Primate of Hungary on New Evangelization in Europe (Part 2)

Interview With Cardinal Peter Erdo

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ROME, NOV. 25, 2005 ( Cardinal Peter Erdo says that love and prayer are powerful and effective evangelical tools.

The 53-year-old archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary took part in the International Congress for the New Evangelization, held in Portugal from Nov. 5-13.

In this interview with ZENIT, conducted by Viktoria Somogyi, Cardinal Erdo talks about new initiatives for evangelizing the Old World.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

Q: St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s relics were recently on display in Lisbon’s cathedral. Can the example of this saint, patroness of missions, be a stimulus for holiness?

Cardinal Erdo: I also got in line to touch St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s reliquary. I prayed before her relics. I prayed for all of us in the conviction that she is truly the holy patroness of missions, which are not only carried out through activities and charitable organizations, or the use of technical means but, above all, through love and prayer.

Thanks to prayer, the man who has true faith becomes «a center of strength,» and this will certainly have a missionary effect.

If one allows oneself to be filled with God’s strength, this unconditional charity becomes an excellent means of the mission and saving strength of God. This is the reason that St. Thérèse is truly the patroness of missions, and of our daily mission.

Q: In the encyclical «Redemptoris Mater,» John Paul II affirmed that Mary «participates maternally in that harsh battle against the powers of darkness that unfolds throughout human history» and is the help of the «Christian people in the incessant struggle between good and evil.» To Mary, mother of hope, is entrusted the future of Europe. Of what significance is the participants’ pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima?

Cardinal Erdo: In the middle of the program, the congress’s focal point, all the participants went to Fatima. It was a special pilgrimage in which I was able to take part, celebrating a Holy Mass and praying the rosary.

I believe that devotion to the Virgin, together with the confidence we have in her intercession, is a great stimulus for us, and makes us able to believe even in the most difficult and, apparently, rather hopeless circumstances.

Her intercession is a guarantee that her Holy Son will hear us. According to a most beautiful Portuguese tradition, when we wish to pray to Jesus Christ for something important, out of humility we turn to the Virgin, aware of the fact that, thanks to her, we are more able to ask and to be heard by the Lord.

Therefore, in this ancient tradition there is an expression of humility and of special intimacy — an expression of great faith.

Q: During the homily of the Mass celebrated in St. Jerome’s monastery on Nov. 8, you made specific reference to the historical experience of Hungary and of the Hungarian Catholic community in the context of an atheistic materialism. This contribution was much appreciated by the congress’s participants. Can such a cultural and religious experience be a useful instrument for the objective of a new evangelization in Europe?

Cardinal Erdo: During the long decades of Communism, in the only Hungarian Catholic publication, which was called Vigilia, there was a section with the significant title «The Little Way — The Little Path.» Many Catholic authors wrote their meditations in it, following the footsteps of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and applying her message to the circumstances of Catholics of the Communist period.

They, in fact, could not change the political and social conditions of life, but they gave witness of Christ in their modest circumstances. In all societies of all times there is and always will be this possibility. Therefore, one must have this «sensibility» in our little way. I believe this aspect is also necessary in today’s mission.

Q: In 2007, Hungary will host the Congress for the New Evangelization during which the key points of previous editions will be highlighted, taking the urban mission to the streets of Budapest. How is the local Church preparing for such an event? How does the program of youth pastoral care in particular intend to involve young people in the proclamation of the Gospel?

Cardinal Erdo: Above all I want to say that in Lisbon, as well as in Vienna and Paris, a numerous Hungarian delegation of lay men and women, along with 15 priests, took an active part in the congress.

This group studied the different aspects of the urban missions in the three cities. Many experiences were gathered, and we have already put a person in charge of the coordination of the whole preparation of our 2007 congress.

I also hope that, with the help of the parishes, which are already involved, there will be a true renewal of religious life. For the past two years the parishes have been committed to what is called the parish mission, which takes up in a modern way the tradition of the former popular missions which were banned during Communism. At the entrance of many churches we have seen the crosses of the missions, engraved with the respective dates, up to 1949. Since 2003, we can write new dates on these crosses.

In Budapest, we have seen that above all there must be a deepening in the faith, in spirituality, and in the missionary awareness of those who are already committed in the parishes — namely priests, religious, catechists and laity who are fully dedicated to parish work.

Second, contact must be made with the whole parish community, including in a liturgical way. Important liturgical celebrations also offer the possibility to approach the sacrament of penance.

Third, a gradual opening to the world must take place. This opening to the world does not refer only to the environment near us, our city, the neighborhood in which we live and where many don’t believe and don’t know Christ’s message or have not yet been baptized, but it is a look at the whole world, at the most distant continents, through the testimonies of those persons — priests, religious, missionaries and lay people — who have lived in those parts of the world.

A way of making contact with the local community can come to us from art, music, and street missions. There are many means to do this. The local media has also given us a way of expressing ourselves by giving us a section, a possibility, a half hour between their programs to have a more direct contact with the whole local public.

After all of the experiences of missions in Budapest parishes, we have benefited from knowledge and from many actions which have been particularly effective and fruitful. We hope that on the basis of all this experience, and with the grace of God, we will be able to properly organize the mission in our city.

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