Pastoral Conversion 2020

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Congregation for the Clergy, Instruction:
“The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church”

July 20, 2020.  Original text in English.  This “Instruction” is available at the Vatican website, accessed on January 18, 2024.


Chapter X. Bodies of Ecclesial Co-responsibility

Chapter X. a. The Parish Finance Council

101. The administration of goods which every Parish has to some extent is an important area of evangelisation and evangelical witness, both in the Church and in civil society, since “all the goods that we have, the Lord gives them to go to the world, to go to humanity, to help others”[154]. The Parish Priest, therefore, cannot and must not remain only at this task[155], so it is necessary that he be assisted by collaborators to administrate the goods of the Church above all with evangelising zeal and a missionary spirit.[156]

102. For this reason, in every Parish a Finance Council must be constituted as a consultative body, presided over by the Parish Priest and formed of at least three other faithful[157]; the minimum number of three is necessary so that this Council may be considered “collegial”. It bears recalling that the Parish Priest is not counted among the members of the Finance Council, but he presides over it.

103. Absent specific norms issued by the diocesan Bishop, it will be for the Parish Priest to determine the number of members of this Council, relative to the size of the Parish, and whether these should be appointed by him, or elected somehow by the Parish community.

The members of this Council, not necessarily belonging to the Parish itself, must be of proven good reputation, and expert in financial and legal questions[158], so as to render an effective and competent service, in such a way that the Council is not established as a mere formality.

104. Unless the diocesan Bishop has decided otherwise, observing the necessary prudence and any pertinent norms of civil law, nothing prevents the same person from being a member of the Finance Council of multiple Parishes, whenever circumstances require.

105. Any eventual norms issued by the diocesan Bishop in these matters must take account of the specific situations of Parishes, such as, for example, those of particularly modest means, or those forming part of a pastoral unit[159].

106. The Finance Council fulfils a role of particular importance in the growth, at the level of the Parish community, of a culture of co-responsibility, of administrative transparency, and of service to the needs of the Church. In a particular way, transparency should not be understood as a mere formal presentation of statistics, but more as information that is the community’s due, and an advantageous opportunity for its formative involvement. Transparency refers to a modus agendi, indispensable for the credibility of the Church, especially where there are significant goods to administer.

107. Ordinarily, the goal of transparency may be attained by publishing the annual financial report that must first be presented to the local Ordinary[160], with detailed indications of income and expenditure. From the annual report, the community as a whole may be aware that these goods belong to the Parish, not the Parish Priest; that he is the steward of them; how they are administered; what the financial situation of the Parish is and what resources are effectively at its disposal.

Chapter X. b. The Parish Pastoral Council

108. The current canonical norms[161] leave it to the diocesan Bishop to decide on the establishment of a Pastoral Council in Parishes, but in any case, they may ordinarily be considered as highly recommended, as Pope Francis recalled, “How necessary pastoral councils are! A Bishop cannot guide a Diocese without pastoral councils. A Parish Priest cannot guide without pastoral councils”[162].

The flexibility of the norm permits the adaptation considered apt for the concrete circumstances, as for example, in the case of multiple Parishes entrusted to a single Parish Priest, or those within pastoral units: it is possible in this cases to establish a single Pastoral Council for several Parishes.

109. The theological significance of the Pastoral Council is inscribed in the constitutive reality of the Church, that is, in her being “the Body of Christ”, that generates a “spirituality of communion”. In the Christian community, in fact, the diversity of charisms and ministries that derive from incorporation into Christ and from the gift of the Holy Spirit may never be homogenised until they become “uniformity, the obligation of doing everything together and all as equals, of always thinking the same thing in the same way”[163]. On the contrary, in virtue of the baptismal priesthood[164], every member of the faithful is created for the building up of the whole Body and, at the same time, the whole People of God, in the reciprocal co-responsibility of its members, participates in the mission of the Church, that is, discerning in history the signs of the presence of God and becoming witnesses of His Kingdom[165].

110. Far from being simply a bureaucratic organ, the Pastoral Council highlights and realizes the centrality of the People of God as the subject and active protagonist of the evangelising mission, in virtue of the fact that every member of the faithful has received the gifts of the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation: “Rebirth to the divine life of baptism is the first step; next comes conducting ourselves as children of God, namely, by conforming ourselves to Christ who works in Holy Church, letting ourselves be involved in her mission in the world. To that end, the anointing of the Spirit is provided: ‘without your strength, we have none’ (cf. Pentecost Sequence). […] As Jesus was animated by the Spirit for his whole life, so also the life of the Church and of each of her members is under the guidance of the same Spirit”[166].

In light of this fundamental vision, the words of St Paul VI come to mind, “It is the function of the pastoral council to investigate everything pertaining to pastoral activities, to weigh them carefully and to set forth practical conclusions concerning them so as to promote conformity of the life and actions of the People of God with the Gospel”[167], in the awareness that, as Pope Francis recalled, the purpose of such a Council “should not be ecclesiastical organization but rather the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone”[168].

111. The Pastoral Council is a consultative body, governed by the norms established by the diocesan Bishop, to define the criteria of its composition, the methods of election of its members, its objectives and manner of functioning[169]. In any case, in order not to distort the nature of this Council, it is best to avoid defining it as a “team” or “équipe”, that is to say in terms that are not suitable to express concretely the ecclesial and canonical relationship between the Parish Priest and the rest of the faithful.

112. With regard to the relative diocesan norms, it is necessary that the Pastoral Council effectively represent the community of which it is an expression in its membership (priests, deacons, religious and laity). This constitutes a specific setting in which the faithful are able to exercise their right and duty to express their own thought concerning the good of the Parish community to the pastors,[170] and to communicate it to other members of the faithful.

113. The Parish Pastoral Council “possesses a consultative vote only”[171], in the sense that its proposals must be accepted favourably by the Parish Priest to become operative. The Parish Priest is then bound to consider the indications of the Pastoral Council attentively, especially if they express themselves unanimously, in a process of common discernment.

So that the service of the Pastoral Council might be efficacious and fruitful, it is necessary to avoid two extremes: on one hand, that of the Parish Priest presenting to the Pastoral Council decisions already made, or without the required information beforehand, or convoking it seldom only pro forma. on the other hand, that of the Council in which the Parish Priest is only one of the members, deprived de facto of his role as Pastor and Leader of the community[172].

114. Finally, it is considered fitting that, as far as possible, the Pastoral Council should consist for the most part of those who have effective responsibility in the pastoral life of the Parish, or who are concretely engaged in it, in order to avoid the meetings becoming an exchange of abstract ideas that do not take into account the real life of the community, with its resources and problems.