John Paul II's Answer to Secularization

Urges Dutch Bishops Toward a New Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2004 ( Given the rise of secularization in the Netherlands over the past 30 years, John Paul II says the Church there must respond with the new evangelization, especially of youth.

The Pope holds that the future of the Church in that country depends on members of the Christian community, much reduced after the 1960s, becoming «witnesses of Christ.»

That was the conclusion of the Holy Father’s address to the Dutch bishops whom he received Friday at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

«To be ‘witnesses of Christ’ in words and deeds is a responsibility shared by all the baptized, and that implies different conditions. How is it possible to give what one does not have?» the Pope asked the bishops.

«How can we talk about Christ and create a desire to know him if we are not first of all his disciples?» the Pope added, as he made proposals for the renewal of the Catholic Church in the country.

«To proclaim the Gospel, we must start afresh from Christ,» he said, echoing a theme in his 2001 apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte.»

John Paul II said that, although the Dutch situation is difficult — «to the point that the evangelical reference seems to disappear from certain options and orientations of individuals and of public life, in particular in the field of ethics» — one must not give in to «the temptation to discouragement.»

The hope of the Christian is in the word of Christ: «Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to the whole of creation.»

The «Gospel of Hope,» must be «witnessed and proclaimed every day,» the Pope added.

«The need to proclaim the Good News of the love of Christ is particularly evident among young people, who no longer have reliable points of reference and who live in a society increasingly characterized by moral relativism and religious pluralism,» the Holy Father said.

John Paul II believes that this new evangelization includes assistance to families, the renewal of parish life, and fidelity of Catholic schools to their own identity, «in respect for others, but without giving up what constitutes their original richness.»

The center of this new evangelization must be the «rediscovery of Sunday Mass as the foundation and heart of Christian life.»

This calls for «paying attention to the beauty of the liturgical celebration» and for faithfully respecting «the liturgical norms established by the Church.»

«The Eucharistic sacrifice, while always offered in a particular community, is never a celebration of that community alone,» the Holy Father said.

«From this it follows that a truly Eucharistic community cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather, it must persevere in harmony with every other Catholic community,» he concluded. «The ecclesial communion of the Eucharistic assembly is a communion with its own bishop and with the Roman Pontiff.»

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