President of Germany's Bishops on the Year of Faith (Part 1)

Bishop Zollitsch on Preparations and Expectations

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By Jan Bentz

ROME, JULY 17, 2012 ( the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Benedict XVI has proclaimed a Year of Faith, which will begin Oct. 11.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT, the president of the German Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Fribourg of Brisgovia spoke of the event and of the situation of the faith in Germany.

ZENIT: Why do we need today — 50 years after Vatican II, which sought to promote a New Evangelization — an initiative like the Year of Faith?

Archbishop Zollitsch: Jesus sent the Apostles saying: “Go out to the whole world.” Hence, in every moment and in every place the Church has the obligation to proclaim, with perseverance, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was also the conviction of the Fathers of Vatican II and, precisely because of this, an evangelizing thrust began from the Council. Today, 50 years later much has changed and it is good to give a new dynamic to this thrust. The Year of Faith, which as the Holy Father affirms, is founded on the Council, intends to serve this request. The appeal to the New Evangelization serves this purpose.

Because of the numerous changes that have occurred in the last decades and their impact on society, we live, on one hand, a considerable secularization and alienation from the faith of the Church, and on the other hand, a rather new desire of self-transcendence, to put one’s life in a larger sphere than the one known, a desire of hope in God. Many countries in which a religion prevails – and in particular Christian life – succeeded in creating active and believing community relations; today they are characterized, rather, by indifference and a variety of religious options.

However, this does not yet mean that disposition to a Christian spirituality or openness to an interpretation of a specifically Christian sense is lost. It is a question of proclaiming and witnessing credibly and authentically the Gospel of the closeness of God in Jesus Christ in a changed age. In this connection, a New Evangelization should promote an opening and deepening of a pure and solid faith and be force of true liberation.

ZENIT: You are a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. What is your specific role?

Archbishop Zollitsch: For us members of this still very young Pontifical Council there are no specific areas of collaboration. For me it is very important, at the beginning, to take up the particular opportunities of this work and to learn from other countries how the situation of the New Evangelization is fairing there. Then of course I would like to transmit to the Council the experience of the New Evangelization in Germany. We already have long-term enthusiastic initiatives. Already 12 years ago, the German bishops laid the basis for the Holy Father’s reflections in their document Zeit der Aussaat – missionarisch Kirche sein (Sowing Season – To Be a Missionary Church).

ZENIT: What is the heart of the New Evangelization of which the Pope speaks?

Archbishop Zollitsch: The heart of the New Evangelization is the transmission of the faith to the people of today. This faith supports and reinforces. He who believes is never alone, said the Holy Father himself. This includes the opening of the way to people that can have an experience of God as Christ proclaimed Him. It is about how to transmit to people strong and basic values for a life of Christian faith. This isn’t possible without a living and trustworthy community in the family, in affectionate relations and strong communities. Here the individual is inserted in something of the community, and in a union that can sustain the faith of others. Christ made his own participants of his faith, more than that: God has made us participants of his life through Jesus Christ – and he does so again today. Born from participation is the particular, also one’s own witness of faith. We must so act that people seek and find God in all things, men and events. However the spiritual evolution of the last decades cannot be easily overturned. Proclamation of the Gospel is a long process. It requires much care of details, even apparently insignificant, from person to person, from family to family.

ZENIT: How is the bond, in Germany, with the universal Church and with the Pope?

Archbishop Zollitsch: The local Church in Germany German is very well connected with the universal Church. It began with an intense exchange between the Episcopal Conferences, in particular, at the European level. It is noticeable also in our humanitarian organizations, so committed at the level of the worldwide Church. And, of course, the German Episcopal Conference has close contacts with our Holy Father in Rome. I myself meet with him regularly. In fact, through my appointment to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, I live all this in a stronger way. We have had many positive experiences in Germany with the New Evangelization, namely, concrete applications of what the Holy Father expects. We bring this experience to the debate and we are grateful for what we can learn from other local Churches. For example, I remain impressed by my experience in Nigeria: I was able to experience there the enormous service given by catechists, especially in the rural areas. I am convinced that every local Church has something to share and that we can walk together on the way of an adult faith.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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