As he discusses the “Mission Ad Gentes” (to all peoples) John Paul II describes the second category of Christians. Optimists would presume they are in the majority. Most people would describe their parishes and dioceses like this:
Secondly, there are Christian communities with adequate and solid ecclesial structures. They are fervent in their faith and in Christian living. They bear witness to the Gospel in their surroundings and have a sense of commitment to the universal mission. In these communities the Church carries out her activity and pastoral care.
Pope John Paul II was careful to couch his language here. Many of our institutions are indeed adequate. Exceptional structures would be much more rare. Dioceses, most of them I would say, have a commitment to the institutional tradition. That isn’t always congruent to the mission of the Lord, as our misadventures with finances and sex abuse have revealed.
The danger of pastoral care on the local level is that is becomes an act of maintenance, not inclined to the mission. While there’s nothing wrong about serving believers, without imparting the missionary impulse to ordinary baptized believers, we become institution-focused.
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