Benedict XVI speaks to the new Council for “New Evangelization”

From CNA:

Crisis of ‘indifference’ shows need for New Evangelization, Pope says

Vatican City, May 30, 2011 / 10:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict stressed the urgency of evangelizing modern society, saying that Christians today face the task of reaching a world that grows increasingly apathetic to the message of the Gospel.

“The crisis we are living through,” he said, “carries with it signs of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, a general indifference to the Christian faith, and even the intention of marginalizing it from public life.” [If we don’t know who we ourselves are, then how can we talk to the world at large in any significant way?  We need a revitalization of our Catholic identity.]

The Pope made his remarks on May 30 to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, as they prepare for their upcoming synod in 2012. During the meeting, which will take place Oct. 7-28 next year, bishops and other participants from around the world will discuss the late Pope John Paul II’s vision of proposing the Christian faith in new ways.

Pope Benedict explained that “the term ‘new evangelization’ recalls the need of a new way of evangelizing, especially for those who live in a situation like today’s where the development of secularization has left deep marks on even traditionally Christian countries.”

He noted that “proclaiming Jesus Christ, the sole Savior of the world, is more complex today than in the past, but our task continues to be the same as at the beginning of our history. The mission hasn’t changed, just as the enthusiasm and courage that motivated the apostles and first disciples should not change.”

The Church’s message, he said, “needs to be renewed today in order to convince modern persons, who are often distracted and insensitive. That is why the new evangelization must find the ways to make the proclamation of salvation more effective, the salvation without with life is contradictory and lacking in what is essential.” [Start with liturgical worship.]

Pope Benedict observed a growing “phenomenon” of people in modern society “who wish to belong to the Church but who are strongly determined by a vision of life that is opposed to the faith is often seen.”  [But maybe they think they are “spiritual”?]

“It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modernity.”

He emphasized that the entire Christian community “is called to revive the missionary spirit in order to offer the new message that persons of our times are hoping for.”

The “lifestyle of believers needs real credibility, as much more convincing as the more dramatic is the condition of the persons to whom it is addressed.”

Pope Benedict expressed his desire to council members that they outline “a plan to help the entire Church and the particular different Churches in the commitment of the new evangelization; a plan whereby the urgency of a renewed evangelization takes charge of formation, particularly that of the new generations, and is united to the proposal of concrete signs capable of making the Church’s response in this particular moment clear.”

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  1. moon1234 says:

    I wonder how long we will look for new ways of evangelization before we realize that the methods used for the first 1960 odd years worked just fine.

    I applaud the Pope on his effort. I don’t think the “modern” method of ecumenism is going to have much effect on a world where everything is accepted both in the Church and without. The preconciliar norms had a stability and link with the past that is missing in the modern Church. We have had three or will now be four new missals since the council. There are not minor changes either as in the past. There are major changes (compared to past centuries) almost every decade.

    If I was looking from the outside in at the modern Church I would think that it does not quite know where is going and and does not really want to know where it has been.

  2. I may be wrong… but when I hear, “Christianity isn’t some kind of outfit you wear at home or on special occasions,” I hear the voice of our pope’s father and mother and grandparents. (And given that German Catholics had their faith assaulted by the kulturkampf and Mein Kampf, they’d have had good reason to say that sort of thing.) Heck, it sounds so much like something my parents and relatives would say, I actually had to check my memory to be sure they hadn’t said it!

    It’s sad that such obvious truths are so rarely said in our world. But I’m glad our pope is out there “strengthening the brethren” by coming right out and saying ’em.

  3. Maltese says:

    The Church used to be in the business of missionary work (usually using the Traditional Rite, to convert millions); Saint Francis Xavier himself baptized 3,000,000. But now that zeal has itself converted to an ecumenical indifferentism. As Msgr. Gherardini recently wrote, the missionary zeal has “all but extinguished” in the Church since Vatican II. Could it be that Karl Rahner has gotten his wish? Now, protestants are “converting” Catholics in places such as South America–the Emperor has lost his clothes, indeed!

  4. Prof. Basto says:

    When will they realize that the best way to evangelize is the TRADITIONAL way?

    The only reason why this failiure in catechesis and apologetics, this loss of Faith, in countries that were already Catholic, and often deeply Catholic, happened, is because after the Council people decided to “propose the Faith in new ways”, and those “new ways” were weaker than the Traditional way; the teaching of Catholic doctrine was “watered down”, parts of it that seemed “inconvenient” to the modern world (such as the emphasys on the condemnation of sin; the rights of the Truth vis-à-vis the position of other religions, that cannot be treated on an equal footing with the True Faith; the fact that a Catholic society is the ideal form of society; the fact that the Mass is a Sacrament; that we cannot forget Christ’s CROSS or replace it with more generic “paschal” themes that often, due to the characteristics of vernacular languages, only remind people of Easter and not of the Calvary, etc, etc, etc) were not proclaimed at all or downplayed.

    So, this New Evangelization effort, instead of searching for a “tertium quid”, instead of looking for a “new new way” to propose the faith in the “current, complex” scenario, should, if it is to work, repair to the traditional Teaching and to traditional methods.

    The same Tradition that once conquered those lands now lost to secularism will conquer them once more, if given a fighting chance.

    Ever new, experimental approaches, on the other hand, will lead nowhere. Let the fine Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, together with more traditional, yet simple and pure, often forgotten manuals of old, such as the Catechisms of Saint Pius V and of Saint Pius X, be our guides.

    If the Faith is presented in its entirety, in its traditional presentation, without apologies or excuses, its beauty, its solidity, its systematic integrity will once again convince the minds of the multitudes that were once Catholic, and the flame of the Holy Spirit will once again illuminate the hearts of those that are now only nominal Catholics.

  5. shane says:

    Yes — Catechesis, Catechesis, Catechesis.

    I learned absolutely nothing whatsoever about the faith in my ‘Catholic’ school (even from the priest chaplains). Anything and everything I know about Catholicism (which isn’t necessarily much) I had to learn myself.

    Older people who were drilled in the old catechisms generally held onto the faith and kept practicing. Most people in the pews nowadays do not even know why they are at Mass. And that probably goes for most clergy too.

  6. anilwang says:

    Prof. Basto, I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that we stop doing what we’ve always done. But more is needed in this age.

    What’s different about this age?
    * People have no sense of history (if it’s older than 20 years, it’s irrelevant) and definitely little belief in the relevance of history
    * People have little sense of the eternal. Even though the heavens declare the glory of God, there’s so much light pollution that barely a handful of stars are visible. The iPad/Android seems far more impressive.
    * Related to this, the sense that out fate is purely in our hands (science, politics, personal behaviours) is very strong.
    * People have far less security that truth is knowable (few people are true relativists but many don’t think truth is knowable so we have to do the best we can given the circumstances).
    * Related to this, the sense that sin exists is low.
    * Drowning out every moment of time via trivialities like TV, movies, and the Internet is common, so few people know how to sit alone with themselves and think.
    * The media distorts reality. If some great thing is done by a religous institution, it is made to look like a secular achievement if it is covered at all. If you go by the media, any form or religion is just a social group with narrow ideas.

    The old evangelism can still work in this age, but mostly among people how have escaped the above mindset trap (the poor, suffering, and desperate) but not in the new since every one of the above points attack a core aspect of the old evangelism.

  7. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    I have to agree with both Prof. Basto and anilwang with some add-ons. I agree with Prof. Basto that if we do go back to more traditional worship and practices (e.g. more TLMs, more signs of Catholicism in the public sphere like May coronations of Mary and Eucharistic processions,) perhaps we’ll retain some of our identity and show the world what being Catholic means again. However, I also agree with anilwang. Today is a very different climate than pre 1960’s and all that is listed by anil will actually make it more challenging for just going backwards in time to tradition to be the lone cure-all to the Church’s ills.

    In fact because of what anil mentions, those facets will provide resistance to the reception of the Good News. For starters the New Evangelization has to counter all these points and expose them all as false or show how futile they are. So the NE has to:
    – Show that history is in fact relevant, that the old adage “history repeats itself” is true and can even use practical examples as starter material (e.g. clothing styles cycle, and this can lead into the TLM liturgy and practices B16 does of popes past), as well as that Church history shows the beauty and richness of being a Catholic
    – That there is an eternal God. This would require learning/re-learning the arguments for God’s existence as well as some basic philosophy to show that the world isn’t just some random thing and that there has to me another plane beyond it. As for those Iphones, well first of all no devices period in lectures or Church, 2nd priests/lecturers will have to break down those devices and explan rational use as well as how unfulfilling they are in a person’s life (e.g. waste of time, no more than cheap baseless entertainment, go see someone in the flesh)
    – learn arguments against relativism and prove that truth is knowable. Plain and simple if you can show not knowing the truth is a stupid position, the other position wins.
    – On the fate in our hands argument, show how science can lead to good outcomes but can never fully 100% fulfill our lives and isn’t always good. It can only take us so far and explain how something works, but never the why’s for their existence in the first place.
    – Sense of sin is a tough one, but it would have to be a two parter. Priests and lecturers have to be hardcore and stop being cowards and talk about this stuff at all to begin with. 2nd they have to show in the NE that yeah it may provide material pleasure but it always amounts to unhappiness and suffering in the long run, and can have unfortunate consequences (e.g. sexual sin can leads to AIDS, Herpes, Gonorhoeae, Chlamydia …) or if you look at a person living in sin, that you’ll conclude they amount to not a lot, if anything at all with their lives.
    – On the trivialities, again this will be highly challenging. It’s gonna be showing especially the youth a wake up call, how much time is spent on that stuff, and how unfulfilling it is again, as well as where it can lead one since these technologies aren’t highly regulated especially the internet.
    – The media, again it’s a “wake up call” thing. People need to be educated to see how our left-wing main stream media spins things. Many will probably be moved the most by this, cause once people know something like that, they usually don’t go back and will hate that their most relied on source of info is biased in a certain way and not “truthful” as once perceived.

    However, there are other additional factors to what anilwang says:
    – In European as well an multicultural provinces/states/countries, because of the influx of other religions such as Muslims, Sikh, etc. who are visible in the public square, Christians are becoming a minority in terms of public presence. Also, these religions are given more rights, freedoms, support, etc. and the opposite is shown to the Christian faith. This is particuarly nasty in Canada where provincial and federal rights tribunals are known to be anti-Christian and pro-feminist and pro-secular everything.
    – Also when it comes to “leading by example” the majority of our parents and clergy are failures in their parenting, their faith espeically, and their preaching and teaching, offering us no faith at all or a “sunshine Jesus” presentation and not teaching what being a Catholic means.
    – Finally, our clergy and Catholic teachers (including our parents who are our primary teachers in fatih as stated in the documents of Vatican II) have failed us since around and after Vatican II (not becuase of V-II alone). They have failed to preach the true faith and have watered down catechesis to the point where faith means absolutely nothing to people, or they get the idea that they can get the same song and dance and liturgy from that rock-concert blaring Evangelical Mega Church like the one featured in the documentary “Jesus Camp”, (some traddie critics have sites on the net even comparing World Youth Day events to these mega church services) or worse, can be “spritual” without organized religion garbage (because in the person’s mind, there is no practical/viable reason to be in the church and sacrifice one hour a week doing something not worth it). As to those who actually go to Mass it’s usually out of family obligation/tradition. Likely they think, as Pope Benedict alludes to that most people in the Modern world think, either intentionally or more unintentionally : “…being Christian [is] … a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions”

    My short summary: Yeah, the NE has a real mess to contend with and the Vatican better get moving on it!

  8. APX says:

    Yes — Catechesis, Catechesis, Catechesis.
    I learned absolutely nothing whatsoever about the faith in my ‘Catholic’ school (even from the priest chaplains). Anything and everything I know about Catholicism (which isn’t necessarily much) I had to learn myself.

    Amen to that! I spent 13 years in Catholic Schools and I learned more about Catholicism from the FSSP priest at the TLM I attended during Lent than I did in those 13 years in school. I’m pretty sure I made a, “FINALLY! IT MAKES SENSE!” expression after the priest explained the Paschal sacrifice, and why we go to Mass on Sundays because he suddenly looked directly at me. Whoops.

    They really need to get back to the basics and start teaching that it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Yes, I understand that obeying God’s laws simply out of fear is emotionally immature, but we are an emotionally and spiritually immature Church now, and we have to start somewhere. There’s something wrong when the Greek yogurt commercial speaks the truth about cohabitation, while priests and the congregation just sits quietly ignoring that it’s still a mortal sin, and that if you die in the state of mortal sin, you go to Hell.

  9. Jenice says:

    I agree with the points made by anilwang and Young Canadian. The age we live in really has no sense of sin; all “lifestyles” are seen as equally valid choices. So the news of redemption or atonement for sin falls on deaf ears. I think we need to start with something like Aquinas’ proofs for God. Then we need to talk about origin and destiny; people do still wonder where they came from and why they are here. This conversation is especially helpful to those trapped in New Age thought, believing that we are all God, and our destiny is to lose our individuality in some divine cosmic ocean.

    Two statements from Vatican Council II were so meaningful to me in my own conversion. The first is that we are ALL called to holiness. Somehow I heard this at Mass, even though I don’t think it was ever actually spoken in these words. But I’ve always had the sense, if not of sin, of being less than I can or should be, and this call to universal holiness really spoke to me. The saints are our models, our heros, in this vocation, and were key to my conversion. This conversation is helpful to those who are constantly working to improve themselves in some way.

    The other statement is from Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 22. Fr. Z. has quoted it many times, and I have been told that Blessed John Paul the Great quoted it in every encyclical he wrote. It is this: Christ fully reveals man to himself. In our current age, both popular theology and anthropology are a MESS. If you don’t know who God is, you don’t know who you are, or where you come from, or where you are going, or how you are supposed to live, or even what your human nature is. This conversation is especially helpful today because we hear many competing ideas about what man is.

    It is not that we should abandon traditional means of evangelization; the content of our message is always the same. You just have to pick the right starting points for whatever time you are in in history so that people will hear the message, and the Gospel needs to be presented as THE answer to the questions that people are asking. Their questions are the starting points.

  10. theophilus says:

    I have a similar story as Shane when it comes to getting very poor catechesis growing up. I did not even learn about the Real Presence. I was an A student in school, so it was not like I did not pay attention. The catalyst for me learning the faith was being called a cannibal by some guy who handed me some “Jack Chick” flyers. It is pretty sad that I learned there was something called the Real Presence from a flaming heretic like some Jack Chick acolyte. But it wound up being a blessing. After being attacked for being Catholic, I have never stopped investigating my faith and learning how to defend it. And now as part of the new evangelization, I am creating software to help others discover the Catholic faith. God is good!

  11. MichaelJ says:

    To borrow an old cliche, there is nothing new under the sun. Yes, the problems facing “our age” are different, but it is a mistake to think of them as “unique”. There is no reason to think that what God inspired our forefathers to do to address the problems of their time will not also work in our time.

  12. Centristian says:

    Reason #4267890 for the next pope to have himself crowned with the triregnum.

    It seems to me that the Church was never stronger or more alive than when she unabashedly allowed herself to be herself. When the Church began to apologize for herself, when she began to divest herself of her own majesty and clear identity and began to go around shaking hands and dialoguing with the leaders of every false religion on earth in an effort to find common ground with fiction, she became less convincing and less interesting. It seemed that she was no longer 100% convinced of her singualrity and truth. Why, then, should the faithful be? And what should compell non-Catholics to be persuaded of it?

    Pardon me if my words are blunt, but once upon a time the Church was likewise blunt: “this is who we are, this is what we believe, this is the way we express those beliefs, this is the way we worship, and we make no apologies for any of it. If you like it, great; if not, so be it.” That straightforward approach was, it seems to me, very attractive to people for obvious reasons, and very comforting to Catholics who knew for a certainty that they enjoyed the grace of belonging to Christ’s authentic Church. Catholics could be secure in their faith because their leaders gave them every reason to be.

    In order to give the world the unalloyed truth, we have to be convinced of it, ourselves, and not only convinced of it but unashamed of it. We cannot give what we haven’t got, and we cannot sell a product that we’re embarrassed of. If we, ourselves, won’t buy it, who else will? The Church needs to stop being afraid and embarrassed of her own Catholicism, of her own worship, of her own traditions, of her own identity. Once the Church can be herself again, that very embrace of her own identity will be evangelization enough for a world that can no longer fathom absolutes (thanks, in large part, to the Catholic Church’s more recent timidity).

    It seems to me, therefore, that the “new evangelization” should really be a return to the “old evangelization”. That is to say, the Church simply being her good old self, and drawing unto herself all those who seek the truth.

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