As Catholics prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, all Church members need to make a renewed effort to ensure laypeople are aware of their responsibility for the Church and are allowed to exercise it, Pope Benedict said.
"Co-responsibility requires a change of mentality, particularly regarding the role in the Church of the laity, who should not be considered 'collaborators' of the clergy, but people who truly are co-responsible for the being and action of the Church," the pope wrote in a message to the Aug. 22-26 assembly of the International Forum of Catholic Action.
The pope's message said the Church needs a "mature and committed laity, able to make its specific contribution to the mission of the Church" in a way that respects the different roles and ministries of its members.
The Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, described relationships within the Church as "familial," the pope said.
Viewing the Church as a family emphasizes shared responsibility, mutual support and joint action while, at the same time, recognizing the special role of guidance belonging to the Church's pastors, he said.