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A strong impulse to the pastoral for a new evangelisation

The bases for a "new style of the Church" which in Spain were established at the II Congress of the Pastoral for Evangelisation - "Jesus Christ, the Good News" - called by the Committee for the Jubilee of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. From 11 to 14 September 1997 around 2000 delegates, including 60 bishops, 700 priests, religious, numerous theologians of international renown, gathered in ten working groups, to discuss seven different Christological themes, in an atmosphere dense of prayer and spirit of conversion.

The characters of the "new style" towards which the Spanish Church is moving were outlined by the President of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral and of the Committee for the Jubilee, Monsignor Gabino Díaz Merchán. The archbishop significantly pronounced his discourse at the end of the communal penitential celebration, which saw all the 1300 participants to the congress receive the sacrament of penance: it was the first time a penitential celebration was held in a congress of this kind. Indeed, Monsignor Merchán recalled that the moment of confession is the inalienable starting point "to give all the men and women of our diocesan Churches new impulse to the pastoral for the new evangelisation". Thus, the new style to be attained is that of a missionary Church which is "more fraternal, poor and friend of the poor. A Church which does not rely too much on the powers of this world, a Church which is Samaritan and can act as an example". On this point in particular, the President of the Episcopal Conference Archbishop Elías Yanes focused his opening address at the Congress, declaring that "the Church is, for its nature, missionary". For this reason the new evangelisation which the Pope exhorts us to "includes, in addition to faith and conversion, the moral message, which is the doctrine of the Church". Studying further the theme of the Church's renewal also in its pastoral action, the Archbishop of Pamplona, Monsignor Fernando Sebastián pronounced a very strong opening discourse, underlining that the Spanish Church "for the first time in many years is experiencing full freedom () without privileged support, but also without specific pressures or restrictions, without those false protections which could impede her from feeling close to her the pain of a world which suffers in the shadows of disbelief and uncertainty". These new conditions are, for the Archbishop of Pamplona, the ones that were necessary "to truly develop a strong and radically evangelising pastoral, both inside and outside". Also on occasion of the opening of the works, the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Monsignor Lajos Kada, read the message sent by the Holy Father, a strong invitation to "maintain security and hope alive" to reach the fundamental objective outlined in Tertio Millennio Adveniente: "the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians (n.42)". In particular, the Pope says, if "the Church in Spain, from its origins, has always been animated by a strong evangelising spirit, () in the last decades of this century it also experienced the rapid changes that society is going through" and not "it must face the phenomenon of existing relativism () which relegates religious values to one side, as if they were museum pieces (TMA 45)". And, above all, he adds, one must act with decision on subjects such as family and social morals, and the lack of vocations in some dioceses. In addition special attention must be addressed to young people, to help them in their path of spiritual formation and growth, the most powerful answer to the culture of death. A reply to the Pope's letter was given, for all those taking part in the Congress, by the President of the Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Yanes, who thus put an end to the meeting, recalling the presentations and the outcome of the works.

In the first of the seven presentations during the Congress, entitled "The Good News: Jesus Christ", theologian Eloy Bueno provided a clear and punctual description of the difficulties which the Spanish socio-cultural environment presents to process for a new evangelisation. In addition to the phenomena of widespread secularisation mentioned by the Pope, there is, for example, a particularly hostile and pre-conceived attitude on behalf of the country's intellectuals, or an obvious disinterest by the most widespread means of communication, first among all television, but there is no lack of reference to those obstacles forthcoming from the Church in Spain. This fundamentally, according to Professor Bueno, appears to be more committed to showing the path than to giving a concrete example of sanctity, and consequently dialogue with civilian society and with the faithful becomes more difficult. Even the vicar of San Sebastián, José A. Pagola, in his presentation "Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the world", noted that the Announcement of God and of Christian salvation "do not seem to arouse much interest today", despite the fact people continue to "desire something which is not science, techniques, development or economic well-being". And therefore it will be necessary to renew evangelisers, to give impulse to the new evangelisation. Another particular presentation, "Jesus Christ, revealer of the truth of man", was the one by Professor Avelino de Luis, who outlined ten anthropological theses for the new evangelisation: "Man is the "you" of God", "Man is the son of God", "Man is fully human only with God", "Man is creature", "Man is person", "Man listening to the word", "Man is miraculous Spirit incarnated", "Man is a historic being", "Man is a free being" and "Man is being with others".

In her presentation "Jesus Christ, Revelation of God to our world", the Director General of the Teresian Institution, Aránzazu Aguado, first analysed the dialectic between contemplation and memory, and then the mystery of God-Love revealed by Christ to the world. Then followed Monsignor Angelo Scola, Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, with the presentation "Jesus Christ, source and model of Christian life". His analysis, focused on the crisis of values in our time and on a universal proposal of Christian moral, recalled the sources of the moral, recovering its original value to note the integral ethic which Christ's timeliness imposes and the implications of the Christian choice. Finally the auxiliary bishop of Madrid, Eugenio Romero Pose, dedicated his address to the theme "Jesus Christ resuscitated communicates to us the gift of the Spirit of God". Referring to subjects which will be at the centre of the II year of preparation for the Jubilee, Monsignor Pose spoke of the Holy Spirit, comparing it to a light which cannot be seen or known directly, but without which nothing can be seen or known. The Spirit as a link between the Verb and Creation, which indicates to man "a target and a destiny which have only one name: Jesus Christ". The ten working groups, which were attended by 600 participants, were called to prepare concrete action plans. The debate centred on the following points:

  1. Social communication means, to which, it was decided, greater attention will be given so that the Church's voice can be heard better also through the most modern technologies.
  2. Young people, which must be reached wherever they are, far from the churches, and stimulated to the evangelising dialogue, through ethical example.
  3. The committed laity, which must be granted more space within the Church and in public life.
  4. The dialogue faith-culture, to discover in culture "the seeds of the Verb", aware of the fact that the Church too creates culture evangelising.
  5. The parish pastoral, with the invitation to find new forms of parish work to offer the Gospel to the people.
  6. The missionary catechesis, to spread the Christian message through different readings, adequate to the different ages of the groups receiving the Announcement.
  7. The liturgy and popular religion, as an "important field for evangelisation" which must however be preceded by a missionary and catechetical pastoral.
  8. The new ministries, services and pastoral agents, with the commitment to involve always more actively the laity in the life of the Church, also as ministers, giving them places of responsibility within the dioceses.
  9. Mobility and pastoral attention, to carry out a study on the travel patterns of people during the weekends to create in the tourist areas of destination new communities for the participation to mass.
  10. Pilgrimages, whose value was underlined, as an instrument of evangelisation and symbol of the path of spiritual growth of Christians. Actions for spiritual assistance at pilgrimage sites and for their preparation were also disposed.

At the end of the works, in the closing session of the Congress, the reading of the final message, in which the Church in Spain asks for "forgiveness for the times in which we were unable to witness with our style of life that Jesus was the Good News for everyone" renewing "the option for the poor, for sincere dialogue with the culture of our time, the preferential announcement of Christ to young people, the pastoral accompaniment of families, the offer of concrete projects of Christian life, the vocational proposal, the personal and community maturation of faith, the commitment to peace, social justice, freedom and equality between men and peoples, the respect and care of creation".

Then, two events, despite being very different from each other, and placed on the side of the schedule of the works, gave a special mark to the Congress. Friday 12 in the national auditorium, a concert of contemporary sacred music was a tangible and appreciated sign of dialogue between faith and culture. Saturday, on the day of Mother Teresa of Calcutta's funeral, a celebration of the Word was held in her honour, in an atmosphere of intense emotion, and which was attended by three missionaries of Charity, who read some of the writings of the small Albanian nun, a great visible and always present example of mission and Christian life.

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