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Fr. Martin Lasarte: At the synod the pope asked not to ‘clericalize’ the laity

  Fr. Martin Lasarte has dedicated more than two decades to the missions. He is a Salesian in charge of Africa and America. He is very familiar with these two realities, which is perhaps why Pope Francis requested his presence at the synod.

Fr. Martin Lasarte has his own opinion regarding the scarcity of vocations to the priesthood in the Amazon. He does not think the solution is to ordain indigenous married men to the priesthood. Rather, he thinks the key is to invest in youth, familial, and vocational ministries. 

Central Salesian Dicastery for the Missions
I have visited communities that have not received the Eucharist in 30 years, since the end of the war in Angola. They never saw a priest, and they were rich and lively communities. Men and women who, in their communities, try to animate their Christian brothers and sisters and help them grow in the faith with or without the presence of priests, bishops, or whatever.”  

Martin Lasarte followed the Angolan Civil War and the heroic activity of missionaries in Africa very closely. He himself had to pass through minefields to help undernourished children. 

He can recount how some missionaries would go to areas where the NGO's would not, sometimes giving their lives for this, just to be close to their communities. Some were riddled with bullets. Others were blown up into the air after stepping on mines. 

Fr. Martin Lasarte is familiar with the reality of communities abandoned to their fate. In Africa, some states expelled the missionaries. He says this revealed how the commitment of some lay men and women was the axle that sustained the faith of entire communities. That is why he says it is crucial that every diocese and congregation examine whether or not they have put effort into the integral formation of people. 

Central Salesian Dicastery for the Missions
After 40 or 50 years, many ecclesial realities are facing the consequences of an infertile pastoral ministry. There has been no investment in the catechumenate. There has been no investment in more authentic Christian communities, in the sacraments, in catechesis, and in Kerygma. So logically, after 40 or 50 years, they are communities that don’t have vocations. How does a diocese without a youth ministry expect to have future priests?” 

For Fr. Martin Lasarte, turning to the ordination of indigenous married men in the Amazon to the priesthood is a form of clericalism. For him this implies that the priesthood is the apex of Christian life, while the vocation to marriage is an insufficient way to live out the faith. 

Central Salesian Dicastery for the Missions
Clericalization. The pope insisted several times on this theme when he spontaneously intervened.Let us not clericalize the laity.’ Otherwise it would seem that the layman is an incomplete Christian.”

Fr. Martin Lasarte says he is satisfied with the final document the bishops presented to the pope because it seems balanced enough. The bishops propose ordaining permanent deacons to the priesthood in extreme situations, and with conditions. They do not propose ordaining just any layman.

At the same time, he expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the final document dedicated various points to the youth, for it is on them that the Church should focus and invest.