By Ann Schneible

ROME, OCTOBER 18, 2012 ( "The fundamental task for the Church of all time… is to return Christ to the heart of the Church, and return the Church to Christ."

These are the words of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Australia who is currently in Rome as a participant in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly on New Evangelization. The Australian archbishop recently sat down with ZENIT where he spoke about the intervention he delivered at the Synod earlier this month. He also spoke about the importance of recalling that Christ is at the heart and center of the Church.

ZENIT: What have been your impressions of the Synod up until now?

Archbishop Costelloe: One of the strong impressions that I have is the complexity of this topic of the New Evangelization. It's got so many aspects, and I think a lot of us are just starting to get a little bit clearer in our minds as to what exactly it means. We've got bishops here from all over the world. Some are from countries which have traditionally been very Christian countries, and now perhaps that dimension is being a bit obscured. And then many bishops are from countries where Christianity is a new phenomena. How the new evangelization relates to those different things is taking us a while to work out.

ZENIT: You delivered an intervention during the first week of the Synod. What where some of the key points of your address, and what objectives did you hope to achieve?
Archbishop Costelloe: I made the point that the fundamental task for the Church of all time – but certainly in our time in terms of the New Evangelization – is to return Christ to the heart of the Church, and return the Church to Christ.

I need to explain that, because theologically, of course, the Church is always united to Christ. It's the Body of Christ; He's our head. We speak of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Theologically, there's no division between Christ and His Church.

But I think it's very easy for us as individuals, and as communities of faith, to lose sight of the fact that the only treasure the Church has to offer is Christ. We all know that, but we get so caught up in other issues and other concerns that we can easily forget why we're getting concerned about all these things, and we forget that, really, if Christ isn't very clearly and very explicitly at the heart of everything we do we've lost our way.

I'm a Salesian, and the superior general of the Salesians some years ago made the statement that the greatest challenge facing religious life in the Church is to return the religious life to Christ, and return Christ to the religious life. It struck me as such a significant statement that I reflected on it then in terms of the Church herself.

Theologically, we already are: but pastorally, practically, in our day-to-day living, I'm not sure we're as clear about this as we should be.

ZENIT: How can we bring the teachings of this Synod to the people in the pews?

Archbishop Costelloe: One of the things that's coming out very strongly in many of the interventions of the Synod fathers is really a very obvious point, and that is the New Evangelization depends on the New Evangelizers. I think one of our tasks is to identify those people in our local diocesan communities, our local parish communities, Church agencies, schools, whatever we have, identify those people who are already engaged committed and really work with them, to help them understand just how important this is, so that they then become excited and enthusiastic about it, because it's not going to work if it's just the people at the top, so to speak. We need to work with the people who are already committed, and try as best we can to really energize them.