Pius XII speaks on lay apostolate


on the



Edited by the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Apostolate of the Laity Palazzo delle Congregazioni Piazza San Callisto




The Laity and the Church Nature of the Lay Apostolate . Purpose of the Lay Apostolate . All are called to the Apostolate

Origin and Historical Development Urgent Need of the Lay Apostolate . The Spirit of the Lay Apostolate

The Hierarchy and the Lay Apostolate Various types of the Lay Apostolate . Formation for the Apostolate

The Lay Apostolate in action

Organization (for the different milieux and on the international level)

The Church has confidence in the Laity

Papal Documents quoted in this Booklet

Lord Jesus, Who hast called us to the honour of making our humble contribution to the work of the apostolate of the hierarchy, Thou Who hast prayed the heavenly Father, not to take us out of the world, but to keep us from evil, grant us in abundance Thy light and Thy grace that we may overcome in ourselves the spirit of darkness and of sin, so that conscious of our duty, persevering in good, inflamed with zeal for Thy cause by force of example, of prayer, of action and of supernatural living, we may become each day more worthy of our holy mission, and more qualified to establish and promote among our fellow-men Thy kingdom of justice, peace and love.

October 1951


Prayer composed by the Holy Father on the occasion of the First World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, and first recited by Him with the delegates at the solemn Audience of October 14th, 1951.


From the “Osservatore Romano “, Feb. 2, 1956: “As an act of homage to His Holiness Pope Pius XII for the coming anniversary of His birth and His Pontificate, the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate wishes to manifest its keen desire to spread the teachings of the Supreme Pastor. It therefore plans to publish a series of booklets, in various, languages, as documentation – destined especially for countries furthest away from the centre of Christendom on the admirable “Ministerium Verbi” of His Holiness in the field of the Lay Apostolate “.

With this news item the Vatican daily paper announced the preparation of the present booklet, which is composed entirely of extracts from the documents of His Holiness Pope Pius XII: Encyclicals, Addresses for national or international congresses, Autograph Letters, etc. It has been a difficult task to choose extracts from so rich a collection, and quotations always risk limiting the thought contained in the full text, but, in spite of the shortcomings inherent in this type of publication, we have felt that a small and accessible booklet of this kind was needed, especially for those who in many countries of Asia and Africa, for instance, do not as a rule have access to the full text of Papal documents.

Over the past four years, since the creation of the Permanent Committee in January 1952 in itself a further proof of the Holy Father’s paternal care for the development of the Lay Apostolate it has indeed, become clear, through the world-wide contacts the Committee has been called to establish, that the mind of Pope Pius XII on the subject of the Lay Apostolate is too little known. We hope then that this booklet will be of service to all the varied forms of Lay Apostolate groups:

1) by giving some idea of the scope of the magnificent teachings of His Holiness Pope Pius XII on the Lay Apostolate, and of the importance He attaches to it in the Church today;

2) by encouraging leaders and all those active in the Lay Apostolate to deepen their knowledge of the Papal teachings and to make them more widely known;

3) by providing authoritative texts to clarify thinking, and to inspire further action in the Apostolate.

The ideas put forward in the following pages have behind them the authority and wisdom of the Vicar of Christ; but we should wish the reader to feel also, through these texts, the warm affection with which the Holy Father addresses his children, and in a special way those grouped in the various movements for the Apostolate. Very many of them will treasure in their memory one or other of the unforgettable occasions when these words were pronounced.

We dedicate this booklet to the Queen of Apostles, praying that her maternal care will foster and strengthen the Lay Apostolate throughout the world.

Rome, Feast of the Annunciation 1956.


All headings and italics are the work of the editors.

The translations of texts not originally in English are, for the most part, those of the Vatican Service.


Frequently indeed in the course of Our Pontificate, We have spoken of this Apostolate of the Laity under the most diverse circumstances and varied aspects

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

The Laity and the Church

The Church is a society, and therefore must have its own authority and hierarchy. Although it is true that all members of the Mystical Body share the same goods and tend to the same end, this does not mean that they enjoy the same powers or are competent to perform the same actions. The Divine Redeemer has established His Kingdom upon the stable foundation of a sacred order; and that order is a kind of reflection of the heavenly hierarchy.

Only the Apostles and those who since have duly received from them and their successors the imposition of hands possess that priestly power in virtue of which they stand before their people as Christ’s representative and before God as vice-gerant of the people.

(Dec. 1, 1947, Encyclical « Mediator Dei »).

As far as the Church is concerned, She has, towards all, a threefold mission to fulfil; to raise up the fervent believers to the level of the needs of the present day; to introduce those who hesitate on the threshold into the warm and salutary intimacy of the hearth; to lead back those who have separated themselves from religion, and whom she cannot, for all that, abandon to their miserable fate. A fine task for the Church, but one that is rendered more difficult by the fact that, if as a whole the Church has grown greatly, the number of clergy has not increased in proportion. Besides, the clergy have need above all to keep themselves free for the exercise of the sacred ministry proper to the sacerdotal state, which no one else can do for them.

Assistance, given to the apostolate by the laity, is for that reason an indispensable necessity. That this support is of true value, the experience of those who were comrades in arms or in captivity or in the other trials of war bears testimony. Especially in matters of religion is there evidenced the profound and efficacious influence of those who are companions in a profession or condition of life. These factors and others besides, according to the circumstances of places and persons, have opened wider the doors for the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate of the Church.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

The guiding principle therefore of all who collaborate in this Apostolate should be a “Sentire cum Ecclesia“, to have the mind of the Church, to be intimately acquainted with the doctrine of the Church which is the ” pillar and the ground of truth “.

(Jan. 30, 1948 – Message to the Indian Hierarchy).

As for the laity, it is clear that they can be invited by legitimate teachers and accepted as helpers in the defence of the faith. It is enough to call to mind the thousands of men and women engaged in catechetical work and other types of lay apostolate, all of which are highly praiseworthy and can be strenuously promoted. But all these lay apostles must be, and remain, under the authority, leadership and watchfulness of those who by divine institution are set up as teachers of Christ’s Church. In matters involving the salvation of souls, there is no teaching authority in the Church not subject to this authority and vigilance.

(May 31, 1954, to the Cardinals and Bishops present at the Canonization of Pius X).

“They are the Church”

The Church seeks out, above all, man as such. Her study is to form man, to model and perfect in him the Divine image. Her work is done in the depth of each man’s heart, but has its effects, extending… into all his activities. Through men thus formed, the Church prepares for human society a basis on which it can rest securely.

Under this aspect, Venerable Brethren, the faithful, and more precisely the laity, are in the front line of the Church’s life; for them the Church is the vital principle of human society. Accordingly they especially they must have an ever clearer sense not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, the community of the faithful on earth under the guidance of the common Head, the Pope and of the Bishops in communion with him. They are the Church, and therefore from its earliest days the faithful, with the consent of their Bishops, have united in particular associations relating to the most diverse spheres of life. And the Holy See has never ceased to approve of and praise these organizations.

(Feb. 20, 1946, to the College of Cardinals).

Nature of the Lay Apostolate

The Apostolate …

The Apostolate in a way participates in the divine mission of Jesus. It shows to men the love of the Father and of the Son in the gift of their single Spirit. You undoubtedly remember how the Acts of the Apostles emphasize this marvellous fruit of the Holy Ghost on the morrow of Pentecost: “Now the multitude of the believers were of one heart and one soul”. (Acts 4-32).

(Sept. 8, 1954, to Sodalists attending the International Congress of Marian Congregations in Rome).

In the first place, a word about the concept of the Apostolate. The apostolate does not consist merely in announcing the Good News but also in leading men to the sources of salvation, at the same time fully respecting their freedom, in converting them and in diligently training those who are baptized to become perfect Christians.

(May 3, 1951, to Italian Catholic Action).

Apostolate is in itself a fruit of Charity; of the love of God, Whom we wish to see glorified in every soul; of the love of our neighbour, whom we wish to make partaker of the supreme good. The apostolate is an expression of Charity and therein it accomplished and strengthened… It would, in truth, be a meagre good to relieve the hunger of men’s bodies without turning their minds to Christ and His will, leaving their souls still hungry for the substantial bread of truth and of eternal promises. Anybody who relieves material miseries for the sole purpose of satisfying his innate sentiment of compassion is performing a purely human work. The Christian goes, and must go, further; he must feel that higher pity which is satisfied only by giving God to souls.

(April 27, 1952, to the Italian National Congress of the St. Vincent de Paul Society).

…of the Laity

It is certainly not easy to draw an exact line of demarcation showing precisely where the true apostolate of the laity begins. Must one make it embrace, for example, the education given by the mother of a family or by the men and women instructors engaged with holy zeal in the practice of their teaching profession; or else the conduct of a reputable and openly Catholic doctor whose conscience never wavers when there is a question of the natural and divine law and who fights with all his might in defence of the Christian dignity of married persons and the sacred rights of their off-spring, or even the action of the Catholic statesman who sponsors a generous housing policy in favour of the less fortunate?

Many would be inclined to answer in the negative, seeing in all these examples merely the accomplishment, very laudable in itself, but obligatory, of the duties of one’s state.

We know, however, the powerful and irreplaceable value, for the good of souls, of this ordinary performance of the duties of one’s state by so many millions of conscientious and exemplary faithful.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

… of Catholic Action

Unfortunately, priests in these days are scarce in comparison with the calls made upon them; our own age, too, verifies that utterance of our divine Saviour, “The harvest is plentiful enough, but those who labour in it are few” (Matthew IX, 37; Luke X, 2). The collaboration of the laity with the apostolate of the Hierarchy can give valuable help to the clergy. The movement grows daily, and is animated by a high spirit of self-devotion; it shows a promise which justifies the best hopes for its future…

Active organizations of men and women, young men and girls, are obeying the call of the Supreme Bishop and putting themselves under the direction of their Ordinaries, so as to devote themselves whole-heartedly and zealously to the work of the apostolate, in the hope of bringing back to Jesus Christ the multitudes who for so long have been miserably led astray from Him…

This apostolic activity, undertaken with the encouragement and under the direction of the Church, consecrates lay people for the service of Christ

(Oct. 20, 1939 – Encyclical « Summi Pontificatus »).

Catholic Action, indeed, represents the official lay apostolate; it is an instrument in the hands of the Hierarchy; it must be, as it were, a prolongation of its arm…

Necessarily and continually, human life, both private and social, finds itself in contact with the law and spirit of Christ: consequently, by the force of circumstances, there arises reciprocal compenetration between religious apostolate and political action. Political, in the highest sense of the word, means nothing else than collaboration for the good of the State (πόλις). But this good of the State is to be understood in a very wide sense, and consequently it is on the political plane that there are debated and enacted laws even of the greatest import, such as those which concern marriage, the family, the child, the school, to confine Ourselves to these examples. Are these not questions which primarily interest religion? Can they leave an apostle indifferent, apathetic? We have traced, in the allocution already cited (May 3, 1951), the limits between Catholic Action and political action. Catholic Action must not become a litigant in party politics. But, as We have already said to the members of the Olivaint Conference, “to the extent that it is praiseworthy to remain above contingent quarrels which envenom the struggles of parties… to that same extent would it be blameworthy to leave the field free to persons unworthy or incapable of directing the affairs of State”. (March 28, 1948). Up to what point can and should the apostle keep himself at a distance from this limit? It is difficult to formulate a uniform rule for all on this point. The circumstances, the mentality, are not the same everywhere.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

Purpose of the Lay Apostolate

Exalted indeed is the mission of Catholic Action, contributing as it does to the attainment of the Church’s very aim: to cooperate in the salvation of souls, and to continue across time and space the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

To rebuild society on a Christian basis; to bring back into esteem the Gospel and its teaching; to renew family life, restoring to marriage the prestige of its sacramental dignity, and to man and wife a sense of their duties and awareness of their responsibilities; to re-affirm, at all levels of society, the true idea of authority, discipline, respect for the social order, and the mutual rights and duties of man.

(Sept. 4, 1940, to the Leaders of Italian Catholic Action).

Experience, moreover, has made it clear that the Church needs to make use of all the energies and resources at Her disposal; it has also repeatedly borne witness to the valuable help given by the laity to the Clergy, in activities directed both towards preserving, in our time, the spiritual patrimony inherited from past generations, and towards spreading the light of the Gospel among individuals and peoples, by methods adapted to present circumstances.

This is a conception which seems to Us now, and even now especially, to merit fresh and fruitful reflection: an elect body of the faithful, tried and generous, with a subordinate and complementary function in relation to the Clergy, whose mission it is, today more than ever before — while utterly unequal in numbers and strength to present needs – to lead back the modern world to Christ.

(Jan. 25, 1950 – Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate).

The mission of the Church and of every one of her faithful is always the same: to bring all life to Christ: one’s own life, private life, and public life; not to cease from the struggle until life has been entirely renewed and formed by His doctrine and law. He is our Lord, our King, our Peace. What is more, the more violent today are the attempts of incredulity and irreligion to turn Christ and the Church from the path of men, the more must the ranks of staunch Christians, particularly the young people, close to fight for the sovereign rights of Christ and of the freedom of the Church, on which depend not only the eternal salvation of souls, but also the dignity and happiness of men on earth, civil order, justice, and peace. In these things all mutilation is mortal; one cannot kill the Christian without suppressing at the same blow the citizen and the upright man.

(Dec. 8, 1947, to the members of the Roman Youth of Catholic Action).

Among the primary ends of the Congregations must be included apostolate in all its forms, especially the social apostolate, entrusted to its members by the ecclesiastical hierarchy itself for the propagation of the reign of Christ and the defence of the rights of the Church. To collaborate really and truly in the hierarchic Apostolate, it is not necessary to introduce modifications or innovations to the rules proper to the Associations, relating to different methods of this cooperation.

(Sept. 27, 1948 – Apostolic Constitution. « Bis saeculari »).

All are called to the Apostolate

The duty of promoting, to the best of our power, the coming of God’s kingdom is one binding upon all who have been called into that kingdom, and out of Satan’s power, by their regeneration at the font. 

(Oct. 20, 1939 – Encyclical « Summi Pontificatus »).

And so We desire that all who claim the Church as their mother, should seriously consider that not only the clergy and those who have consecrated themselves to God in the religious life, but the other members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ as well have, each in his degree, the obligation of working hard and constantly for the building up and increase of this Body. We wish this to be borne in mind especially by members of Catholic Action who assist the Bishops and priests in their apostolic labours and to their and also by praise be it said, they do realize it those members of pious associations who work for the same end. There is no one who does not realize that their energetic zeal is of the highest importance and of the greatest weight especially in the present circumstances.

(June 29, 1943 – Encyclical « Mystici Corporis »).

All of you can and ought to value most highly the apostolate of an exemplary life of prayer and of sacrifice. But precisely here, over and above what is strictly of obligation for every Catholic, there remains a large field within which the physical capabilities, which differ in every one, and the generosity of heart, with which always presupposing a sound judgement and a right intention you correspond to the impulses of grace, should determine the just and suitable measure of your activity.

(Jan. 22, 1947, to Members of « Rinascita Cristiana »).

All the faithful without exception are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. It follows that the law of nature, and still more pressing, the law of Christ, imposes upon them the obligation of giving a good example by a truly Christian life: “Christi bonus odor sumus Deo in iis qui salvi fiunt, et in iis qui pereunt”: “For we are the good odour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved and in them that perish” (II Cor. 2, 15). All are also occupied, in their prayer and sacrifice, today more and more in thinking not only about their own private needs, but also about the great intentions of the reign of God in the world, according to the spirit of the “Our Father”, which Jesus Christ Himself has taught us.

Can we say that everyone is called to the Apostolate in the strict sense of the word? God has not given to everyone either the possibility or the aptitude. One can hardly ask a wife and a mother, who has to look after the Christian upbringing of her children and work at home besides to help her husband to feed their little ones, to do apostolic work of this kind.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

Eager to reply to the pressing appeals We have addressed to all Catholics, you are willing to accept all the responsibilities which the Church’s apostolate involves. That is a noble and generous resolution…

Everyone knows that religion has held the first place in scouting from the start, but you are also aware of the added strength and precision given by Catholicism to the educational work you pursue. For you it is not merely a question of training better citizens, more active, more devoted to the common good of the Temporal City: you must also train better sons of the Church. In the Catholic Church, the mission of the apostolate goes down from the priests to the faithful; and, in our days, all the faithful are called upon to collaborate, each according to his capacity, in this apostolate.

(June 7, 1952, to the VII International Congress of Catholic Scouting).

Origin and Historical Development

It can certainly be claimed that the lay cooperation which we today call Catholic Action has existed since the foundation of the Church. Indeed the Apostles and other preachers of the Gospel received no little help from it and the Christian religion thereby made great advances. In this respect Apollo, Lydia, Aquila, Priscilla and Philemon are mentioned by the Apostle of the Gentiles. We have also these words of his to the Philippians: “Yes, and I ask thee, who sharest the yoke so loyally, to take part with them; they have worked for the Gospel at my side, as much as Clement and those other fellow-laborers of mine, whose names are recorded in the book of life”. (Phil. IV, 3).

Likewise all know that the Gospel followed the great Roman roads and was spread not only by Bishops and priests but also by public officials, soldiers and private citizens. Thousands of Christian neophytes, whose names are today unknown, were fired with zeal to promote the new religion they had embraced and endeavoured to prepare the way for the coming of the Gospel. That explains why after about 100 years Christianity had penetrated into all the chief cities of the Roman Empire.

During the barbarian invasions of the Middle Ages, we see men and women of royal rank and even workmen and valiant Christian women of the common people using every endeavour to convert their fellow citizens to the religion of Jesus Christ and to fashion their morals according to its pattern, so as to safeguard both religion and the State from approaching danger.

Thus in every age, thanks to the tireless labours of the clergy and also to the cooperation of the laity, the Catholic Church has not only advanced its spiritual kingdom, but has also led nations to increased social prosperity.

(June 2, 1951 – Encyclical « Evangelii Praecones »).

It is often said that during the past four centuries the Church has been exclusively “clerical”, as a reaction against the crisis, which in the sixteenth century had tried to achieve the abolition, pure and simple, of the hierarchy; and in this regard it is insinuated that it is time for the Church to enlarge its framework.

Such a judgement is so far from the reality that it is precisely since the sacred Council of Trent that the laity has taken rank and progressed in apostolic activity. The thing is easily noted; it here suffices to recall two patent historic facts from among so many others: the Marian Congregations of men actively exercising the apostolate of the laity in all the domains of public life and the progressive introduction of women in the modern apostolate.

And it is fitting, on this point, to recall two outstanding figures of Catholic history: one is Mary Ward, that incomparable woman whom, in the most sombre and bloody times, Catholic England gave to the Church; the other, Saint Vincent de Paul, unquestionably in the first rank among the founders and promoters of the works of Catholic charity.

Nor can one let pass unperceived or without recognizing its beneficent influence that close union which, until the French revolution, placed in mutual relations, in the Catholic world, the two authorities. established by God the Church and the State. on the common The intimacy of their relations ground of public life, created generally an atmosphere of Christian spirit, which rendered unnecessary, in large part, that delicate work which priest and laity must undertake today in order to safeguard the faith and assure its practical value.

At the end of the eighteenth century, a new factor came into play. On the one hand, the Constitution of the United States of America a country which had an extraordinarily rapid development and where the Church soon began to grow considerably in life and vigour, and on the other hand, the French revolution, with its consequences in Europe as well as overseas, led to the detachment of the Church from the State. Without taking effect everywhere at the same time and in the same degree, this separation everywhere had for its logical conclusion the leaving of the Church to assure by its own means the freedom of its action, the accomplishment of its mission, the defence of its rights and of its liberty. This was the origin of what is called the Catholic movements which, under the direction of priests and of the laity, strong in their compact units and sincere loyalty, led the large mass of believers on to combat and to victory. Do we not see here, already, an initiation and introduction of the laity to the apostolate?

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

It would be a mistake to see in Catholic Action – as some people have recently stated something essentially new, a change in the structure of the Church, a new apostolate of laymen side by side with that of the priests and not subordinated to the latter. In the Church laymen have always collaborated in the apostolate of the Hierarchy in subordination to the Bishop and to him to whom the Bishop has entrusted the responsibility of the care of souls under his authority. Catholic Action has given this collaboration nothing but a new form and organization so that it may be better and more efficaciously exercised.

(May 3, 1951, to Italian Catholic Action).

Urgent Need of the Lay Apostolate

Writing to you, Venerable Brethren, who by reason of your office bring to the matter your loving and watchful care, We desire once again to stress how the well ordered collaboration of the laity with the hierarchical apostolate which has always been, from apostolic times, among the most constant and fruitful traditions of the Church has shown itself, in these last times, to be of particularly urgent necessity, and is therefore to be promoted in every possible way.

(Jan. 25, 1950 – Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate).

From this there naturally follows, dear sons, the necessity of obtaining help, of finding collaborators capable of multiplying your strength and capacity, ready to supply for you where you do not suceed in penetrating. Hence the great importance of the apostolate of the laity, which, as you yourselves know from your own experience, can become a powerful source of good.

Even today Our Lord succours His Church in her necessities; and just as here and there real missionary territories develop near the campaniles of our churches, so there is reason to thank God for the increasing number of the laity who ” have a call” to sanctity and to the apostolate; so that it is not difficult at present to find generous souls enrolled in Catholic organizations, or others who, although not members of organizations, are equally ready to assist the priest. in his care of souls.

(Feb. 27, 1954, to the Pastors and Lenten preachers of Rome).

The same conditions which prevailed in the early days of the Church are still to be found in many areas which have been evangelized by missionaries; or at least their peoples suffer disadvantages which at the time of the persecutions, had to be left to a future generation to face and remedy. For that reason it is imperative that the laity should in great numbers enter the serried ranks of Catholic Action, and thus cooperate generously, earnestly and diligently with the Hierarchy in promoting the apostolate. The work of catechists is assuredly necessary; yet no less necessary is the industry and skill of those who out of pure charity are ready to help gratuitously the ministers of God in the performance of their duties.

(June 2, 1951 Encyclical « Evangelii Praecones »).

The Spirit of the Lay Apostolate

In the Church’s holy conquests, numbers are not the decisive element, but rather a burning charity and firm confidence in the efficacy of faithful obedience and divine grace. In the admirable harmony of Catholic forces, even a few members in the smallest parish will undoubtedly make a valuable contribution, if their activities, though modest and limited, are fruit of fervent and enlightened preparation, of filial discipline in relation to the Hierarchy, of generous inward piety and a true spirit of sacrifice.

While they enrich the treasure of the Universal Church by their merits, the example of their lives. will bear fruits of unlooked for efficacy in the most. tepid of the faithful and in those even who have drifted furthest away: today, indeed, more than ever, men let themselves be persuaded, less by words than by the concrete example of those who live close to Jesus Christ.

(Jan. 25, 1950 – Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate).

Responsible for the glory of God on earth, depositary of divine powers, the Hierarchy assigns a task. to each one of the volunteers who offer themselves in order to continue the work of Jesus Christ. For the purpose of helping it effectively it is not enough to submit for its approval every existing institution or every new initiative. But it is important to enter into its spirit, to understand its intentions and to anticipate its desires. This takes for granted humility and obedience, devotion and self-denial, solid virtues that the serious formation of the Congregations does not fail to develop. 

(Sept. 8, 1954, to Sodalists attending International Congress of Marian Congregations).

Mary’s spirit

Where better, moreover, than in her (Mary’s) wholly dedicated life, are your peaceful legions of Catholic Action to find the model and pattern of their spiritual strategy and tactics? In their total forgetfulness of self, in their common sharing of the prayer, labour, joys and sufferings of Christ in His members at home and afar, in their loyal and effective collaboration with the apostolic Hierarchy which speaks to them and plans for them in His blessed Name, let this generation, too, recognize the Marian stamp on their apostolate.

(Dec. 8, 1954 – Radio Address to Indian National Marian Congress in Bombay).

Dear sons and daughters! We rally you once again to Our call, sure that all will respond and that none will seek to evade Our summons. Under the eyes of Mary, Queen of Victories, prepare to live in an atmosphere, as it were, of general mobilization, ready for any sacrifice, ready for every heroism.

(Dec. 8, 1953 – Radio Address to Italian Catholic Action).

The Hierarchy and the Lay Apostolate

It is self-evident that the apostolate of the laity is subordinated to the ecclesiastical Hierarchy; for the Hierarchy is of divine institution; the apostolate cannot then be independent in regard to it. To think otherwise would be to undermine the very wall on which Christ Himself has built His Church.

In Our allocution of last May 3, to Italian Catholic Action, We let it be understood that the dependence of the lay apostolate with respect to the Hierarchy admits of gradations. Such dependence is most strict for Catholic Action: for Catholic Action indeed represents the official lay apostolate; it is the instrument in the hands of the Hierarchy; it must be, as it were, a prolongation of its arm; it is by that very fact essentially subject to the direction of the ecclesiastical Superior. Other works of the Lay Apostolate, organized or not, may be left more to their free initiative, with all the latitude required by the ends to be attained. It is self-evident, however, that the initiative of the laity in the exercise of the apostolate must always remain within the limits of orthodoxy and not oppose the lawful prescriptions of the competent ecclesiastical authorities.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

“Sentire cum Ecclesia “

The special end of each organization is that which determines the manner of its direction. And it may be that this end does not need, or even renders inopportune, such immediate direction (from the ecclesiastical Hierarchy). Yet this does not mean that these organizations cease to be Catholic and united to the Hierarchy.

Compared with them, the specific meaning of Catholic Action is, as we have already said, that it is a sort of reception centre for active Catholics always ready to collaborate in the apostolate of the Church, an apostolate divinely instituted on hierarchical lines whose co-operators – found among those who have been baptised and confirmed  – have been recruited in a supernatural manner. The organization of Catholic Action must adapt itself in different regions to the particular local circumstances. But in one point all its members are equal: in “sentire cum Ecclesia” (thinking with the Church), in dedicating themselves to the Church’s cause, in obeying those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops to rule the Church of God, in submitting as sons to the Supreme Pastor to whose care Christ has entrusted His Church. And how could it be otherwise as long as you, members of Catholic Action, together with your Bishop and your Pope form, so to speak, virtually a single unit? 

(May 3, 1951, to Italian Catholic Action).

Unity with the Hierarchy, the visible sign of sincere attachment to Christ, will also be the touchstone for purity of zeal. If we have insisted on numbering the Marian Congregations, as the Constitution “Bis saeculari” defines them, among the most authentic forms of Catholic Action, it is because they specifically strive to make their members enter into the spirit of the Church: “sentire cum Ecclesia”. Now such a disposition is the only one that is suitable when a person claims to collaborate with the apostolate of the Hierarchy.

(Sept. 8, 1954, to the 1st International Congress of Marian Congregations).

Various types of the Lay Apostolate

The Apostolate of the Laity, in its proper sense, is without doubt to a large extent organized in Catholic Action and in other forms of apostolic activity approved by the Church; but, apart from those, there can be, and actually are, lay apostles, those men and women who see all the good there is to be done and the possibilities and means of doing it; and they do it with only the one desire of winning souls to truth and grace. We also have in mind so many excellent lay people in countries where the Church is being persecuted today as She was in the first centuries of Christianity, who are doing their best, at the peril of their very lives, to fill the place of priests who are in prison, by teaching Christian doctrine and instructing others in the religious way of life and in true Catholic thought, and by encouraging the frequentation of the Sacraments and devotional practices, especially devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. All these lay people, you see them at work: do not concern yourself to ask to which organization they belong; but rather admire and heartily recognize the good they accomplish…

… We cannot conclude, beloved sons and daughters, without recalling the practical work which the Lay Apostolate has accomplished and is accomplishing throughout the whole world in all the domains of individual and social human life; a work the results and experience of which you have compared and discussed among yourselves during these days; apostolate at the service of Christian marriage, of the family, the child, of education and the school; for young men and young women; an apostolate of charity and aid under the numberless aspects it assumes today; an apostolate for practical betterment of social disorders and misery; apostolate of the missions, or in favour of emigrants and immigrants; apostolate in the domain of intellectual and cultural life; apostolate of games and sports; finally, and it is not the least of these, the apostolate of public opinion

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress for the Lay Apostolate).

The Blessed Virgin also inspires the Lay Apostolate, in its diverse forms, in particular those of the Marian Associations and Catholic Action groups. For souls desirous of living out the teaching of Jesus more sincerely and more fully, for those who burn to make it known to others, in particular to their fellow workers, for him who wishes to restore the order of justice and charity in social institutions and to bring to the temporal order of society a reflection of the perfect harmony that unites the Children of God, the Virgin Mary obtains the grace of the apostolate. She puts on their lips words that conquer without hurting and she animates them with an ingenious zeal and a humble, patient, devoted affection; without which the apostle runs the risk of growing tired very quickly.

(Sept. 5, 1954 – Radio Address, Belgian National Marian Congress).

Then you must actually use them. Some will point out to you particular material and spiritual needs. Others will open for you the doors of a soul closed to any priestly contact. There are those who in your name will carry help to the poor, who will visit the sick or share in some sorrow or some joy. You need help in teaching catechism to the children; the apostolate must be exercised in factories, in schools, in large apartment houses, not only by one’s presence, but also by one’s actions. There must be someone to initiate and bring into action, under your guidance and with your blessing, a band of “lay missionaries”. Be exacting in pointing out their goals to them and be constant in encouraging them to their realization. As is clear, they will not have to give orders, but neither may they be reduced merely to carrying out orders. Therefore, leave them sufficient scope for developing a spirit of eager and fruitful initiative. This will also make them happier, more alert and ready to collaborate with you.

(Feb. 27, 1954 – Message to the Pastors and Lenten preachers of Rome).

Formation for the Apostolate

Religious formation

The needs of our time then require that the laity, too, and especially those who collaborate with the Hierarchy of the Church, procure for themselves a treasure of religious knowledge, not a poor and meagre knowledge, but one that will have solidity and richness, through the medium of libraries, discussions and study clubs; in this way they will derive great benefit for themselves and at the same time be able to instruct the ignorant, confute stubborn adversaries and be of assistance to good friends.

(Nov. 1st, 1939 Encyclical « Sertum Laetitiae » to the American Hierarchy).

You want to be and ought to be, in the contemporary world, the bearers, the messengers, the apostles of Christian thought and of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: but then, that thought must seize, so to speak, and penetrate deeply into your own selves. Now, modern intellectual life is so dominated by technical, scientific and economic thought, that the science calls meaning of truths of a higher order them metaphysical truths — and the ability to understand them is beginning to disappear. We have no need to show how We understand and highly esteem the activities and conquests of the natural sciences and of technology. But these metaphysical truths are the basis of all being, material and spiritual, natural and supernatural. For Catholic intellectuals and leaders there is today a real need to have a thorough knowledge of this world of immutable and eternal truths, to deepen their knowledge of them and of the entire treasure of our faith as well. The religious instruction which you received in your youth, however excellent it may have been, does not suffice in view of your mature years and for the new problems which have in the meantime arisen and advanced to the fore.

Have, therefore, a deep understanding of the foundations of the faith, of its structures and of each of its truths.

(May 24, 1953, to the University Graduates of Italian Catholic Action).

You will have particular care for the “intellectual” formation of your collaborators, seeing to it especially that they have clear ideas as a result of a truly profound knowledge of religion. You well know how great a need there is today of those who know how to speak, even in public, in order to enlighten so many minds and to defend the Church from the attacks which in these times it is not unusual to hear on every side: in the market-place, in offices, in factories, on the streets.

But above all take care of their spiritual formation. Have them put on Jesus Christ; nourish them with Him; make of His divine Heart a model from which they may draw inspiration in their thoughts, their affections, their desires, their words and actions. Have them surrender their heart in Jesus and in the arms of His heavenly Mother Mary.

(Feb. 27, 1954, to the Pastors and Lenten preachers of Rome).

(Catholic Actionists) must undergo a training which embraces the whole man, and which brings mind and heart and will into subjection to Christ, so that each apostle of Catholic Action may show himself an example of good works in doctrine and integrity”. It is this integrity of Christian life, solidly grounded in doctrine, nourished by the frequent reception of the Sacraments, supported by prayer and the practice of Christian virtue, that characterizes the Catholic Actionist and makes him a faithful soldier of Christ in his home, in his work or profession and in every phase of his social life.

(Jan. 30, 1948, Message to the Indian Hierarchy).

Social Formation

The Christian education of conscience is far from neglecting personality, even that of the young girl and the child, or from strangling its initiative. All sound education aims at rendering the educator unnecessary, little by little, and making the one educated independent within proper limits. This is also true of the education of the conscience by God and the Church. Its aim is, as the apostle says, “the perfect man according to the measure of the fullness of the age of Christ” (Eph. 4, 3), hence a man who is of age and who also has the courage which goes with responsibility…

The Christian for his part must assume the grave and sublime task of putting into practice in his personal life, in professional life and social and public life, in so far as it may depend on him, the This is truth, the spirit and the law of Christ… what we call Catholic morality and it leaves a vast field of action for the initiative and the personal responsibility of the Christian.

(Apr. 18, 1952, to the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women).

In the workers’ movement, those only can be disappointed who fix their gaze solely on the immediate political scene, on the manoeuvres of the majority. Your present activity is the preparatory, and so essential, stage of politics. For you it is a question of training and preparing the way for the true Christian workman, by means of your “social formation“, towards trade-union and political life, and of sustaining and making easier all his entire conduct by means of your “social action” and “social service“. Continue then, without weakness, the work already accomplished; in that way you will be opening to Christ a direct entry into the world of the worker, and then also indirectly, into other social groups.

(May 1, 1955, to the Christian Associations of Italian Workers [ACLI]).

Your “International Federation” will be able to shed light on this picture of the workers’ situation, through exchange of information and through its own research and thus render service to the Church, whose social teaching must not only furnish guidance for practical activities but must itself also gain new insight from experience of practical life…

… There can be no doubt that this picture is now very different from what it was at the time of the Encyclical “Rerum Novarum “…

… We are also thinking of the need to form capable leadership personnel, who can be advisers for the bishops, as well as to train for these (underdeveloped) countries qualified priests and laymen…

(May 8, 1955, to the International Federation of Christian Workers Movements).

Apostolic Formation

Only too few baptized people are aware of the grandeur of their vocation. You, on the contrary, have a right and lofty ideal, and it is for the Father of the faithful a consolation to know how seriously you strive to live a genuine Christian life, an inward life that draws its life and its strength from the sources of the faith; an outward life rich in examples of apostolic enterprise. Nothing obliges us more to ascend than the wish to make others ascend; nothing increases the desire of divine grace as does our powerlessness known by experience in the apostolate.

(Apr. 8, 1953, to the Catholic Students of the Sorbonne).

The first thing scouts must do in their apostolate is to give a good example in the troop. Training themselves, individually or collectively, they are already at the service of the Church, forming the weapon they will use in their future apostolate. The wider, the deeper the foundations they lay, the more solid and imposing the edifice of their future lives as followers of Christ. The greater the radiance of their virtue, the more they will be called upon to work for the glory of God and the honour of the Church.

From a tender age, the scouts’ training must make him attentive, by concrete and suitable methods of observation and reflection, to social realities, both natural and supernatural. Scouts must learn to live in modern society. For this they must be wisely instructed about its structures, its good points and its defects. Especially they must prepare themselves to play an influential and responsible part as far as they are able, in their milieu and in the parish community. In short, the training of character which is the main object of scouting, must be directed towards social and apostolic work. It must train the scout to serve his neighbour, both in his personal contacts and through civil and religious institutions.

(June 7, 1952, to the 7th Intern. Congress of Catholic Scouting).

The Lay Apostolate in action

There cannot be among you, (as there exist in other associations in accordance with the regulations and for a useful purpose) side by side with the true and proper active members, other “honorary” members who do nothing more than subscribe to the objective aim of the associations, renew their membership regularly, pay their subscriptions and perhaps even take the periodical publications and attend meetings from time to time.

It would be impossible to conceive a Catholic Action group in which members not fully active were recruited. To obtain the membership card, to listen to conferences or addresses, to subscribe to the paper even without reading it perhaps: Is this enough for a man to call himself a true member of Catholic Action? Would not such a procedure be a contradiction between the name and the thing? Would a little nucleus of active members accompanied by a shapeless crowd of adherents during the great public manifestations merit the name of Catholic Action?

(May 3, 1951, to Italian Catholic Action).

Clear-sighted action

Your action must above all be clear-sighted. The man of Catholic Action cannot be ignorant of what the Church is doing and means to do. He knows that the Church wants peace; that She wants a juster distribution of wealth; that She wants to improve the lot of the poor and lowly; he knows that Christ, God made man, is the centre of human history; that all things have been made in Him and by Him. He knows that, when the Church wishes for a different and better world, She is thinking of a society based and founded on Jesus Christ, with His teaching, His example, His redemption.

In the second place, your action must be a source of light for others. In your factories and offices, in the street, wherever you go for healthy amusement and needed rest, you will have occasion to meet with men “who have eyes to see and see not (Ezech. 12, 2). Today, for instance, you find poor folk who are convinced that the Church, and the Pope, want the exploitation of the people, want dire poverty, and inimaginable as it might seem want war!… Every opportunity must be taken to open the eyes of these people who, in their blindness, are often the victims of deception, rather than themselves at fault.

(Oct. 12, 1952, to the Men of Italian Catholic Action).

Courageous action

Act with vigor! Even if there were only a few of you, if you were just the little flock which clung around Jesus, still on the strength of His word you ought not to be afraid “Fear not, little flock”.

But you are not few in number. Appreciate the strength of your forces, and then rise to your feet and make your presence felt… and demand that your voice be heard. Try to insist, for example, in the name of respect which is due to public morals, that Christian youth be permitted to observe the divine law without being forced to heroism every day, every moment. Why must the world belong to the enemy of God, to the enemies of God?

Our “cry of re-awakening” was also a cry of insurrection. A cry of rebellion is passing over the earth and you will hear it ever stronger; it is the voice of all the good. Pick it up and make it your own: repeat it forcefully: “We want Jesus to rule in the World: we want every creature in heaven and earth to bend his knee at His Name; we want even hell itself to bend down and to kneel”? Of what are you afraid… Even a delicate girl can become a Joan of Arc, if God gives her the strength of His arm. 

(Dec. 8, 1954, to the Young Women of Italian Catholic Action).

You have, beloved daughters, a great field for your apostolate! While you are vigilantly attending to your machines and your instruments of labor, do not forget that you have alongside of you large numbers of immortal souls who, while equally with you redeemed by the blood of Jesus, have withdrawn themselves from Him when they were basely induced to despair of finding in our loving Divine Master comfort and salvation.

Show forth openly and sympathetically, through personal example, your faith and your Christian life. Let your serenity, even in the midst of difficulties, your peace of soul, your innocence of life bring about a rebirth in many hearts of the nostalgic longing for light and love.

Certainly — and this is Our second word to you — this work of the apostolate is often very difficult. “I send you forth,” Our Divine Redeemer said, as lambs in the midst of wolves.” All know, in fact, how spiritually indifferent is the atmosphere wherein you are often constrained to live, and the derision to which you are at times exposed because of your faith and of your conduct. Engaged in the same labour, side by side at the same machines, with the same purpose of earning one’s daily bread, those working together should be inspired with a fraternal spirit; instead, they often hold themselves aloof from one another by almost unsurmountable barriers.

(April 26, 1953, to giris working in the Italian tobacco industry).

Disciplined action

Act with docility We want… to exhort you to retain this spirit of docile obedience to the Pastors of the Church and to increase it if possible. They know well what they can ask of you and they know the fields which they ought not to invade. But when a “directive” comes, when a resolution is taken, Catholic Youth obeys without question: generously, quickly, because there is not a day, not a minute to lose in this hour which is one of action, of most urgent action.

(Dec. 8, 1954, to the Young Women of Italian Catholic Action).

No one desires more than we that the laity should emerge from a certain state of minority, which today is less than ever deserved in the field of the apostolate. But, on the other hand, there is a clear need for prompt and filial obedience whenever the Church speaks to instruct the minds of the faithful and guide their activity. She is careful not to encroach upon the domain of civil Authority. But, when matters relating to religion or morals are involved, it is a duty for all Catholics, and especially for militants in Catholic Action, to carry out what She prescribes, to understand and follow her instructions. We should even like to add that it is also necessary within Catholic Action to observe strict discipline between the various ranks of the Associations. In face of an army with iron-bound organization, how great, indeed, would be the danger for a disorderly troop, where each one claimed the right to judge and act for himself.

Be united among yourselves as members of one same Association; as members of different Associations; be united with the other “branches” of Catholic Action. But, be united also, and promoters of unity, with the other Catholic forces which are fighting the same peaceful battles and striving for the same victory as yourselves.

(Oct. 12, 1952, to the Men of Italian Catholic Action).

It was also thus in past periods; but it is eminently characteristic of modern public life that the resolutions to which the individual gives his cooperation are always and primarily resolutions of an ideological nature. In accepting the responsibility of his cooperation, the Catholic cannot, therefore, in the ultimate analysis, allow himself to be determined by any particular criticisms or desires, even though legitimate in themselves; but the determining factor for him must be the ideological consideration which is at issue. This principle is valid for every Catholic in the entire world. If the prayer, “ut omnes unum sint” is to have a practical meaning, it is to-day, and precisely here, that it should manifest its influence.

(May 24, 1953, to the University Graduates of Italian Catholic Action).


The application of these principles leads of itself to the study of another principle of greatest practical importance: that of organization. The insertion of the laity’s collaboration into the apostolic work of the Hierarchy cannot, indeed, be effective and beneficial, unless great care is taken to avoid any disturbance of ecclesiastical discipline, which must rather be increased in order, strength and extension; this requires, on the one side a keen sense of respect for the authority of the Church, and on the other a reasonable ordering of the ranks of the laity rallying to the peaceful standards of the spiritual militia of the Christian apostolate

Observe carefully, and you will see that adversaries of the Church themselves make great use of organization, applying new and bold methods, and often using it as the most effective arm to draw in and subvert the masses. Catholics must understand this complex and profound phenomenon of the present moment of history, and must learn to use various forms of association to ever better advantage.

(Jan. 25, 1950 – Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate).

We are certain that there will not be lacking, either in number or quality, generous hearts who, in ready reply to Our call, will put into action Our earnest desire. There are ardent souls who anxiously await this call. It is to these so keen to be at work, that you must point out the vast fields to be tilled. Others are fast asleep; they must be awakened. Others are lukewarm; they must be encouraged. Others are confused; they must be guided. All need to be judiciously organized and set to work at a rhythm matching the urgent need of defence, conquest and constructive activity.

(Feb. 10, 1952 – Exhortation to the Faithful of Rome).

It is far from Our thoughts to belittle organization or to underestimate its value as a factor in the apostolate; on the contrary, We hold it in the highest esteem, especially in a world in which the adversaries of the Church descend upon Her with all the compact mass of their organizations. But it must not lead to mean exclusivism, to what the apostle called “explorrare libertatem”: “to spy our liberty to spy our liberty” (Gal. 2, 4). Within the framework of your organization, allow great latitude for each member to develop his personal qualities and gifts in all that can conduce unto good, to edification: “in bonum et aedificationem” (Rom. 15, 2), and rejoice when you see others, outside your ranks, who “led by the spirit of God” (Gal. 5, 18) win their brethren to Christ.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).

For the different milieux

For that reason it is imperative that the laity (in mission territories) should in great numbers enter the serried ranks of Catholic Action and thus cooperate generously, earnestly and diligently with the Hierarchy in promoting the apostolate…

We desire, therefore, that there be everywhere erected, so far as is possible, associations of Catholic men and women, and also of students, of workers, of artists, of athletes, and other groups and sodalities which can be considered auxiliaries of the missionaries. In the erection and constitution of these organizations, let character, virtue and zeal be preferred to numbers… Although it is clear that Catholic Action should exercise its influence primarily in promoting the works of the apostolate, its members are not prevented from joining other organizations whose purpose is to reform social and political life according to the principles and teaching of the Gospel.

(June 2, 1951 – Encyclical « Evangelii Praecones »).

Although Catholic Action, like the Church itself, was originally organized on the diocesan and parochial level, this does not hinder its developing beyond the narrow limits of the parish. It must also be remembered that notwithstanding the importance of the work that can be carried out in a parish and nowhere else, and the fundamental and irreplaceable energies of the parish, the rapidly growing complexity of modern life from a technical and spiritual point of view can call urgently for a wider extension of Catholic Action. But even when extended it always remains an apostolate of the laity subordinated to the Bishop or his delegates.

(May 3, 1951, to Italian Catholic Action).

It is surely evident that if every social condition has its important part to play in a transformation of the world such as is going on today, the working class for its part is called upon to assume today responsibilities that were unknown to it in the past… It is not by assuming in the face of false leaders a negative and merely defensive attitude that one can hope to solve these problems. It is to be the active presence in the midst of the factories and yards, of pioneers fully conscious of their double vocation as Christians and as workers determined to shoulder their responsibilities to the full, and to acknowledge neither compromise nor halt until they have transformed their environment to the demands of the Gospel. It is by such positive constructive work that the Church will be able to extend her life-giving action to the millions of souls whom she embraces in her maternal solicitude.

(March 21, 1949 – Letter on the XXVth Anniversary of the Y.C.W.).

In the unity of your two Movements, you symbolize in Our eyes, not only the diversity of the literary and scientific professions which together make up the field of intellectual activity, but also the ancestral riches of the traditions peculiar to each of the countries from which you come; your presence alone bears witness, moreover, to the patient efforts of the many priests and lay people who have brought into being, in town, in every university, the Catholic Action groups every whose vitality conditions and guarantees the value of your Assembly. In greeting the Congress of Pax Romana, We thus behold, silhouetted beside you, the vast multitude of Our sons, the Catholic students and intellectuals of the whole world: upon them all, as upon yourselves, We urge the imperious necessity of this twofold task: the permeation of contemporary thought, the service of the Church.

(August 6, 1950 – Message to the XXIst World Congress of Pax Romana).

On the international level

But we know also that problems present themselves now, not only locally, but frequently, as they say, on a world wide scale. Barriers between countries and even between continents are tending, thanks be to God, to disappear, where the unity of the human race is more strongly affirmed. Technical progress tends in its turn to favor more and more the compenetration of peoples. One understands, therefore, that even the problems of the apostolate must be seen from an international point of view. The Labor front, in particular, tending to be everywhere established after the war, has spiritual aspects which need to be approached in the same universal spirit.

(May 24, 1947 – Letter to Y.C.W. International Meeting in Canada).

Catholics, in the first place, are extraordinarily well equipped to collaborate in the creation of a climate without which a common action on the international plane can have neither substance nor prosperous growth. We mean an atmosphere of mutual understanding, the basic elements of which may be described in terms of mutual respect, of a fair play, which sincerely accords to others the rights claimed for oneself; and of a kindly disposition towards the members of other nations, as towards brothers and sisters.

The Catholics of the world should be precisely the people to live always in this atmosphere. They are themselves united in the full richness of their faith and therefore in what is man’s noblest, most intimate and most decisive interest, no less than in the spreading of that faith to social and cultural life.

They above all, must realize that they are called upon to overcome every vestige of nationalistic narrowness, and to seek a genuine fraternal encounter of nation with nation.

(July 23, 1952, to an Italian Summer School on “Catholics and International Life”).

The Church has confidence in the Laity 

Active organizations of men and women, young men and girls, are obeying the call of the Supreme Bishop, and putting themselves under the direction of their Ordinaries, so as to devote themselves wholeheartedly and zealously to the work of the apostolate, in the hope of bringing back to Jesus Christ the multitudes who for so long have been miserably led astray from Him.

We impart to them, in these times of disheartenment both for religious and for civil society, Our fatherly greeting; We thank them from the bottom of Our heart; We assure them of Our paternal interest and Our full confidence. By this willing allegiance to the standard of Jesus Christ, by devoting themselves and the best effort of their lives to this object, they win the right to apply to themselves the words of the holy Psalmist, “I tell the King of my works” (Ps. 44, 1); they are working as well as praying that His kingdom may come. In all ranks and orders of society the industrious help which they give to the clergy is producing the most valuable results. And the task assigned to them is a task as consoling and as honourable as the proudest and most faithful of servants could wish for.

(Oct. 20, 1939 – Encyclical « Summi Pontificatus »).

This Exhortation, Venerable Brethren, is addressed, as you see, principally to our beloved Clergy, whom We wish to strengthen and console in the arduous pastoral work required of them by present necessities; but it is no less urgently and paternally directed to the laity themselves, whom We desire to see gathered. in ever increasing numbers around their Pastors: may the confidence the Church reposes in them by calling them to the side of the Hierarchy to aid and extend its apostolic activity, render them readily docile, sincere and full of devotion towards their Pastors.

(Jan. 25, 1950 – Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate).

Oh! may the Holy Spirit deign to descend on you and pour into your souls the abundance of his gifts.

Be docile, beloved sons and daughters, to His inspirations; let yourselves be changed into men whose thoughts are clear and whose wills are resolute and firm. When you go out of here, set to work immediately. Out in the world is a multitude of souls in anxious expectation. If you, and all men of Catholic culture, will but advance with upright understanding, without wearying, united in the effort for a Christian renewal, then Rome, Italy and the world will not be long in recognizing that the Lord has given His Church the gift of a new and gladdening Pentecost.

(May 24, 1953, to the University Graduates of Italian Catholic Action).

Could We give a better conclusion than in repeating to you the admirable words of the Apostle of the Nations: “For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfect, take exhortation, be of one mind, have peace, and the God of peace and of love shall be with you” (II Cor. 13, 11). And when the Apostle concludes: “The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the charity of God and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all” (ib. 5, 13), he expresses that which all your action seeks to carry to men. May this gift fill also your own hearts and souls.

Let this be Our final wish! May God deign to hear it and pour upon you and upon the whole Catholic world, His best graces, in testimony of which We impart to you with all Our heart, Our Apostolic Benediction.

(Oct. 14, 1951, to the 1st World Congress of the Lay Apostolate).



20-10-1939 Encyclical “Summi Pontificatus “. 

1-11-1939 Encyclical “Sertum Laetitiae to the American Hierarchy.

4-9-1940 To the Leaders of Italian Catholic Action.

20-6-1943 Encyclical “Mystici Corporis “.

20-2-1946 To the College of Cardinals.

22-1-1947 To the Members of “Rinascita Cristiana “. 

24-5-1947 Letter to Young Christian Workers International Meeting in Canada.

1-12-1947 Encyclical “Mediator Dei “.

8-12-1947 To the Members of the Roman Youth of Catholic Action.

30-1-1948 Message to the Indian Hierarchy. 

27-9-1948 Apostolic Constitution “Bis Saeculari “.

21-3-1949 Letter on the XXVth Anniversary of the Y.C.W. (J.O.C.).

25-1-1950 Exhortation to the Italian Episcopate.

6-8-1950 Message to the XXIst World Congress of Pax Romana.

3-5-1951 To Italian Catholic Action.

2-6-1951 Encyclical “Evangelii Praecones”.

14-10-1951 To the Ist World Congress of the Lay Apostolate.

10-2-1952 Exhortation to the Faithful of Rome.

18-4-1952 To the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women,

27-4-1952 To the Italian National Congress of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

7-7-1952 To the VIIth International Congress of Catholic Scouting.

23-7-1952 To the lecturers and students of an Italian Summer School on “Catholics and International Life”

12-10-1952 To the Men of Italian Catholic Action.

8-4-1953 To the Catholic Students of the Sorbonne. 

26-4-1953 To girls working in the Italian tobacco industry. 

24-5-1953 To the University Graduates of Italian Catholic Action.

8-12-1953 Radio Address to Italian Catholic Action.

27-2-1954 To the Pastors and Lenten Preachers of Rome. 

31-5-1954 To the Cardinals and Bishops present at the Canonization of Pius X.

5-9-1954 Radio Address to the Belgian National Marian Congress.

8-8-1954 To Sodalists attending the International Congress of Marian Congregations in Rome. 

8-12-1954 Radio Address to the Indian National Marian Congress in Bombay.

8-12-1954 To the Young Women of Italian Catholic Action.

1-5-1955 To the Christian Associations of Italian Workers (A.C.L.I.).

8-5-1955 To the International Federation of Christian Workers Movements.

This Booklet is published by the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Apostolate of the Laity Piazza S. Callisto 16, Roma. The Permanent Committee is a Roman centre at the service of movements for the Apostolate of the laity throughout the whole world, at the service, above all, of their mutual collaboration.

From October 7 to 14, 1951 the First World Congress for the Apostolate of the Laity was held in Rome, on the initiative of Italian Catholic Action.

As a consequence of this Congress, on January 23, 1952 was officially announced by the Holy See the creation of the Permanent Committee, together with the appointment as Secretary of Mr. Vittorino Veronese, promoter of the First World Congress. October 5, 1953 the Holy See appointed the “nucleus” of an Ecclesiastical Commission, in the persons of Very Rev. Fr. Michael Browne, O.P., Very Rev. Fr. Giacomo Martegani, S.J., Rt. Rev. Msgr. Pietro Pavan and Very Rev. Msgr. Achille Glorieux, Ecclesiastical Assistant.

The Committee serves the Lay Apostolate:

— by organizing international (world or regional) meetings for the Lay Apostolate, and by collaborating, at the request of the Hierarchy, in the organization of similar meetings on a national scale. (December 1953, First Leaders’ Meeting for the Apostolate of the Laity in Africa, at Kisubi, Uganda; January 1955, collaboration for the First Sudanese National Convention of Catholic Action Leaders in Khartoum; December 1955, the first Asian Meeting for the Lay Apostolate in Manila and collaboration in the organization of the First All India Catholic Leaders’ Meeting);

— by diffusing the results and conclusions of all such meetings;

— by gathering documentation on the Apostolate of the Laity in all its forms;

— by studying, with the help of all available authorities, problems relative to the Apostolate of the Laity.

From October 5 to 13, 1957 will take place in Rome the Second World Congress for the Apostolate of the Laity, on the general theme: “The laity in the crisis of the modern world: responsibilities and formation”.