Europe, Latin America Awaiting the Gospel

Archbishop of Toledo Speaks on Evangelization From the Africa-Europe Symposium

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal

ROME, FEB. 21, 2012 ( A symposium in Rome last week gathered some 65 bishops of Europe and Africa to reflect together on «Evangelization Today.»

At the event, ZENIT spoke with Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez Plaza of Toledo, president of the Missions Commission of the Spanish episcopate.

ZENIT: What can Europe contribute to Africa in terms of experiences of evangelization?

Archbishop Rodríguez: As we are old Churches, of many centuries, the new ways of addressing evangelization in a pluralist society can help Africans to be audacious. As an African bishop said, Muslims are not ashamed to say that they are Muslim, so neither should we be ashamed to say that we are Christians. And that the aphorism must not be allowed which has made the rounds in Europe, that is, Christ yes, the Church no. Because it is an unacceptable dualism, given that the individual who is born from the encounter with Jesus Christ, from the Paschal mystery, the new humanity, is a unique individual with his failings, but who is not making those divisions. Christ can be understood as a personage of history, but then one doesn’t reach him. One reaches Him in the Church, which is the heart, the mother that gives us that encounter. Of course Christ is more than the Church, but He wanted the Church to be with Him always.

ZENIT: When you heard the Pope’s call to the New Evangelization, what did you think?

Archbishop Rodríguez: John Paul II had already spoken of it in another context, with emphasis on the new methods, expression and ardor. This has not ended, but now there is a nuance of New Evangelization, and evangelization in a more secularized context where the role of the faith is difficult in the society in which we live. I think we need to reinforce Christian initiation, because there cannot be an individual who evangelizes if he is not comfortable with his faith. He must encounter Christ and know that to be a Christian is not simply an intellectual content of faith, but a whole life as a choice. This is what is important and the Spanish dioceses are centered on Christian initiation as something necessary.

ZENIT: Do you think the cause of the problems is the insufficient Christian formation of the last decades?

Archbishop Rodríguez: In our countries of many centuries of Christianity, Christian initiation has not been known. It has always been in Baptisms, Confirmations and First Communions, but not with the force of being able to say that one is free to be Christian, and that there is a process where the protagonist is God, and not oneself, as if one did God a favor. We cannot assume that the faith in its entirety is in the baptized, registered in the parish books. But that in many cases, it must be by a new experience with Jesus Christ in the Church, to be audacious in making this life joyful and to have others know it. And I’m not referring only to children, adolescents and young people, but also to adults who in the new apostolic movements show that one can have a living encounter with Jesus Christ in the Church.

ZENIT: What are people asking of the Church today? What can be changed?

Archbishop Rodríguez: There are some who do not want the faith to be the simple cherry on the pie, but that it be the pie. And many of the laity want to have a real pastoral offer that will encourage people to say that they are Christians, that they are with the Church and that this is wonderful and they are going to live it, proclaim it and take it to others. This won’t happen without difficulties, without prayer, without sacrifices and without confrontation from the point of view of what Benedict XVI says that the faith is reasonable, in face of others who say that it isn’t reasonable or that it is of no use at all. It is in those challenges where all this time is much at stake. It’s true that we need other things, great meetings, pilgrimages with young people, so many things.

ZENIT: Let’s talk about Spain. In recent years we have witnessed the hostile attitude of some governments against life, the family, religious education.

Archbishop Rodríguez: I have said many times that if there were things that separated me from the proposals and laws of the previous and other governments, it was not for something religious or confessional, but because the reality of man, because it is there that anthropology is at stake. Because if it is thought that the way to resolve the problem of affective unions of persons of the same sex, is by saying that it is a marriage, I don’t have to appeal to faith alone, I can disagree because it isn’t the way of resolving that problem. That is why it is important that Christians begin to see what the problem is. Because in the Civil Code now they are referred to as «spouse a» and «spouse b» or «the couple.» The same would have to be said of the abortion law. If before there were some alleged de-criminalized cases, now it is a «woman’s right,» which is debatable not only for Catholics but for other persons who don’t accept abortion.

ZENIT: And on the direction of education?

Archbishop Rodríguez: Our position has always been very clear. Yes to education for the citizenry, but not this one, in this way, as the government has presented it. I don’t know if the new government will restrict or reduce the subject removing from it those forms that the previous government had of presenting the options related to the moral education of individuals, something that is the competence of parents of families.

ZENIT: How can readers be motivated for the New Evangelization in Europe?

Archbishop Rodríguez: I said it in my intervention in this Symposium, when I was asked for a contribution on what type of man and what type of woman we are sent to. And after seeing the difficulties, I said that our task is difficult but exciting and I said that in Europe, and also in Latin America, there is a «market» for the Catholic faith, because man continues to thirst for God, for the living God. There is a market and we can pitch our tent, as the saying goes.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation