By Junno Arocho
DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin delivered the first address of the 50thInternational Eucharistic Congress on Monday morning to a standing-room only crowd. The theme of his address, The Church in the Modern World, focused on the changes in the Catholic Church’s role in the aspect of today’s culture and society.
Among the dignitaries attending the prelate’s speech was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, papal legate to the International Eucharistic Congress, and Archbishop Piero Marini, head of the Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses.
The archbishop’s talk dealt with the influence of the pastoral constitution Gaudium Et Spes in addressing the needs of the faithful in an ever-changing world. Reflecting on his beginnings as a seminarian, the archbishop described the effect that the document had on Irish society at the time. “Coming out of a particular moment of a traditional and authoritarian Irish Church culture, the newness of this challenging and exciting notion of dialogue between the Church and the culture of the modern world and of a Church identifying itself with the aspirations of humankind was almost thrilling to our young ears,” he said.
“Rather than telling the world what to do, the Church was to listen to what the modern world was saying to and telling the Church. The newness of this document was such that even the Council itself had to find a new term with which to accommodate it within its categorization of the documents of an Ecumenical Council: Gaudium Et Spes was to be a Pastoral Constitution.”
The Irish prelate acknowledged that the constitution came at a crucial point in the Church’s history in Ireland, where the seminary he entered in 1962 “differed very little as regards the seminary rule and order of the day from that into which my professors had entered twenty or thirty years earlier.”
One of four apostolic constitutions released at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium Et Spes was promulgated by Pope Paul VI as an overview of the Catholic Church’s teaching on humanity’s relationship with society, covering several aspects such as culture, politics, social justice and ecumenism.
Reflecting on the comparison between the era when the pastoral constitution was released to the current political and societal situation in Ireland, which has become increasingly secular, Archbishop Martin reinforced the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI’s call for a new evangelization in Europe that is relevant to the changes in the modern world. “In Ireland, we are confronted, for perhaps the first time, with the need for a radically renewed proclamation of the Gospel for those already baptized but who have long since not experienced a real relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.
“The Gospel must be preached courageously even if it does not seem to find roots in people’s lives,” he added. “Resignation and keeping things ticking over will never renew the Church. A divided squabbling Church will not attract young people but only alienate them. On the other hand, no one should fear the message of the Gospel.”
The archbishop of Ireland concluded his address, expressing the hope that the International Eucharistic Congress would aid in uniting the Church with society, particularly in Ireland. “My hope is that this Congress may be a signpost as to how our Communion with Christ in the Eucharist can generate a new understanding of our communion with each other in a modern world which is today very different to that of the 1960s and in a future which will be even more different and challenging,” he said.