By Ann Schneible
VATICAN CITY, OCTOBER 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Some of the challenges which face the Catholic Church’s mission of evangelization in contemporary society were addressed in yesterday’s session of the Synod on New Evangelization.
Included among the speakers yesterday were Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manilla in the Philippines, Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, Titular Archbishop of Voghenza and President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization said that with the new evangelization, “we must present the newness that Jesus Christ and the Church represent in the lives of individuals.”
The individualistic mentality of mankind today poses unique challenges to efforts in evangelization. “Today’s man,” the archbishop said, “no longer perceives the absence of God as a lack in his life. Ignorance of the fundamental concepts of the faith are united with a kind of unprecedented self-centeredness. How can the news of Jesus Christ be expressed in a world permeated solely with scientific culture, modeled on the superficiality of ephemeral concepts, insensitive to the proposal of the Church? Proclaiming the Gospel is equated with changing one’s life; but today’s man seems tied to this kind of life of which he is in control because he decides when, how and who should be born and die.”
“Incapable of being proclaimers of the Gospel,” he continued, “unsure of the certainty of the truth that saves, and cautious in speaking because we are oppressed by control of language, we have lost credibility and we risk rendering vain the Pentecost.”
Rather than dwelling on the past or on utopian ideals, “what is needed is a clear analysis which does not hide the difficulties or even the great enthusiasm of the many experiences that in these years have allowed for the implementation of the New Evangelization.”
Archbishop Tagle of Manilla, in his intervention yesterday, spoke about the need for the Church to look to Christ as the prime example in evangelization. The archbishop recounted that a young girl once asked: “‘Are we the youth lost or has the Church lost us?’ Her question expresses a longing for a Church where she can be found by Jesus and where she can find Him. But for the Church to be the ‘space’ of a faith-encounter with the Lord, she must learn anew from Jesus in whom we meet God.”
He said that the Church must look to Christ as an example of humility. “God’s power and might appears in the self-emptying of the Son, in the love that is crucified but truly saves because it is emptied of self for the sake of others.”
Archbishop Tagle continued by saying that the Church is also “called to follow Jesus’ respect for every human person. He defended the dignity of all people, in particular those neglected and despised by the world. Loving His enemies, He affirmed their dignity.”
“The Church must discover the power of silence,” he said. “Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions. In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth.”
Amid the “seemingly indifferent and aimless societies of our time,” Archbishop Tagle concluded, people are nonetheless in search of God. By exercising genuine humility, respect, and by embracing a spirit of silence, the Church might succeed in revealing “more clearly the face of God in Jesus. The world takes delight in a simple witness to Jesus – meek and humble of heart.”
Archbishop Gómez of Los Angeles addressed the synod, speaking about the challenges and opportunities which globalization brings to the mission of the new evangelization.
“In a positive sense,” he said, “globalization presents us with a providential moment for advancing the Church’s mission of transforming humanity into one family of God. To evangelize in this era of globalization calls us for a new proclamation of the mystery of the Church as the universal family of God.”
The archbishop continued: “In our new evangelization, the Church must be the ‘sacrament’ – the sign and instrument – by which the universal family of God is realized in history. The era of globalization also calls us to draw from our rich traditions of popular piety and spirituality in our work of evangelization.”
Archbishop Gómez also spoke about the pastoral challenge of evangelizing in a globalized world, situating the universal call to holiness within today’s society. “We have to find new methods and new ways to help the men and women of our times to practice their faith in this globalized culture. We need to better understand the impact this culture is having on our Catholic identity and Catholic practice.”
Concluding his statement, the Archbishop of Los Angeles spoke of the need to find a “language” which represents “traditional means of sanctification – the sacraments, prayer, works of charity – in a way that is attractive and accessible to people living in the reality of a globalized, secular, urban society.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, spoke on the importance the sacrament of reconciliation within the context of the new evangelization.
“The sacrament of reconciliation,” he said, “evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and inspires us to answer His invitation to repentance.”
The Second Vatican Council had called for a renewal of the sacrament, said the cardinal, but “what we got instead, sadly, in many places, was the disappearance of the sacrament.”
“We have busied ourselves calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves. Yes, this is good. But the answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?” is not politics. The economy, secularism, pollution, global warming… no.” Quoting G.K. Chesterton, Cardinal Dolan said that the answer to the question “‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is two words: I am.'”
“Admitting that,” Cardinal Dolan concluded, “leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the core of the Gospel invitation. That happens in the sacrament of Penance. This is the sacrament of Evangelization.”