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PEP: Part 2 – The people of God

This section urges all Church members to evangelise. Priests are not to confine themselves to liturgy, religious orders are not to limit themselves to prayer, and the laity are not to consider religion either a priestly or "a private affair" but are to join lay groups, both open and secret. Those with "political and economic" gifts are to use them for the Church.


 Pastorisation and Evangelisation Plan
 of the Catholic Church in Slovakia,

Pastoračný a evanjelizačný plán Katolíckej cirkvi na Slovensku (2001-2006)

By the Slovak Bishops Conference, 10 May 2001.
Translation and notes by Prof. em. Alexander Rehák

Part two
2. The people of God


2.1. The service of Bishops

2.1.1. The situation

A)  There are two Church provinces in Slovakia, and six dioceses with Latin liturgy and one diocese with Byzantine liturgy and an apostolic exarchate. Since 1990 all of the bishops’ seats are filled (seven diocesan Bishops, one exarch, and eight auxiliary bishops).

B)  The Bishops Conference of Slovakia has been confronted with the daunting task of healing the wounds inflicted by persecution during the totalitarian epoch and to “once more pump blood” into all vital organs of the Church.

C)  A bishop-shepherd is one who manifests his love to the resurrected Christ, the good shepherd. His position to the world is lead by shepherd’s pastoral love, which shapes his inner, dynamic principle capable of combining the manifold activities of a prelate. 

D)  Pastoral love is basically a service in a full essere per, through existing for others donating his own personality, as well as donating himself to the Church. Pastoral love helps him to get know the expectations, needs, problems and sensitivities of those he serves.

E)  The pastor announces the message of Christ’s love. This is the essential position, represented by every bishop. The divine vocation is knowledge through love, which gives and unites. To know something and know it properly (cf. 1 Kor 8:2), should be the accompaniment to all pastoral activities. The starting point is the humility of a servant of Christ. The human condition and the deepest pastoral commitment to evangelisation are not contradictory. The knowledge gained through love is not derived from scientific knowledge. The pastoral knowledge is linked with the union felt with one’s own people through invisible and indissoluble fetters. In this pastoral love the other one becomes in his whole being a part of the pastor’s heart.


2.1.2. The aims

The aims of the pastorisation service of bishops is clearly stated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council “Selected for the fullness of the priesthood, the bishops receive the sacramental blessing, in order to (…) fulfil the duty of pastoral love to souls, without hesitating to give their lives for their flock and at the same time leading the Church by his own example towards ever greater sanctity, and thus they become the model to their flock.” (LG 41)

Independently of the greatness and ambition of that part of the people of God, which has been entrusted to the bishop, he should take special care in the formation of his priests. Between him and them is a special link, resulting from the fact that the priests receive the gift of priesthood from his hands and they share with him the pastoral care of the people of God. This makes for the special responsibility of Bishops for the formation of the priests.


2.1.3. Recommendations

a)  The Council recommends: It is necessary above all that the arch-shepherds of the Christ’s flock fulfilled their duties in sanctity, eagerly, humbly, as behoves men following thus the pattern of the supreme and eternal Priest, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. A service thus fulfilled will become also for them an excellent route toward sanctity (cf. LG 41).

b)  Each bishop should feel aided and invigorated in his task by his brothers – bishops united in the Bishops Conference.

c)  When a bishop concerns himself about the formation of his priests, he should combine this with his own personal formation. Experience proves that the more a bishop is engaged in his own formation, the more he can inspire the formation of his presbyters.

d) [It is necessary] to strive for a paternal approach to all, especially to the priests. Friendly informal visits of priests should become an opportunity to bring human beings together and for their mutual support. It must be made clear to everyone that authority has been changed into service and power into love.

e)  In connection with this meticulous and ardent care of the priests, it must be remembered, that the social conditions in the last decades have changed considerably. The negative impact can be seen on the young priests, who leave the priestly service or behave improperly, as well as in the conduct of some older priests.

f)  [It is necessary] in the committee for the clergy at the Bishops Conference to secure representation for all dioceses. Each diocesan bishop could select one of his priests for this service. The assigned priest, along with the bishop and the Committee for Clergy at the Bishops Conference, shall elect suitable helpers for the care of the priests in their own diocese.

g)  Not to forget about the priests in crisis, as well as those who have abandoned the priestly service because of [the demands of] celibacy or due to loss of faith.

h)  On the level of the Bishops Conference it is advisable to actively engage clerics and laymen into newly-devised committees and councils. This should also be done at the level of particular episcopates

i)  [It is advisable] to become the soul of team co-operation, of preparations and organising of the pastorisation and evangelisation, as well as of the formation plans [programme for spiritual development]. The more involved a bishop is, the more he inspires the others to creative co-operation. For the Bishop is the main organiser and co-ordinator of all activities in his particular church. Whether the whole diocese exhibits activity, stagnation or passivity depends upon him.

j)  He must be able to freely and openly listen to the co-workers and to support the initiatives they propose to him.


2.2. The vocation of the priests

2.2.1. The situation

A)  Priests have had an eminent place in the history of the Slovak nation. They have contributed substantially to our national independence, language, culture and learning. Despite the fact that in the recent past they were intimidated and some of them collaborated with the state powers in the so-called “pacifist movement of the Catholic clergy”, or in the “Pacem in terris”, the majority behaved bravely and they have continued to enjoy high esteem among people. [1]

B)  In all of the Slovak dioceses about 35000 priests are at work. In seminaries there are about 750 theologians and each year about 120 new priests graduate.

C)  There is a substantial change in the nature of the priests’ service “of the sacrament of participating in the power which Christ Himself produces, sanctifies and manages his body” (PO 2). But what has radically changed over the last half of the century are the social conditions, and with them, the demands on the personality, activity and formation of a priest. These new requirements are clearly outlined in Church documents (Presbyterorum ordinis, Optatam totius, Pastores dabo vobis, Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, etc.). From the priests of Slovakia the following are expected as well:
– A priest should live with others as with his own brothers, consequentially there is a stress on virtues which are highly valued in human relations (compare with PO 3,6);
– He should care not only about particular individuals, but also about uplifting the Christian community (cf. PO 6);
– An appropriate mode of priestly life is recommended, one that includes, frequent and regular contacts, where possible – common accommodation and common dining;
– The leading role should be done in such a way …. as to co-operate with believing laymen, to behave among them according the pattern of our Master, who came to serve us (cf. PO 9);
– They should not forget about our brothers from other Christian Churches (cf. PO 10).

D)  As to the formation of the priests, in Slovakia the documents of the Magisterium are fully respected. They emphasise the following:
– to make the candidates of the priesthood co-operative with priests and laymen (cf. RFIS. Comment 216);
– to teach candidates for priesthood varied forms of the modern apostolate and the new evangelisation, [and] co-operation with the laymen (cf.RFIS95);
– to teach them how to guide the laymen to an apostolic life (cf. OT 19);
– to teach them how to act responsively, independently and in co-operation with the others (cf. OT 21);
– to develop communication abilities, such as readiness to listen to others and in the spirit of love have a receptive heart for the human relations in their manifold circumstances. (cf. OT 19).

E)  Young priests after being ordained;
– for 1-2 years, shall hold lectures and study pastorisation every week (cf. RFIS 101a);
– for a couple of years they shall attend one to two days of meetings with lectures and pastorisation studies;
– during their leaves or at another time, they shall pass special courses in pastorisation;
– after about five years of priestly service they shall attend “a priestly month” dedicated to spiritual exercises, special courses and discussion of pastorisation problems (cf. RFIS 101d).

F)  A negative feature is the fact, that in the curricula the theoretical subjects and lectures significantly predominate, while in all subjects preparing (them) for work with people the ratio of lectures to practice sessions and seminars is about one-to-one. In terms of communicating with laymen and their communities, building up communities and new evangelising, the formation of the priests is insufficient. Only a fraction of priests were sufficiently able to come to terms with the new requirements.


2.2.2 The aims

To prepare the priest for the service in the Church, which is “the chosen kin, the royal priesthood, the holy nation (1 Pt 2:9), summoned to herald glorious deeds in the name of the Trinity of God”.

To enable the priests, whose formation was not sufficient for known reasons - to complete their theological knowledge and to master adequate pastorisation methods for successful action, in compliance with new evangelisation.

Because the new evangelisation is a matter of the whole life of society and its aim is shaping mature communities (ChL 34), to prepare the priests for building up the parish community, which means an effective co-operation with the Bishops, among themselves, with the laymen and their communities and movements.

To bring in line the formation of the priests with the requirements of the Church documents.


2.2.3. Recommendations

For the priests:

a)  To regard the priorities of the pastorisation presented by the Holy Father in his apostolic letter, Novo millenio ineunte (educating to sainthood, building up a community as a manifestation of the New Commandment, new evangelisation, etc.) as a basic norm for the pastorisation in the period to come.

b)  [It is advisable] not to neglect “the classical means, such as the effort to reach the perfection appropriate to the priestly profession” ( PO 12,13), developing the clerical identity, the theological – especially the biblical and priestly studies, saying prayers, adorations in front of the shrines, the rosary, spiritual reading, adequate rest, etc.

c)  [It is necessary] to give the real meaning to the existing meetings having as their aim formation – recollections [rekolekcia: group meetings for deliberations about religious issues which are generally held monthly for priests], spiritual exercises and renewal. To counsel the priests engaged in pastorisation supplementary studies or courses during the vacations, especially ones about biblical theology, documents of the Councils, and the post-Council documents on pastorisation within the parish community. To permanently form the priests according to these directives.

d)  To support all kinds of formal or informal communities and co-operation between the priests.

e)  To establish in each diocese “a confidential telephone line for priests”, namely to nominate a well-experienced, wise and dedicated priest, who enjoys the general confidence of his fellow brothers, whom they can approach with their problems in times of personal crisis.

For the formation of candidates of priesthood and young priests

f)  An important part of the formation in the seminaries should be the stress put on the free choice of priesthood, development of one’s own identity, growth towards a humane maturity – which brings with it fidelity and endurance.

g)  To provide for sufficient numbers of spiritual tutors [teachers at theological faculties who guide a definite group of students] in seminaries, so that the spiritual tutors can get to know well the students in their care and to communicate easily with them.

h)  To improve the ratio of practical engagements, seminars and lectures;

i)  During the semester to provide for time in practical engagements concerning the apostolate: as some examples one can enumerate the following items: catechisation, active participation at the liturgy in parishes, visits to the sick, the poor and prisoners, helping priests pastorise young people and working people (cf. RFIS 98, OT 19);

j)  To introduce courses in practical pastorisation work during the study of theology during vacations (cf. OT 21) with supplementary pastorisation according to the guidelines of the heads of seminaries and under the guidance of knowledgeable priests (RFIS 99);

k)  To show the way to a healthy attitude towards women; (cf. RFIS 95);

l)  Urgently recommended to our parishes is more care of the acolyte boys. Regular get-togethers with the priest at sports tournaments, on excursions and competitions, in preparations for the liturgy and the study of necessary skills, visits to seminaries and meetings with theologians, are unique opportunities.


2.3 The contributions of institutions for sacred life and societies of apostolic life

2.3.1 The situation

The monastic (holy) orders

A)  Since 1990 the monastic communities have again been able to officially function in Slovakia. It was a big change in the life of the separately living members of monastic orders. Since the [19]50s it’s now been forty years. During that period no communal life existed for them; they used to meet sporadically in secrecy. Renewing monastic houses reversed the closure of the cloisters, but forty years has also meant large changes in the numbers of monks of the particular monastic orders and in their age range. In general, members aged fifty, who could make a link between older and younger members, are few. The admission of new candidates offers hopes for a renewal of monastic life in the province of Slovakian Church.

B)  The sacred life is deeply ingrained in the example and words of Jesus Christ; it is a gift of God – the Father of the Church – by means of the Holy Ghost. It finds itself at the very heart of the Church as an element decisive for its vocation.

The Secular Institutes [2]

A)  Secular Institutes are a relatively young form of the sacred life. One can read about them in the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia (1947). Worldwide there are about 130 Secular Institutes. They are associations of laymen and clerics, [“sic” in original] living in their own environs, adhering to the teaching of the Gospel; they strive for a Christian purity thus contributing to an inner sacred life (cf. CIC 714). The members transform their lives into an apostolate. It consists especially of transforming the mundane reality in accordance with the Gospel, as an apostolate of the present time and in every milieu, apostolate of witnessing the Christian life in their own surroundings, as well as any form of an active apostolate. The members usually don’t disclose their dedication to sanctity. They live in ordinary conditions of this world in accordance with their norms and regulations — either in their families or in a group of the fraternal life (CIC, 774) In Slovakia the first Secular Institutes came into existence in the sixties and seventies and at present there are nine of them. (Some of them international) Their representatives attend also congresses of the World Conference of Secular Institutes (CMIS).


2.3.2. The aims

The monastic (religious) orders

First mention should go to the aspects of the community’s life that it wishes to highlight through its sacred life – to the importance ascribed by Jesus Christ to the Kingdom of God as a community of believers who are invited by God to live in a community, namely to pray alongside others, and work alongside others close to the Father, who is visibly present in his Son. They are projecting their inner life outwards, not only into the Church, but into the whole word, in accordance with their own charism. The whole of this people of God live in accordance with the values of poverty, purity and obedience. The task of the monastic orders communities, which make a component of the Church, is to present by a particular mode of life and by personal sacredness the face of Jesus Christ who is “poverty-stricken for the sake of the spirit”, (and) who is “pure of heart and obedient to the will of Father, unto readiness to die by crucifixion” Each monastic order community has its own charism and it is the duty of the order to actualise this charism for the benefit of the particular and the universal Church. To value the sacred life is to maintain its growth and quality Thus its aim is to preserve the fidelity to Jesus Christ. To preserve the trust in the call of Jesus, who even now calls people to follow Him and to believe in the Holy Ghost who are the creator and donor of the charism of the sacred life. The goal is also efforts for a new evangelisation – exhorations to prayer, zealous exertions in bearing witness to the Word, appropriate catechisation, help for those who try to give the Lord a magnanimous answer.

The Secular Institutes

A)  With a radical perception of the own sacredness, to change the world from within through the power of Jesus Christ,

B)  To open the world more to the Church and the Church to the world,

C)  [To foster] co-operation between the institutes and their mutual enrichment for a more effective achieving of their own vocation amid this world,

D) [To foster] co-operation with the Bishops Conference and the World Conference of Secular Institutes.


2.3.3. Recommendations

The monastic orders

a)  To co-operate with all members of the Church in the sense of a dialogue, above all with the bishops. To be sensitive in the communities to the needs of pastorisation in the parishes.

b)  To combine closely the modes of contemplative and of the active life. This will enable the exacting calling to be fulfilled. Jesus Christ is a great example of how the communion with the Father can be united with an amazingly active life.

c)  To abide by the enculturation  of the sacred life, so that the way of thinking and acting of those “who closely follow Jesus Christ” enable them to find what is fitting for man, to create a real framework for the human life. In this manner the Councils on poverty, purity and obedience will show their anthropologic implication in its full light.

d)  To be open for the magnanimous acceptance and spiritual guidance of those who turn to the monks in their desire for God and their attempts to live according the rules of the faith

The Secular Institutes

a)  To launch a national conference of the Secular Institutes on the basis of the current regular meetings;

b)  To clarify the differences between the varied forms of the sacred life and the associations of believers, especially for those who are committed to pastorisation;

c)  To include in the preparation of the future priests clear information about the Secular Institutes;

d)  To introduce in the prayers of the Church a new terminology: to pray for the “calling to priesthood and to the sacred life” (instead of the current notion: “for the priestly and monastic profession”).


2.4. Participation of all baptised believers in the assignment of the Church

2.4.1. The situation

A)  One can tell that at present the faith has become “a private affair” and the social dimension of the Church is more and more lost. The society is becoming to pluralistic secularised, individualistic, often consumer-oriented. The notion of truth has become very relative. Therefore to a great proportion of believers the faith and the life have become disparate notions. People are not prepared for the current threats to the faith, coming from the mass media. Many of them lack guidance to an existential finding of God, which would change a formal piety to a conscious piety. The veneration of the Virgin Mary sometimes assumes a very cheap and naïve character. The believers are not well enough prepared for a dialogue within the Church and outside it. Most of the activities in the parish –as in the past – depend almost exclusively on the clergy, leaving the potential of the laity untapped. Such a situation is changing very slowly. In addition any spread in the pattern of piety among males is missing. A healthy piety in men is nevertheless important for a harmonic married life and in the family.

B)  Despite all that, one can acknowledge as positive facts:
– The development in many parishes of the so-called small communities. They are often the germ for making the whole parish more active;
– On the part of the hierarchy there are more and more examples of a positive co-operation with laymen;
– Centres for a Christian orientation and education are being founded; some of the Pastorisation Centres in the parishes and other places offer varied spiritual, educational and recreational activities;
– It is possible to earn a theological qualification. In the ten years since the change of the regime more than 2000 laymen graduated from theology by extramural studies;
– As a positive sign is the continuing devotion of the believers to the Holy Father;
– Places of pilgrimages are still well attended.


2.4.2. The aims

It is necessary to announce the word of God in an organic way [“sic” in the Slovak original], systematically so that it can reach the adults so that they may make the Gospel the moving force of their lives, and thereby witness Christ in their working ambience, cultural, social and political activities.

The life of believers lacks at present a clear decision to be radicalised - “emphasis on sanctity is becoming more than ever an urgent task of pastorisation” (NMI 30).


2.4.3 Recommendations

a)  To initiate and methodically direct diocesan and parish pastorisation councils;

b)  In the particular dioceses to nominate a priest responsible for the apostolate of the laymen;

c)  To develop the activities of the pastorisation centres at the levels of the dioceses, deanships (regions) and parishes;

d)  To support varied forms of religious exercises and spiritual revival in the framework of parishes, small communities, movements, monastic orders, pastorisation and evangelisation centres, including long-term schedules, which combine meetings in groups and personal programs at home;

e)  To lead the laymen to a personal responsibility within the Church and outside it in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council;

f)  To develop varied forms of Christian education for adults;

g)  The formation of the laymen should be increasingly opened to the problems of contemporary society. The believers should become the yeast, the leavening supporting the common well-being. Those who are suited for political and economic activities, should enter these domains resolved to render a service


2. 5. Movements and other associations of laymen

2.5.1. The situation

A)  In the past decades small communities have begun to form, with the aim of deepening mutual solidarity, from which Slovak movements centred on children, youth, and families have gradually developed The life of the laymen was stimulated by movements originating abroad (Focolare, Neocatechumal Way, Charismatic movement and others). [2] Their assets consist in a new mode of living up to the Mysterium of the Church, as well as in a deeper understanding of the Church as a community participating in the evangelisation and formation of mature Christian personalities.

B)  Activities of these movements (in Slovakia thirty such movements exist) represent a wide spectrum of regular meetings, summer camps, religious exercises, and varied educational, cultural, or sports events. One can observe an increase in charismatic forms of piety;

C)  One can positively evaluate the following:

– The co-operation of ecclesiastical movements in Slovakia, which are being founded and built up (The pan-Slovakian assembly of movements in 1999 in the town of Banská Bystrica, the meeting between these movements and the Bishops on November 26, 2000 – The meeting of the representatives of the movements with the Chairman of the Council for Apostolic Movements of the Bishops Conference);

– The contribution to a deeper engagement of varied movements in the Forum of the Christian Institutions (getting acquainted, exchange of experience and opinion, dialogue, co-ordinating activities, positions taken in various important problems, making use of the potential of lay movements in the task of the Church). Representatives of 40 varied Christian associations, institutions and movements attended meetings of this Forum. The Forum meets twice in a year.

– The activity of the Council for Lay Apostolic Movements at the Bishops Conference serves to co-ordination of the apostolate of laymen. It performs especially the following tasks: collecting and distributing information (including some timely Church documents), supporting co-operation between the movements, Christian institutions and the Church hierarchy, educational and advisory activities, the development of various essentials, e.g. for the spiritual revival of the laymen in the parishes, publication activities (for instance: Apostolic Movements of Laymen in the Catholic Church in Slovakia, 1995, JAS, 2. edition 1996, Christian Institutions of Laymen in Slovakia, 1997 internal edition; Newsletter of the Committee for the Laymen (since 1998 a quarterly), a supplement to the bulletin, The Life of the Church, Christian Movements, Associations, and Lay Institutions, 1999. Lúč)

D)  Negative phenomena are:

– Diocesan structures for apostolate of laymen are lacking,

– Co-operation between the ecclesiastic movements and the parish priests is insufficient;

– There is a low awareness of responsibility for the Church and for transforming the society in the spirit of the Gospel;

– In some communities there prevails the desire just to have new experiences and a spirit of improper competition.


2.5.2. The aims

The basic aim of the movements and associations is to help make Christianity the style of living and culture. The laymen are to get impulses, in order to become able to lead a dialogue in the society, to defend the Catholic faith, and to advance humane and Christian values. In this sense the believers are to master (positive) practices of evangelisation, which is to be based on personal encounter with Jesus Christ [“sic” in Slovakian original].


2.5.3. Recommendations

a)  To improve the co-operation between the movements themselves and to attain a stronger sense of affiliation of members with the Church, with the particular parish (and) diocese – sentire cum ecclesia;

b)  To take pains to have a more effective presence of the movements and the Christian institutions in the life of the society;

c)  To develop a dialogue and co-operation between the hierarchy, laymen and their associations on all levels;

d)  To appoint, at least in the large movements on the national level or the diocesan level a priest to be the spiritual assistant;

e)  To regularly update the brochure Christian Movements, Associations and Institutions of Laity in Slovakia; to publish an informative newsletter by the Council for Apostolic Movements at the Bishops Conference of Slovakia.


Notes for Part 2
By the translator, Dr. Alexander Rehák


[1] Since the early 1990s Slovak media had aired information pointing to collaboration between Archbishop Jan Sokol  and the Communist secret police. In 2005 when these were confirmed the Church was forced to issue an apology. The Tablet, 26 March 2005 reported on this:

“Apologies for priest-collaborators. Catholic Church leaders from Slovakia and Hungary apologised for clergy who collaborated with the Communist-era secret police after bishops and priests appeared on newly published lists of former agents The statement was published after the names of Archbishop Jan Sokol of Trnava-Bratislava and the retired Greek Catholic bishop of Presov, Jan Hirka, appeared on a list of former StB police agents released by Slovakia’s government-funded National Remembrance Institute.”

In 2007 further documents which were found in Prague revealed that Archbishop Sokol had operated under the code name “Spiritual Source”. ["Archbishop informed on emigrant", Slovak Spectator, 13 February 2007.]

[2] Both “Secular Insitutes” and “Small Communities” are composed of laymen. Catholics for a Free Choice describes this “new mode of living up to the Mysterium of the Church” as follows:

“Over the last 50 years, a completely new type of lay Catholic organisation has emerged in Europe. The most significant examples are Neocatechumenal Way, Charismatic Renewal, Opus Dei, Focolare, and Comunione e Liberazione. New religious congregations such as the Community of St. John and the Legion of Christ are closely related to these lay organisations in their beliefs and methodologies. What all these movements have in common is a mixture of effective modern communication and lobbying techniques and neoconservative or fundamentalist moral and political beliefs. The result is an extremely traditionalist message being spread by the Internet and pre-Enlightenment moral beliefs being propagated at pop concerts."

Preserving Power and Privilege: The Vatican’s Agenda in the European Union
(Washington: Catholics for a Free Choice, 2003), p. 30.



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