The first National Conference on the New Evangelization was held last Saturday in Birmingham, England. The initiative — which was attended by 900 pastoral workers from all 22 dioceses of the country — was one of the key events of “Proclaim 15,” the missionary project launched by the local episcopate last January, geared to support, inspire and encourage the country’s parishes to a more “creative” evangelization, in keeping with Pope Francis’ guidelines in “Evangelii Gaudium,.”
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope himself wished to encourage the Conference as an “important occasion not only to reflect on the programs of evangelization, but also to rekindle in the faithful the love and joy that stem from a personal encounter with Jesus,” he wrote in a message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.
In the text, the Holy Father exhorted all the participants “to open their heart to Christ, so that in turn they can revitalize their parishes, forming communities of communities, a shrine where the thirsty go to drink to continue walking and a center of constant missionary sending.” The Pope, who assured the participants of his “spiritual closeness and prayer,” entrusted all those present to “Mary, Mother of the Church.”
There were several interventions on Saturday, among them that of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, who focused his address on the three “C’s” of evangelization. The first concerns “our colleagues who have lost the way,” namely, non-practicing Catholics, those who “have heard talk of Jesus, know some of his words, have a certain familiarity with the Church” but no longer practice their faith. The Cardinal’s exhortation was that “step by step they may come to know Jesus more clearly.”
The second “C” is “curiosity” because, “even if tinged with hostility, it can be a wonderful opportunity” of evangelization, provided that the faithful remember that “the suggestion of the Holy Spirit resides in curiosity,” explained the Cardinal. “If this particular is forgotten, then it means that we are on the defensive and lose the opportunity to evangelize,” he added. Finally, the third “C” is the “clamor of the human heart, a cry of “confusion, pain, hunger, solitude, need, anger.” ‘Whatever is done to respond to this cry in the world, such a cry must be united to prayer, because only in this way will Jesus’ mission be realized” and “the work of evangelization will be effective,” affirmed Cardinal Nichols.
Articulated in eleven workshops, and thanks to numerous direct testimonies, the Conference reflected on the way to evangelize with new modalities and methods, to render the mission of the Church more effective in one of the most secularized societies of the world. Important also were analyses of the social media and the reflection on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will open on December 8 of this year.