Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation "with these programmatic words Benedict XVI summed up the meaning of the Eucharistic celebration that today opened the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme" The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith. " "The Word of God - urged the pope - places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery." And addressing the hundreds of patriarchs, bishops, experts and auditors gathered before St. Peter's basilica he added: "My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace".
The pope then explained the meaning of the "new evangelization." It is first and foremost part of the continuous and perennial Christian mission: "The Church - he said - exists to evangelize." And after recalling the ages of evangelization of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, he added: "Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.. "
It must be said that the Synod begins a few days before the Year of Faith, which was launched by Benedict XVI for a re-invigoration of faith among Christians, which will start on 11 October, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
For the pope, the Council produced a "renewed evangelical dynamism " that produced "a beneficent influence on the two specific "branches" developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.. "
The Pope noted that "the Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other".
Benedict XVI then listed the instrument of evangelization. Inspired by the Gospel of today's liturgy (during the 27th year, B, Marco 10.2 to 16), the Pope emphasizes the value of witness of marriage, which "a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming "one flesh" in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families".
More generally, the instrument of evangelization are the saints.
"The Saints - said - are the true actors in evangelization in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelization: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life".
To emphasize the value of evangelical holiness, Benedict XVI today proclaimed doctors of the universal Church, the priest John of Avila and the Benedictine nun Hildegard of Bingen.
The first (1499-1569) was a missionary in Mexico and later preacher in Spain. A friend of great saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of God, "to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church. "
Hildegard (1098-1179), a personality with encyclopedic knowledge, was a prophetess, musician, scientist, philosopher, theologian, mystic, writer. Friend of St. Bernard, while living in her monastery, she was committed to the affairs of the society of her time, maintaining "a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church."
Entrusting the Synod to the saints, Benedict XVI recalled in a special way "Blessed John Paul II, whose long reign was also an example of the new evangelization."
Rather than searching for new techniques and organizations, the Synod is primarily a call to conversion. "The summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelization and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelization is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far".
At the end of Mass, before praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI recalled today's feast, of Queen of the Holy Rosary and asked the faithful to use this simple prayer throughout the Year of Faith, "we now turn - he said - in prayer to Mary, whom we venerate today as Queen of the Holy Rosary. At this time, at the Shrine of Pompeii, the traditional "Supplication" is being elevated to which countless people throughout the world are joined. While we associate ourselves spiritually in this choral prayer, I would like to suggest to everyone to renew the prayer of the Rosary in the upcoming Year of Faith. With the Rosary, we allow ourselves to be guided by Mary, model of faith, in meditating on the mysteries of Christ, and day after day we are helped to assimilate the Gospel, so that it shapes all our lives. Therefore, in the wake of my predecessors, especially the Blessed John Paul II, who ten years ago gave us the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I invite you to pray the Rosary personally, in the family and in the community, learning at the school of Mary, which leads us to Christ, the living centre of our faith".