Italy: National Ecclesial Convention of Italy

Source: FSSPX News


The Fourth Ecclesial Convention of Italy took place in Verona between October 16 and 20, with the theme “Witnesses of the Resurrected Jesus, hope of the world”. This decennial convention in the ancient Arena of Verona brought together 2,700 delegates from 226 Italian dioceses and 15,000 faithful.

A communiqué from the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) issued before the opening of the Convention explained that “the challenge is to communicate the Gospel in an effective way, crossing the daily paths of people.” “We would like the same thing to be said about us, the Church today, as St. Luke said of the first community in Jerusalem: ‘And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord ; and great grace was in them all’” (Acts 4, v.33)

“The power of this testimony depends on the existence itself of the community and its way of life, as ‘the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul.’” “The early Church was thus; it is also thus that our communities must be today.”

 Cardinal Dionigio Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan and president of the preparatory committee of the Convention, assessed the situation “of the life of our communities in order to determine the attitudes and choices which must be born of the hope which springs from faith in the Resurrected Christ, and to relaunch the commitment to, and the passion for, a mature Christian life, capable of giving all men reason for hope.”

 These declarations can be explained by the fact that Italian society has not escaped de-christianization: 89.7% of new-born babies were baptized in 1998, in 2003 the percentage fell to 80.7%; In 1991,17.5% of marriages were civil marriages, there were 28.5% in 2003; one hundred years ago there were 69,000 priests compared with 31,474 today; 740 priests were ordained in 1969, there were only 435 in 2004, 18% of whom were foreigners. Mgr. Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the Italian Bishops Conference has estimated that in twenty years, one third of Italian parishes will be without a priest, as 40% of priests who retire will not actually be replaced.

 The archbishop of Milan has described the gap which is widening in the “context of secularism and religious indifference” between the Christian faith and “the mentality of today,” in parallel with “the interruption and the slowing down of traditional Church channels of transmitting the Faith.” This is the reason why Cardinal Tettamanzi has called on the participants of the Congress “to keep, to conserve, to live and revive the originality, the newness, the Christian DNA of the present and potent hope in history.”

 On October 19, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech as part of this Convention:

“The Italy of today (…) is involved in the culture which is predominant in the West and which seeks to present itself as universal and self-sufficient, generating a new way of living. From this a new wave of illuminism and secularism is derived, to which all the others are expected to submit. Thus God remains excluded from culture and public life and faith in Him becomes more difficult. (…) In close relation with all that, a radical reduction of man has taken place, considered now as a simple product of nature, and as such not really free, and per se, susceptible to be treated like any other animal.”

 “The Church and Catholic Italians are called, therefore, (…) with the strength which comes from the Holy Spirit, to give positive and convincing responses to the expectations and questions of our people: (…) for the threat of secularism is present everywhere and the need for a faith lived in relation to the challenges of our times is likewise universal.”

 “Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians wrote: ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things’ (4,8). The disciples of Christ thus recognize and gladly welcome the authentic values of the culture of our times, such as scientific knowledge and technological development, human rights, religious liberty, and democracy. “Are these the virtues which St. Paul was describing to the Philippians? Religious liberty, human rights, democracy…are to say the least anachronisms for the first century of the Christian era. (Ed.)

(…) “The education of the person is a fundamental and decisive question. We should be concerned about the formation of his mind, without neglecting his liberty and his capacity to love. (…) A true education must awaken the courage to make definitive decisions which today are considered as assaults on our freedom, but which are in reality indispensable (…) in order to give consistency and meaning to freedom itself.”

 The Sovereign Pontiff, regarding “the civil and political responsibilities of Catholics” recalled that “Christ came to save the real concrete man, who lives in history and in society and this is why Christianity and the Church, since their origins have also had a public dimension and value. As I wrote in the encyclical Deus caritas est (cf. nn.28-29), on the relationship between religion and politics, Jesus Christ brought a substantial novelty, opening the way to a more human, and freer world, through the reciprocal distinction and autonomy of the State and the Church, of what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God(cf. Matt. 21,22). Religious liberty itself which we hold as a universal value, especially necessary in today’s world, finds it historical roots here. The Church, as a consequence, is not and has no intention of being a political agent (On this point, see the comments made by Bishop Fellay in his sermon of October 15, at Villepreux, DICI no 145. Ed.) (…) The immediate duty to act in the political domain” is “that of the lay faithful working as citizens on their own responsibility. This is a duty of the utmost importance, to which Italian lay Christians are called to commit themselves with generosity and courage, enlightened by the faith and the Magisterium of the Church, and inspired by the charity of Christ.”

 (…) “With as much determination and clarity of intention, we must also face up to the risks of political and legislative choices” opposed to “the protection of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, to the promotion of the family founded on marriage, avoiding the introduction of other forms of union which would contribute to destabilization, obscuring its particular character and irreplaceable role in society.”

 It is through the Virgin Mary, that “we learn to resist this ‘internal secularization’ which is threatening the Church today, a consequence of the secularization process which has profoundly marked European civilization.”

 Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian Bishops Conference (IBC), delivered the closing speech of the Convention, drawing attention to “the challenge represented by international terrorism.” He explained that it was “only one aspect of the issue, much larger than the religious, social and political revival of Islam and its desire to be a new protagonist on the world scene.” This desire was “shared at least in part, by the Muslim population.”

 “In the context of great developments, which include also those of China and India,” said the Cardinal, “the duty to construct peace takes on new dimensions and becomes ever more vital, while so many wars or threats of war persist and get worse.”