Members of the European Forum of National Laity Commitees (ELF) gathered in Vienna on their bi-annual study assembly on 29 June – 2 July, to reflect on topics regarding the 50 years after II Vatican Council and the role of laity. Danka Jacečková, SIR Europe’s correspondent in Bratislava, interviewed the secretary of the ELF, Katarína Hulmanová
.Could you briefly describe the structure and background of the European Forum of National Laity Committees?
“Its history reaches back to 1960 when the First European congress of lay apostolate took place in Copenhagen. A work group was created with aim to strengthen the contact among lay people from European countries in favour of common service and formation of community in Europe. The idea crystalized during the sixties, based on impulses given by II Vatican Council, within the framework of preparations for III World Congress of Laity in St. Polten. The session of 1968 in Switzerland brought a decision that the European Laity Forum will meet every two years at its study and plenary assemblies. After the following meeting in 1970 in Innsbruck, the platform of Catholic laity in Europe was trying to find its form and place within the society and the Church, in relation to the Pontifical Council for Laity, CCEE and other European Catholic platforms. Today, the member base of the ELF consists of delegations of Catholic laity councils or similar structures acknowledged by the respective Bishops’ conferences. In 2011, the ELF was formalized on the society level and was registered as an association, with headquarters in Germany”.What is the mission of the ELF and main areas of its work?
“The European Forum of National Laity Committees is an instrument of unity and cooperation among Catholic lay people in Europe. Its main mission is to support and develop life in the spirit of the Gospel and enforce social and ethical principles arising from it”.What does it mean in contemporary society to be a committed layman and why is this role necessary?
“I can talk mainly about my own personal experience. I’m a lay woman, mother, wife and a citizen who lives in certain kind of community and territory, and my life is associated with life of this community and region. For me, to be a Christian means to assume these areas of my life actively, to be consciously and decidedly present in them. To examine the signs of times and be ready to answer. There are always decisions that more or less influence our lives and represent an expression of certain values. I believe it is our duty as lay people to explore these decision and participate actively, to assume responsibility and offer our values to the world. A founder of the Community of St. Egidio, Andrea Riccardi, is a good example of all this. He assumed his responsibility and became a member of current Italian government. The ELF has been working on creation of a net of committed Christians who are willing to pay attention to European legislation and react to it. However, we don’t have to think only in large dimension. It’s about our everyday life here and now. It can be about willingness to assume responsibility in a school board or a parent’s association, it can be about committed presence in a parish or just being available for our neighbours, friends, family”.How can you describe relations between the ELF and various European platforms?
“The ELF keeps in regular touch with the Pontifical Council for Laity, CCEE and COMECE. Once a year, the members of the ELF working board visit the Pontifical Council, a delegate of CCEE usually participates at our assemblies. Another close partner of ours is the European Platform of Religious Communities”.What are the conclusion of your recent study and plenary meeting in Vienna that ended the last week?
“We had an opportunity to listen to experiences and various situations in which Catholic lay people live in Europe. There were testimonies from Ireland, Poland, Austria, France, Germany. The situation in the society and local Churches is miscellaneous. But the gumption of love is immense and it’s admirable in what ways the faithful are willing and capable of living their faith and presence in the Church and the world. This variety is a source of richness for us and represents also an enrichment of the inner life of the Church. Presentations of testimonies as well as conclusions of the meeting have been published on the website www.europ.forum.org
. Catholic faithful in Europe endorse their mission to live and work as people of the Church in the midst of the world and as people of the world in the midst of the Church”.