Benedict XVI encourages the new evangelization
On October 15, 2011, one year after its creation, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization organized a congress on the topic of “The Word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). This congress brought together 180 delegates from bishops’ conferences and ecclesial movements.
The speech that opened the proceedings was made by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of that dicastery, who mentioned the different areas in which to carry out the new evangelization. The participants studied themes related to the new evangelization; seven fields of endeavor had been singled out for a new presentation of the faith: the culture, migrants, communication, the family, the liturgy, politics, and regular pastoral work in the parish.
In the afternoon Archbishop Fisichella presented various speakers: Sister Veronica Berzosa, a Spaniard, foundress and superior of Iesu Communio, a new institute of contemplative life, spoke on “spirituality and the interior life”; the Italian writer Vittorio Messori on “the West and its questions to Christ”; the Italian astrophysicist Marco Bersanelli on “science and faith, a fruitful dialogue”; Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis, bishop for the Columbian armed forces, presented some experiences of new evangelization in Latin America. Jesús Colina, former director of the Catholic news website Zenit, announced “the first online community for questions and answers concerning the faith, the life and the teaching of the Church,” a project which has since seen the light of day (www.aleteia.org).
At the end of the day, Benedict XVI addressed the 8,000 delegates from the bishops’ conferences and the representatives of parishes, ecclesial movements and religious orders. Speaking in the presence of these new evangelizers who had come from America, Europe, Australia, India or the Philippines, Benedict XVI emphasized that the Word of God was still alive and being “actualized by the Church”. But today it is confronted with “closure [closed-mindedness] and rejection, ways of thinking and living that are far from the search for God and for the truth”. Contemporary men and women are often “distanced from the search for the essential in life while an ephemeral happiness is proposed to them that is briefly satisfying but soon gives way to sadness and dissatisfaction,” the pope continued. “Today’s world needs people who proclaim and testify that it is Christ who teaches the art of living, the way of true happiness, because He Himself is the path of life,” and the new evangelizers must have “an intense life of prayer”. Indeed, “today’s world needs people who speak to God, so as to be able to speak of God,” Benedict XVI declared, because “being evangelizers is not a privilege but a commitment that comes from faith.”
The meeting with the pope organized at the Vatican “had the purpose of giving a sign of visibility to the new evangelization through the new evangelizers, so that movements and communities that are not necessarily acquainted with each other, and vary in strength and numbers, will be able to meet for the first time in the same place,” explained Fr. Didier Duverne, who is in charge of the French section of this new dicastery. Some historical, well-rooted movements, such as the Emmanuel Community or the Italian movement Communion and Liberation, will meet other more modest and recent organizations, such as the Festival Annuncio pour la France, as well as the delegates from many bishops’ conferences. But above all “this congress is taking place in view of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization,” for “the outcome will serve as material for this synod,” over which the pope will preside in October 2012, the French priest noted.
In the evening the participants were able to take part in different street evangelization activities in the center of Rome and in prayer vigils in the churches of the city that had been organized by the Diocese of Rome. This operation, entitled “Evangelizing the city”, is a forerunner to another initiative, the Metropolitan Mission, which the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization will launch during Lent of 2012.
The next day, Sunday, October 16, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the new evangelization in the Vatican Basilica to conclude the congress. During his homily the pope recalled that “Jesus is true and teaches the way of God according to the truth, and stands in awe of none” (Mt 22:6). And since He is Himself that “way of God”—“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), we are called to follow Him to announce and witness, the Holy Father explained. “The mission of the Church, like that of Christ, is essentially to speak of God, to remember His sovereignty, to remind all, especially Christians who have lost their own identity, of the right of God to what belongs to Him, that is, our life.”
The Metropolitan Mission, the second project of the dicastery, will unfold in twelve major European cities during Lent of 2012 in order to “give a common sign of a new evangelization that is already in progress”. A complementary initiative, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, launched by the Pontifical Council for Culture, “is intended as a cultural interface between Catholics and unbelievers,” explained Fr. Duverne, whereas “the Metropolitan Mission is addressed the baptized who are disaffected and lukewarm, whose faith we are trying to reawaken by promoting a new awareness of a strong Christian identity and of belonging to a Christian community that is the Church.”
The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization was created on October 12, 2010, by the Motu Proprio Ubicumque et semper (cf. DICI no. 227 dated December 18, 2010). Headed by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the new dicastery offers “special aid to the Church in her mission, especially in countries with an ancient Christian tradition that seem to have become indifferent or event hostile to the Word of God,” Benedict XVI had explained on that occasion, recalling that “Jesus did not redeem the world with beautiful words or ostentatious means but with his suffering and his death.”
The notion of the new evangelization appeared after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Paul VI, as early as the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops in October 1974 and in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi in December 1975, announced “new times for evangelization”. “Conditions in society oblige us to revise our methods, to seek by all means to study how to convey the Christian message to modern man,” the pope wrote. On June 9, 1979, during his first journey to Poland, John Paul II explicitly used the expression “new evangelization” at Nowa Huta: “On the threshold of the new millennium, a new evangelization has begun, as though it were a second proclamation, although in reality it is still the same.” During the Second Vatican Council, the Decree Ad gentes on the missionary activity of the Church recalled that evangelization is not the specialty of religious missionaries alone, but that it involves all the laity.
(Sources: apic/imedia/vatican.va/radiovatican – DICI no. 245 dated November 25, 2011)