Mons. Wilton Gregory © Martín Soros

United States: The New Archbishop of Washington Affirms Himself in Francis’ Pastoral

Evangelization ‘Begins with Encounter’

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The New Archbishop of Washington, Monsignor Wilton Gregory, expressed his pastoral priorities in an interview with Zenit.
On being consulted as to how he interprets Pope Francis’ pastoral style, that, founded on the rich Doctrine of the Church, opens new pastoral ways, Archbishop Gregory answered that the Pope “has captured the heart of the world, because he focuses us on the values of the Gospel, and that means that the important work of evangelization begins with encounter. To go to encounter people, especially those that live on the peripheries of society, the poor, the sick and young people. He has really changed the focus, or he has intensified our focus on the importance of encountering people as our neighbors, as friends.”
How to Reach Young People
 In his Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, Pope Francis affirms in number 212, that “. . . in some places it happens that, after having brought about in young people an intense experience of God, an encounter with Jesus that touched their hearts, then they only offer them meetings of ‘formation,’ where only doctrinal and moral questions are addressed: on the evils of the present-day world, on the Church, on the Social Doctrine, on chastity, on marriage, on birth control and other topics.
As a result, many young people get bored, lose the fire of their encounter with Christ and the joy of following Him; many abandon the way, others become sad and negative. Let us tone down the obsession to transmit a cumulus of doctrinal contents, and try first of all to arouse and root the great experiences that sustain Christian life,” then, he quoted Romano Guardinii who said: “When we experience a great love . . . all the rest becomes part of it.”
Today it’s essential to be open to new ways of youth pastoral, adapted to the present times. Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles, famous for the online videos he publishes, told the Bishops of the United States in their General Assembly last June that, of six young people that leave the Church, only one enters her.
Therefore, we consulted Archbishop Gregory about his opinion on Romano Guardini’s mentioned phrase. Echoing it, he answered enthusiastically that he believes that Pope Francis “has captured young people’s spirit,” adding that “young people in the world today, regardless of where they are, regardless of their nation or culture, are energized when there is action, and when there are things to do  to use their youthful energy. And it’s from that energy, from that commitment that the Church can offer them their heritage of faith and help them to understand that the work of social evangelization and social justice must be rooted in the foundation of the faith so that it reflects the true spirit of the Catholic Church.”
The Value of the Community
 Given that at times a Christian can fall into the danger of accentuating unilaterally and even exclusively the doctrinal principles, forgetting the internal processes of growth, of conversion, of aspiration to sanctity, we asked Archbishop Gregory if he believes that a personal experience with others, with a community, is essential to encounter Jesus, he answered that “it’s absolutely essential, it is thus that one grows in the spirit of the Gospel. It is about persons that establish relationships who are then transformed by the Gospel message and Jesus Christ’s example.”
His Pastoral Priorities
 In regard to his pastoral priorities as Archbishop of Washington, Monsignor Gregory said he has “discovered in the last weeks that there is a very rich tradition and heritage so that I would like to build on that heritage, intensify that spirit, which is well established.” And he added: “I don’t have to present the faith to them here in Washington; it’s already here. I must only encourage people to deepen that love for Christ Jesus and for their neighbor, which they have already begun, and to continue to enable it to grow and produce an even richer harvest.”
In the Mass of installation as Archbishop of Washington, which took place last May 21 in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Gregory affirmed that he received abundant signs of welcome, of affection. In this connection, he commented that this makes his work easy when he is “helping people to deepen the faith they live as very valuable.”
On Sunday, July 14, Archbishop Gregory received — from the hands of Archbishop Christopher Pierre — the Archbishop’s pallium in Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia). The pallium is a white woolen band, adorned with six crosses, similar to a stole, and which is used in the form of a scapular and received by Residential or Metropolitan Archbishops.
Gregory said he is a Bishop close to the people, not an office Bishop. Proof of this is the visits he makes to the parishes of the Archdiocese. Next Sunday, July 28, he will celebrate Mass at 10:00 am and 12:00 am in Saint Jane of Chantal’s parish in Bethesda, Maryland, given that part of its territory belongs also to the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Enrique Soros

Enrique Soros es comunicador social, escritor, actúa como agente pastoral en la Arquidiócesis de Washington, en proyectos pastorales y comunicacionales en Latinoamérica, colabora con el CELAM, Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano, y es Consultor de la Comisión de Laicos, Matrimonio, Vida Familiar y Juventud de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos.

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