Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In a world of widespread nihilism, secularisation, "unproductive, hedonistic and consumer mentality, which leads to a highly superficial manner in facing life and responsibility," we see the elimination of "the question of God from a person's examination of self. To respond to religious needs, persons revert to individualistic forms of spirituality or forms of neo-paganism to the point of forcibly spreading a general climate of relativism."
Against this background, the Church feels the need to present again in a manner appropriate for the times, the unchangeable Good News. 'The New Evangelization for the Transmission of Christian Faith' will be at the centre of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops scheduled for 7-28 October in the Vatican. Its working paper, the Instrumentum laboris, was presented today.
The document is a summary of the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta published on 2 February 2011, which were submitted by the 13 synods of bishops from the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, 114 Episcopal conferences, and 24 departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General.
Mgr Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, described the picture that emerges. Mgr Fortunato Frezza, under-secretary of the same department, said that the image that emerges is one in which the Church that is asking questions about the current situation. Hence, the "New evangelisation is an expression of the internal dynamism of Christianity, which wishes to make men and women of good will know the 'depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge' (Rm, 11:33) of the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ; it is not a weary response to the crisis of faith and the challenges facing the Church in the modern world." In fact, "Many of the responses stressed the importance of the means of communication, especially media and digital culture in spreading the Good News."
The document is articulated in four chapters: 1) Jesus Christ, the Gospel of God for man, 2) the time of the new evangelisation, 3) the transmission of faith, and 4) the renewal of pastoral activities. The starting point is the fact that evangelisation is not a choice for the Church but "a duty". The Church "exists in order to evangelize."
Yet, the proclamation of the Gospel, always the same, faces new "social circumstances", Mgr Eterovic noted, for the Church is called to provide adequate responses to transmit the hope it carries. "New challenges to evangelisation in the contemporary world are described in various different scenarios, whether cultural (secularisation), migration, economic, political scientific and technological."
The document highlights "the phenomenon of the great migration," which causes "a meeting and mixing of cultures." It also focuses on political and economic issues, like "the inequality it causes within and among nations."
"The emergence on the world stage of new economic, political and religious actors from the Islamic and Asian worlds has created an entirely new and unknown situation, rich in potential, but fraught with dangers and new temptations for dominion and power."
"In this regard," the document says, "they recount a weakening in the faith of believers, a lack of personal involvement and experience in the transmission of the faith and insufficient spiritual guidance for the faithful in the process of their formative, intellectual and professional training. Many lament the excessive bureaucratic character of ecclesiastical structures, perceived as far removed from the average person and his everyday concerns." [. . .] "Some responses complained of the excessively formal character of liturgical celebrations, an almost routine celebration of rituals [. . .] Despite the counter-witness of some of the Church's members (unfaithfulness in one's vocation, scandals, little sensitivity to the problems of everyday people and the world today."
Against this background, we must distinguish between new evangelisation from evangelisation in its wider sense. "The Church's constant action must be renewed and made more dynamic even our times. Emphasis must be place also placed on the importance of missionary activity ad gentes, the duty to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. The same is true for the new evangelisation for those who are not sufficiently evangelised and those who left the Church and religious life."
The "task of proclaiming and handing on the faith" is "incumbent on every Christian," Instrumentum laboris says. The latter must reawaken his "baptismal identity;" especially if they lead a consecrated or contemplative life in groups and movements. Everyone must "render an account for one's faith" to anyone who asks.
In this broad commitment, parishes must play a special role. In Mgr Eterovic's words, the parish "must become a centre of missionary irradiation and bear witness to the Christian experience in order to welcome people with spiritual and material needs. It is the responsibility of all the members of the People of God to make that happen, especially if they are priests."
In addition to concrete suggestions in matters like sacramental and youth training, "if the Church is to evangelize, she needs to not only renew her programmes, but also increase the calibre of her testimony." As Paul VI correctly pointed out, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."