Preparatory document for the Synod on the new evangelization

Source: FSSPX News

Convoked by Benedict XVI, the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the new evangelization will take place from October 7-28, 2012, and will deal with the topic of “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.  The lineamenta, which make up the preparatory document for the synod, were made public by the Holy See on March 4, 2011.  They define its purpose:  to trace … the new methods and means for transmitting the Good News to people in our world today with a renewed enthusiasm”, emphasizing that “the problem of unfruitfulness in evangelization today … can be seen as an ecclesiological problem which concerns the Church’s ability or inability to become a real community, a true fraternity and a living body, and not a machine or an enterprise.”

The lineamenta will be addressed to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, to the Episcopal Conferences and to the Union of General Superiors.  They are to send back their answers to the questions asked by November 1, 2011.  These will allow the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops to formulate topics in a second document, the Instrumentum laboris, the working document that the participants of the 13th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will have before them in 2012.

According to this Roman document, the new evangelization “requires, first of all, a process of discerning the vitality of Christianity”.  It is also an encouragement much needed by the “Christian communities” that are experiencing a “general state of fatigue”.  The new evangelization needs to ask itself “a rather direct and crucial question:  ‘Are we interested in transmitting the faith and bringing non-Christians to the faith?’”

In the document we can also read that this is a bold approach:  “The new evangelization is the opposite of self-sufficiency, a withdrawal into oneself….”  To the challenges of the present-day socio-cultural context, the Church must respond not by giving up or retreating into herself, but by launching a campaign to “revitalize herself”.

According to the lineamenta, the Church must learn to “read and interpret the new situations in human history”, such as secularization, which presents itself today in various cultures by way of the positive image of liberation and has assumed a modest air, or else the fact that many Christians are “influenced, if not completely conditioned, by the culture of images”.  These situations require us to develop a critique of current lifestyles, thought patterns and values.  At the same time, this critique will have to act as a “self-evaluation of Christianity today”.  Thus Christians must not remain enclosed within the boundaries of their communities and institutions but must agree to confront “the recent forms of a militant atheism”.

Moreover, the mission of evangelization is no longer a movement from North to South or from West to East;  now it concerns all five continents.  It must free itself from geographic boundaries and recognize the limits of the “traditional, long-accepted model of a division of the world into ‘Christian countries’ and ‘mission lands’”.

The Roman document also notes that currently the presence of Christians and the work of their institutions “are not easily perceived and, at times, are even looked upon with great reservation”.  Some, “especially among other Christian confessions, are suspicious that a ‘new evangelization’ camouflages the Church’s intention to proselytize.”  Furthermore the document calls for Christians to show concern for persons who consider themselves agnostics or atheists, “who may have fears when we speak about a ‘new evangelization’, thinking that they are the primary objective of the Church’s missionary activity”.

This language sometimes recalls the jargon of international technocrats, but behind it are concealed concrete realities and the one thing which is at stake.  In the March 4 issue of Le Figaro, Jean-Marie Guénois writes about a “turning point”.  Indeed, the new evangelization annoys those who see this idea as “calling into question one of the pillars of the Second Vatican Council, according to which the Catholic Church from now on was no longer ‘proselytizing’ but rather ‘in dialogue’ with the world.  Or else ‘burying herself in it’—the subtle art of witnessing without showing one’s face.”  He concludes:  “This will in effect be the central problem of this synod:  to call to ‘conversion’ without falling into ‘proselytism’.”  In other words, being missionary without giving up ecumenical dialogue. (Sources : VIS/Apic/Imedia/Fides/Le Figaro – DICI no. 232 dated March 19, 2011)