Apostolicam Actuositatem

Apostolicam Actuositatem is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. It was approved by a vote of 2,340 to 2 of bishops assembled at the Council, and promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 18 November 1965. The title is Latin for "Apostolic Activity", which is from the first line of the decree, as is customary with significant Catholic documents. The purpose of the document was to encourage and guide lay Catholics in their Christian service. In this decree the Council sought to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. The specific objectives of lay ministry are: evangelization and sanctification, renewal of the temporal order whereby Christ is first in all things,[clarification needed] and charitable works and social aid.[2] The decree quotes Colossians 3:17: "Whatever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him".

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum  (Latin)
Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg
Saint Peter's Basilica
Venue of the Second Vatican Council
Date11 October 1962 (11 October 1962) – 8 December 1965 (8 December 1965)
Accepted byCatholic Church
Previous council
First Vatican Council
Convoked byPope John XXIII
PresidentPope John XXIII
Pope Paul VI
Attendanceup to 2,625[1]
TopicsThe Church in itself, its sole salvific role as the one, true and complete Christian faith, also in relation to ecumenism among other religions, in relation to the modern world, renewal of consecrated life, liturgical disciplines, etc.
Documents and statements
Four Constitutions:

Three Declarations:

Nine Decrees:

Chronological list of ecumenical councils


Apostolicam Actuositatem follows upon Lumen gentium, the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", of 21 November 1964, which in Chapter IV, discusses the laity, by which they mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders or religious institutes. "They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. ...led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.[3]

The Pontifical Council for the Laity had its foundation in Vatican II's Apostolicam Actuositatem - Decree on the Lay Apostolate §26. The council was created in January 1967 by Pope Paul VI's motu proprio Catholicam Christi Ecclesiam. In December 1976, the council was included as a permanent fixture of the Roman Curia. In September 2016, its functions were shifted to the new Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.


The numbers given correspond to the section numbers within the text.

Introduction (1)Edit

  • The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it. (1)

The Vocation of the Laity to the Apostolate (2-4)Edit

  • The laity share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God. (2)
  • The laity are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ. (2)
  • One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church. (3)
  • This plan for the spiritual life of the laity should take its particular character from their married or family state or their single or widowed state, from their state of health, and from their professional and social activity. They should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life, and they should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit. ... They should also hold in high esteem professional skill, family and civic spirit, and the virtues relating to social customs, namely, honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness, and courage, without which no true Christian life can exist. ... The perfect example of this type of spiritual and apostolic life is the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, who while leading the life common to all here on earth, one filled with family concerns and labors, was always intimately united with her Son ....[4] (4)

Objectives (5-8)Edit

  • The layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by a Christian conscience.[5] (5)
  • "The apostolate of the Church and of all its members is primarily designed to manifest Christ's message by words and deeds and to communicate His grace to the world.[6] (6)
  • Pity for the needy and the sick and works of charity and mutual aid intended to relieve human needs of every kind are held in highest honor by the Church. (8)

The Various Fields of the Apostolate (9-14)Edit

  • The laity with the right apostolic attitude supply what is lacking to their brethren and refresh the spirit of pastors and of the rest of the faithful (1 Cor. 16:17–18) (9)
  • The laity should not limit their cooperation to the parochial or diocesan boundaries but strive to extend it to interparochial, interdiocesan, national, and international fields. (10)
  • The apostolate of married persons and families is of unique importance for the Church and civil society.(11)
  • If youthful zeal is imbued with the spirit of Christ and is inspired by obedience and love for the Church, it can be expected to be very fruitful.(12)
  • Children also have their own apostolic work to do. According to their ability they are true living witnesses of Christ among their companions.(13)
  • Among the signs of our times, the irresistibly increasing sense of the solidarity of all peoples is especially noteworthy.(14)

The Various Forms of the Apostolate (15-22)Edit

  • The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations.(15)
  • The individual apostolate, flowing generously in a truly Christian life (John 4:14), is the origin of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, and it admits of no substitute. (16)
  • The individual apostolate has a special field in areas where Catholics are few in number and widely dispersed. (17)
  • The united and organized form of the apostolate needs to be strengthened. Only the pooling of resources is capable of fully achieving the aims of the modern apostolate and firmly protecting its interests.(18)
  • Lay societies, such as Catholic Action, advance the Church's apostolic aim, that is, the evangelization and sanctification of men and the formation of a Christian conscience and can infuse the spirit of the Gospel into various communities and departments of life. (20)

External Relationships (23-27)Edit

  • Cooperation among various projects of the apostolate must be suitably directed by the hierarchy.(23)
  • No project may claim the name “Catholic” unless it has obtained the consent of the lawful Church authority. (24)
  • A special secretariat, moreover, should be established at the Holy See for the service and promotion of the lay apostolate.(26)
  • The gospel requires cooperation of Catholics with other Christians. (27)

Formation for the Apostolate (28-32)Edit

  • The lay apostolate can attain its maximum effectiveness only through a diversified and thorough formation. (28)
  • Training for the lay apostolate should start with the child's earliest education. Adolescents and young persons should be initiated into the apostolate and imbued with its spirit. This formation must be perfected throughout their whole life. (30)
  • Various types of the apostolate demand also a specially suitable formation. In regard to the apostolate for evangelizing and sanctifying men, the laity must be specially formed. (31)

Exhortation (33)Edit

  • The most holy council earnestly entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer gladly, nobly, and promptly the more urgent invitation of Christ in this hour and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. (33)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cheney, David M. "Second Vatican Council". Catholic Hierarchy. Retrieved 18 May 2011.[self-published source]
  2. ^ Rachal, Dianne. "Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People", Catholic Connection, Diocese of Shreveport, 3 May 2013
  3. ^ Second Vatican Council. Lumen gentium, Chapter IV, §31, 21 November 1964 Archived September 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Apostolicam Actuositatem, §4.
  5. ^ Apostolicam Actuositatem, §5.
  6. ^ Apostolicam Actuositatem, §6.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit