with more and better national reports by countries on their exports no further progress has been made in recent years.

Nuclear worries

The situation regarding nuclear weapons is worrying, the report commented. In October 2006 North Korea carried out a nuclear test explosion. The explosion followed a series of ballistic missile flight-tests. In addition, Iran has ended the voluntary suspension of its uranium enrichment program.

When it comes to chemical weapons there is concern that the deadline of April 2012 for the destruction of all these arms, established by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, will not be met by all states.

Regarding biological weapons the report noted that efforts continue in terms of improving surveillance and response, and talks continue regarding non-proliferation and disarmament measures. Nevertheless, there is little reliable public information on the attempts to acquire, develop or use such weapons.

Talks also continued last year to control or reduce conventional weapons, but they continued to remain stalled according to the report. On the positive side, however, the number of states adhering to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mines Convention is rising. The report also noted that interest in humanitarian efforts to contain the scourge of what it termed “inhumane weapons” is steadily growing.

Maintain efforts

During the last year, Vatican representatives have intervened on a number of occasions during meetings of the United Nations to put forward the Church’s position regarding armaments.

Last October 6 Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke before the General Assembly’s first commission during a session devoted to disarmament and international security.

He commented that some of the efforts to control arms have failed. For example, last summer’s meetings on the issue on small arms did not produce any concrete results. Moreover, arms expenditures continue to be high.

“Too often, the debates over small arms and nuclear weapons are carried on in abstract terms from preconceived positions and there is little sign of willingness to learn,” said Archbishop Migliore.

He did, however, observe that on the positive side the number of conflicts between states is declining. As well, peacekeeping missions are controlling wars in many places. The Vatican representative urged the United Nations to continue efforts at dialogue on arms issues, noting in particular the urgency of taking steps to control the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Just a few days later, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published a statement supporting a U.N. resolution on the international control of the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons.

In the statement, dated Oct. 10, 2006, the council noted that over the past decades many millions of deaths have resulted from conflicts in which conventional weapons were used. There are, in fact, the document stated, few controls over the sale of such weapons and no effective monitoring system for conventional arms trading.

“Weapons cannot be considered as any other good exchanged on the global, regional or national market,” the statement declared. “Their possession, production and trade have deep ethical and social implications and they must be regulated by paying due attention to specific principles of the moral and legal order,” the council exhorted.

On the matter of nuclear arms, Monsignor Michael W. Banach addressed a meeting May 1 of the United Nations held in Vienna to review the treaty on the non-proliferation of these weapons.

He commented on the importance of both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, not only in order to defeat nuclear terrorism, but also as an important step in realizing “a culture of life and of peace capable of promoting in an effective way the integral development of peoples.”

“The truth of peace requires that all — whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them — agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament,” Monsignor Banach stated. As the latest data on arms sales reveals, achieving this truth of peace remains an elusive, but urgent, goal.

Pope Offers Guidelines

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Confrontations over globalization no longer make headlines, but many concerns remain over the future of the world economy. In past months the question of growing economic inequality has come under increasing attention.

Globalization has delivered many benefits, argued a front-page article published May 24 by the Wall Street Journal. The article did concede, however: “As trade, foreign investment and technology have spread, the gap between economic haves and have-nots has frequently widened, not only in wealthy countries like the United States, but in poorer ones like Mexico, Argentina, India and China as well.”

The experience of the last few years is showing that those with education and skills benefit from globalization. Others, without these advantages, are not so fortunate. While not forgetting the benefits of globalization for many millions of people, the Wall Street Journal also expressed concern that the growing inequalities could provoke a backlash that would damage trade and investment.

Earlier this year, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned of problems stemming from economic inequality. In a speech given Feb. 6 to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska, Bernanke defended the idea that the free market does not guarantee an equality of economic outcomes, allowing as it does the possibility for unequal rewards due to differences in effort and skill.

Slipping down the ladder

“That said, we also believe that no one should be allowed to slip too far down the economic ladder, especially for reasons beyond his or her control,” he added in the text posted on the Federal Reserve Board site.

Outlining evidence from a variety of sources, the Federal Reserve chairman pointed out that over the last few decades economic well-being in the United States has increased considerably. At the same time, he observed that “the degree of inequality in economic outcomes has increased as well.”

Bernanke admitted the difficulty of resolving the question of how to maintain a balance between a market system that uses economic incentives and stimulates growth, and the need to protect individuals against adverse economic outcomes.

Proposing solutions to this problem involves value judgments beyond the realm of economic theory, Bernanke concluded. He did, however, suggest a range of possible measures, ranging from education and job training, to helping individuals and families bear the cost of economic change, as ways to affront the problem of inequality.

A similar position was expressed in an opinion article by Danny Leipziger and Michael Spence, published in the Financial Times on May 15. The authors, respectively a vice president at the World Bank and a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, argued that in the globalization debate the most important issue is “who benefits and who loses.”

“Globalization is a positive sum game in the aggregate but one that produces both winners and losers,” they also observed.

Leipziger and Spence supported improvements in education to help workers affront the current situation. In addition, they called for better safety nets, more investment in infrastructure and assured access to services such as health care.

Dignity of the person

Amid the ongoing debate over issues of economics and ethics, Benedict XVI has addressed these issues on several occasions in recent months. On May 26 he spoke to a group of young people from Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.

Every business, the Pope noted, should be considered first and foremost as a group of people, whose rights and dignity should be respected. Human life and its values, the Pontiff continued, should always be the guiding principle and end of the economy.

In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged that for business, making a profit is a value that they can rightly put as an objective of their activity. At the same time the social teaching of the Church insists that businesses must also safeguard the dignity of the human person, and that even in moments of economic difficulties, business decisions must not be guided exclusively by considerations of profit.

The Pope also dealt briefly with the theme of globalization. This is a phenomenon, he commented, that gives hope of a wider participation in economic development and riches. It is a process not without its risks, however, leading in some cases to worsening economic inequality. Echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI called for a globalization characterized by solidarity and without marginalization of people.

Other principles that need to guide the economy are justice and charity, Benedict XVI explained in a message, dated April 28, to the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mary Ann Glendon. The letter was sent on the occasion of the plenary session of the academy, held April 27-May 1.

The pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love, the message stated, are essential aspects of the Church’s mission in its proclamation of the Gospel. Justice and love cannot be separated, the Pope observed, because of the Church’s experience of how the two were united in “the revelation of God’s infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ.”

Justice, he continued, must be “corrected” by love, a love which inspires justice and purifies our efforts to build a better society. “Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice,” the Pope stated.

Labor market

The Pope took a closer look at some of the problems facing workers in a couple of speeches earlier this year. In a message dated March 28, sent to participants in the 9th International Youth Forum organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Benedict XVI commented that in recent years economic and technological changes have radically changed the labor market.

This has given hope to young people, the Pontiff conceded, but it also brings with it the need for greater skills and education, and the demand that workers be prepared to travel, even to other countries, in searching for jobs.

Work, he explained, is part of God’s plan for humanity and through it we participate in the work of creation and redemption. We will live this better, the Pope urged, if we remain united to Christ through prayer and sacramental life.

Then, on March 31, Benedict XVI spoke to a gathering of Confartigianato, an association of Italian artisans. Work is part of God’s plan for man, even if because of original sin it has become more of a burden, the Pope explained.

It is important, he exhorted, to proclaim the primacy of the human person and the common good over capital, science, technology and even private ownership. As Christians, we can testify to the “Gospel of work,” in our daily lives, the Pope reminded them.

The Pontiff also had words for those directing workers, in an address to a group from the Italian group, the Christian Union of Business Executives on March 4. Justice and charity, the Pope said, are inseparable elements in the social commitment of Christians.

“It is incumbent on lay faithful in particular to work for a just order in society, taking part in public life in the first person, cooperating with other citizens and fulfilling their own responsibility,” said the Pope.

“Unfortunately, partly because of current economic difficulties, these values often run the risk of not being followed by those business persons who lack a sound moral inspiration,” he also noted. Values which, together with sound economic policies, could go a long way in finding solutions to the ethical challenges in a globalized world.

Interview With New Member of Cor Unum

ROME, JUNE 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI recently named Jean-Luc Moens to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery that oversees the Church’s charitable activities.

Moens has served as president of FIDESCO, a nongovernmental organization that helps in development projects, since 1997. His next book on evangelization will be published in September.

In this interview with ZENIT, he tells about his work and the increasing role of laity in evangelization.

Q: Can you explain the focus and mission of FIDESCO?

Moens: FIDESCO is the International Federation for Economic and Social Development through Cooperation.

It is a NGO founded by the Emmanuel Community in 1981, currently operating in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, the United States, Australia, Rwanda, and Congo.

FIDESCO specializes in sending volunteers to take part in development projects and helping those in need in the diverse fields of education, agronomy, teaching, management, building, health, etc.

Volunteers who work with FIDESCO are young Catholics, motivated by their faith, to work for the poor. This is why we are called FIDESCO, or Fides-co, faith serving in cooperation.

FIDESCO illustrates how the Christian mission involves the entire person, both in the spiritual and material aspects.

Since it was created, FIDESCO has sent more than 1,000 young people to more than 40 countries.

At present, we have 120 volunteers on location and about 60 who are preparing to leave in September.
Q: Describe the profile of a FIDESCO volunteer.

Moens: FIDESCO proposes a one- or two-year commitment to serve the poor, following three guidelines:

1) To contribute professional competence toward a Church project in the field of development, education or compassion in underprivileged regions;

2) To be a witness to Christ — FIDESCO actually arose from a request on the part of Africa’s bishops to have technical volunteers capable of upholding their development projects, while at the same time giving a genuine Christian testimony;

3) To experience an unforgettable adventure — since FIDESCO is also a school of life.

At first, FIDESCO’s young volunteers set off with the intention of giving but, in fact, they realize that they receive far more in exchange.

Every one of them comes back transformed, enriched by the contact with others. For all of them, it is an occasion for true development.

In order to live this experience, FIDESCO proposes a time for discernment and training before departing.

We also follow-up with our volunteers upon their return to help them with their professional transition, which usually goes smoothly since employers appreciate a young person who has devoted time to a humanitarian ideal.

Q: Is your appointment as a layman to the pontifical council a new sign of the Church’s focus on the laity?

Moens: I think that with regard to my appointment, it would be better to inquire from someone with more authority than myself. However, I believe that the naming of several lay people to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum is a sign.

It confirms the need for an increasingly dynamic commitment of Christians in the field of charity. Benedict XVI’s appreciation for this dimension of the Christian testimony is well known.

From a broader standpoint, I am also aware that the Church’s opening to the laity is nothing new.

After the Second Vatican Council, the synod on the laity in 1987, and Pope John Paul II’s beautiful apostolic exhortation “Christifideles Laici,” it seems clear to me that the role of the laity in the Church is being understood and valued more and more, particularly with regard to evangelization.

Throughout the whole Church, it is becoming more obvious that that apostolate is also a task to be carried out by lay people. FIDESCO is one example of this.

This does not mean a competition with the clergy but, rather, a wholesome complementarity. And this yields its fruits, even in terms of vocations to the priesthood!

Indeed, I have been impressed to discover that the new movements and communities that grant the laity an important role are also those where many vocations to the priesthood arise.

We must always bear in mind that all priests have started out as laymen!