Archbishop Costelloe on the New Evangelization (Part 2)

Australian Prelate Speaks on Christian Joy and the Gift of Faith

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, OCTOBER 19, 2012 ( Christians must be confident in the gift of faith, and «its ability to meet the deepest needs of people.»

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 role of the laity in the mission of the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: What can the laity – and in particular the youth – take from this Synod with regard to their role in the New Evangelization?

Archbishop Costelloe: I think the answer to that is partly tied to what I said before about returning Christ to the Church. Jesus is a very attractive, very engaging figure, and I think that if, for example, we bishops and our priests were really to do our best to make Jesus the heart of our preaching, to really get people to focus on Jesus, hopefully will help them to see how attractive and how engaging He is. As I said before: Jesus is the greatest treasure – the only treasure – that the Church has. One of the greatest tasks that we have – and the methodology that we should adopt – is to continually point people to Jesus.
Young people, for example, are very easily attracted by Jesus once they begin to understand Him and He’s presented to them as He actually is, in the pages of the Gospels, in our tradition of the Church. Once people understand who this person is, I think that desire to not just to follow Him, but to commit themselves to Him, to become both His disciples and His friends, and His collaborators, I think that does start to grab people.
This return to Jesus is the key. It’s something that Pope John Paul II was very strong about in that famous letter he wrote at the dawn of the new millennium, Novo millennio ineunte. There is a wonderful invitation there where he says that we must contemplate the face of Christ. In that letter, he says unless we do that, then the witness we want to give will be hopelessly inadequate. I just think the Church needs to recognize the great treasure that Jesus is, and put Him at the heart of everything, because in the end it’s about Him, it’s not about us.

It’s a bit like John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus going past, he points away from himself and says: «Look! There’s the Lamb of God!» and everybody started to follow him. I think we’ve got to be new «John the Baptists,» pointing people to Jesus.

ZENIT: What do you hope to take back from this Synod to Australia, and in particular your own Archdiocese of Perth?

Archbishop Costelloe: One of the things I hope I can take back is the sense of enthusiasm that is there in the Synod. It’s really very inspiring to sit there, and listen to bishops from all around the world, many of whom will talk about issues and challenges they are facing – we all have those – but who, in all kinds of different ways, show that they are men of great hope because they are enthusiastic about the faith, and they believe that, in our Christian and Catholic faith, we have this wonderful gift that we can offer to our society. Certainly in my own country of Australia, in my own Archdiocese, like many other places it has lots of challenges. The values that we espouse as Christians are less and less understood and appreciated by the wider society.

However, we have this wonderful gift of faith. It might sound a little bit arrogant, but it is, in fact, the answer to so many of the problems that the people of our time are facing. We have to make sure that we’re there, joyously living our faith, preserving this wonderful gift in all its fullness and all its integrity, and are ready to offer it, because eventually, people are going to realize nothing else is giving us the peace and the joy and the hope that we’re looking for. Hopefully these Catholics will be peaceful and joyful and happy people, and people might start to say: «Maybe we need to go and see what they’ve got to offer.»
That’s what I would hope to take back. One of the challenges for the Church today, particularly in Western countries like Australia, is for us to be very confident about this extraordinary gift that we have; not to apologize for it, not to water it down, but to be very confident in its ability to meet the deepest needs of people. Not to be arrogant about it, but simply to be humbly, quietly confident in what we have, and in our duty and our responsibility and the privilege we have to be there, offering it to people.

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