The lay apostolate is made up from laypeople and consecrated religious who exercise a ministry in cooperation with the Catholic Church. These organizations cooperate with ecclesiastical authorities. They operate "under direction of her pastors" but are not members of the official Church hierarchy nor in Holy Orders. Apostolates operate with the permission of the local Ordinary of a Diocese, but often without material support.
This is a special case of a normal Catholic lay organization; usually these organizations obtain permission from the Church hierarchy, and operate in cooperation with the Church. In many cases, where the priests are unable to function in specialized situations, like dealing with computer technology, medical care, or broadcast equipment, a lay apostolate may be formed to provide those specialized technical skills.
Apostolicam Actuositatem is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. It defines the mission of the lay Christian faithful to both "lead non-believers to the faith and to instruct, strengthen, and encourage the faithful to a more fervent life".
- Pope Pius XII to the Lay Apostolate on October 5, 1957
- Pope Paul VI Apostolicam Actuositatem Nov. 18, 1965
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