Something's Stirring in Paris

Cardinal Lustiger Sees Hope for the Church

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ROME, FEB. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Paris says the 1997 World Youth Day and the Jubilee Year 2000 were the platforms for launching the new evangelization in his city.

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger is in Rome this week, together with bishops of Ile de France (Paris and environs), on their “ad limina” visit to John Paul II and the Roman Curia.

In this interview with ZENIT, the archbishop of Paris reveals details of an unprecedented initiative in his country: a congress of evangelization, like the one held in Vienna in 2003.

Q: How important is this “ad limina” visit? What is the atmosphere like in which it is taking place?

Cardinal Lustiger: It is the first “ad limina” visit since the World Youth Day in August 1997. In a certain sense, it is an anniversary. I have the impression — shared by the other bishops of the Ile de France — that we are realizing the way in which the World Youth Days and the Jubilee of the year 2000 have given a new direction to the pastoral perspectives of the bishops of the Ile de France.

In these last decades we have really entered in a new period for the life of the Church. It could be said that, until then, we were still in the final phase of the “aggiornamento” launched by the Second Vatican Council, with all that that has implied in terms of adjustments and, at the same time, of profound changes for the life of the Church and social life in France.

This new phase is that of evangelization. I have the impression that the present generations, who will live during the next 20 years, have this immense field before them. We are becoming intensely aware of this in the course of this “ad limina” visit, in assessing the life of our dioceses since 1997, and in presenting all this to the Holy Father.

Q: What is the main concern of the bishop of the Church in Paris today?

Cardinal Lustiger: The diocese of Paris is ready for the mission. We see fruits of renewed fervor everywhere, thanks to all that has happened in the preceding 10 years.

One feels a desire and daring to proclaim Christ. I have the impression of witnessing a very important moment in the life of the diocese, which is initiating a relatively long-term path for the future.

Many faithful, and the clergy in general, feel that their duty at present consists in witnessing the love of Christ in this civilization and this culture.

They do not have a feeling of being a “minority,” which would be a false view of reality, as Christianity continues to be at the base of the culture of our society, despite our seeing great differences with the demands of the Gospel and a consistent Christian life.

However, those who today are close to the Church, who participate in the Eucharist, no longer consider themselves strictly as persons who come seeking that which they need for their personal life — they accept to bear the weight of the proclamation of the Gospel and feel it is vital for them, for their family, for those around them, wherever they are.

Deep down, they are beginning to have the courage of a Christian personality, which accepts being a sign of contradiction and, at the same time, is able to be attentive to being available to those, either removed or at times aggressive, who criticize our positions, but wonder about the meaning of life, in an environment that is losing its references and that is not very sure where it is going. Therefore, I am very optimistic about the spiritual opportunity I discover and rediscover in the diocese of Paris.

Q: The archbishop of Paris has mobilized all the forces of the archdiocese for the congress that will culminate in the next feast of All Saints. What are you asking of these people?

Cardinal Lustiger: It is not only an event that will take place in the course of the week of All Saints, at the end of October, but rather it is a profound movement which really started some years ago.

However, it is acquiring a new dimension for all the parishes, movements and institutions of Paris. I have requested that they reflect on what it might mean for them to proclaim Christ to the residents of this city and on the way in which they can do this.

It is not a question to which a theoretical answer must be given. It is an appeal: “Do what God asks you.” It is like the instruction that Mary gave at the wedding of Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” And to do so, listen to what he says to you.

Since we launched this prospect, as the weeks and months go by, I have been impressed by the birth of initiatives, at times extremely modest, at times very beautiful, intense and creative. It is not something spectacular: It is a convergence of peoples who are awakening, who reflect and act, who at times undertake new or old initiatives.

It is stirring. It is stirring in the sense of an act of faith. It also impresses me that all this surge is not taking place in anxiety or impatience, but is lived in a real atmosphere of prayer, without the need to organize it. I think there are signs of a genuine interior renewal that is taking place.

However, don’t think that it is about a paradisaic era. There are difficulties, people who don’t understand, the usual dramas of life, the remoteness of young people continues. However, all this is stirring, and something is happening.

I thank God for the time of grace he is giving us. I must acknowledge that it has really been the initiative of the Pope, who called the World Youth Days and the Jubilee of the Year 2000. These two events were a launching pad of something that was already maturing for quite some time.

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