Lay ministry and lay apostolate according to Pope Benedict

Pope Francis is evidently not the first pope to express concern about the tendency in the Church to confuse and conflate the concepts of “lay ministry” and “lay apostolate.”

In an address to Scottish bishops during their ad limina visit to Rome on 5 February 2010, Pope Benedict made exactly the same point.

Here is what he said:

Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest’s role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. 

Yet the Second Vatican Council’s vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church’s mission to sanctify the world. 

A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.

Hard to be clearer and very important to bear in mind in the lead up to the Second Assembly of the Australian Plenary Council, now only seven months away.


Pope Benedict, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Scotland on their Ad Limina Visit, 5 February 2010 (



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