The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith
This Bulletin is only a working instrument for
04 - 08.10.2012
- SOLEMN OPENING OF THE XIII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
- FIRST GENERAL CONGREGATION (MONDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2012, MORNING)
- EXHIBITION ON THE OCCASION OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
- ERRATA CORRIGE
SOLEMN OPENING OF THE XIII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
“To favour the rediscovery of faith, that source of Grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life”: yesterday morning Pope Benedict XVI, in a Saint Peter’s Square animated with the waving of flags from all over the world, thus defined the aim of the new evangelization, during the Solemn Eucharistic Concelebration opening the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the new evangelization, or rather “the programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its families, its communities”, as he said in his homily. Over 400 concelebrants, along with the Pope, reaffirmed that “the Church exists to evangelize”: “in every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of he who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation”.The new evangelization, explained the Holy Father, looks mainly to those baptized who have drifted away from the Church and “live without reference to the Christian life”. Taking as a point of reference the Gospel of the XXVII Sunday of Ordinary Time, Benedict XVI recalled the importance of marriage between man and woman, nowadays in profound crisis, and holiness, the agent of evangelization. “Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a generic sense”, continued the Pope: rather, “as a union of faithful and indissoluble love”, a “reality, already well known but perhaps not fully appreciated”, it “is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today”, especially the “dechristianized” world. The thought of Benedict XVI then turned to the two new Doctors of the Church: Saint John of Avila, a XVI century Spanish “man of God” who “united constant prayer to apostolic action” and Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a XII century German “woman of brilliant intelligence”, able to “discern the signs of the times”. These and all the Saints, said the Pope, are “the true agents of evangelization” and also “the pioneers and the driving force of the new evangelization”. Finally, Benedict XVI remembered his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, “whose long pontificate was also an example of the new evangelization”. At the Angelus Domini, in the greetings in various languages, the Holy Father finally asked for the “prayerful support for the work of the synod”, in order that “every Christian be renewed in his responsibility to make known the Savior and his message of love and peace”.
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FIRST GENERAL CONGREGATION (MONDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2012, MORNING)
- MEDITATION BY THE HOLY FATHER
- GREETING BY THE PRESIDENT-DELEGATE, H. EM. CARD. JOHN TONG HON, BISHOP OF HONG KONG (CHINA)
- REPORT BY THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, H. EXC. MONS. NIKOLA ETEROVIĆ, TIT. ARCHBISHOP OF CIBALE(VATICAN CITY)
- REPORT BEFORE THE DISCUSSION BY THE GENERAL REPORTER, H. EM. CARD. DONALD WILLIAM WUERL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON (USA)
This morning, Monday October 8, 2012, at 9:10 a.m., in the presence of the Holy Father, in the Synod Hall in Vatican City, the work of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began, on the theme: «The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith».
The First General Congregation started with the chant of the Hour of Terce.
We publish here below a summary of the meditation of the Holy Father during the Hour of Terce.
MEDITATION BY THE HOLY FATHER
The Pillars of New Evangelization are the Confessio and the Caritas, beginning with the Evangelium, on a path that leads to making the good fire of the annunciation emerge and be offered to others. This was explained by the Pope in the reflection during the Hour of Terce this morning, stating that only God is the source of this path, which then needs human commitment. Starting with the Evangelium, precisely, and returning to prayer, upon which cooperation with God is founded.
Because God shows Himself in the figure of Jesus, who is the Word, with a content which asks only to enter in us. The willingness to suffer also belongs to the Christian confession, said the Holy Father: Confessio carries within it the concept of martyrology, in the sense that it expresses the willingness to bear witness even up to the sacrifice of life. And it is this that guarantees our credibility. The Confessio should remain in heart and mouth. It must necessarily become public, because the faith carried within must be communicated to others, proclaimed, with the courage that derives from intelligence.
Because God, the Pope stated, is not only a spiritual essence. He enters in the life and senses of man. Thus in the Confessio the force of our senses is necessary, which are mutually penetrated in the symphony of God.
All of this presupposes Caritas, which is love that becomes ardor. According to the Pope, it is the flame that kindles others and becomes the fire of charity.
The Christian must not be tepid: this is the greatest danger. Going back to Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, the Pope explained that Fire, Spirit, is light, color, and force. God’s power is the power of transformation. Thus vigor creates the movement of Caritas, which becomes fundamental for Evangelization.
Besides even in the word Evangelium, we find the meaning of a proclamation of a victory, of a good and of joy, which in the context of Evangelization should become justice, peace and salvation.
Changing the meaning of the word from ancient Roman culture, the Holy Father explained how Evangelium is in itself a message of power, renewal and salvation. A word that is still valid today, when many men ask themselves if behind the clouds of history there is a God, if this is a hypothesis or a reality.
For the Christian, the Pope asserted, God exists and this existence is the source of salvation; but there is more, because God loves us, He spoke and showed Himself.
This, for the Holy Father, is again the basis of the proclamation, it is again the message that the Church must offer. Never forgetting prayer, because if God does not act, the Pope added, men’s actions are insufficient. In other words, only God can begin a path of renewal; men are to deal with the job of cooperating with willingness, putting themselves in play with their whole being, thus making the presence of God visible.
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The integral text of the Pope’s Meditation will be published as soon as possible.
President Delegate on duty H. Em. Card. John TONG HON, Bishop of Hong Kong (CHINA).
After the prayer, the following intervened: H. Em. Card. John TONG HON, Bishop of Hong Kong (CHINA), for the Greeting by the President-Delegate; H. Exc. Mons. Nikola ETEROVIĆ, Tit. Archbishop of Cibale (VATICAN CITY), for the Report by the General Secretary.
After the break, H. Em. Card. Donald William WUERL, Archbishop of Washington (USA), intervened with the Report before the Discussion by the General Relator.
The General Congregation concluded at 12:00 with the Prayer Angelus Domini led by the Holy Father.
There were 256 Synodal Fathers present.
The Second General Congregation will take place this afternoon October 8, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. Reports on the continents will be presented and the general discussion will start.
The integral texts of the interventions given in the Hall are published below:
GREETING BY THE PRESIDENT-DELEGATE, H. EM. CARD. JOHN TONG HON, BISHOP OF HONG KONG (CHINA)
Dear Holy Father,
On behalf of the Synod Fathers and participants, I would like to extend our heartfelt greetings and deep gratitude to you for inviting us to this Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith is really an urgent topic, because many people in the world still do not know Our Lord Jesus Christ, and many of the baptized have given up the practice of their faith.
Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council encouraged us to launch out into the deep (Lk 5:4). Today, in a similar way, we must take the Early Church community (Acts 2:42-47) as our model of evangelization. The members of that community possessed three qualities which can be expressed in three Greek words: didache, koinonia and diakonia. Didache means doctrine, which is not just a theory, but rather a personal taking on of the incarnate, crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Koinonia means communion on different levels: fundamentally with God; and then with all the members of the Church; and further with the people of the whole world, particularly with the poor. Diakonia means service of which Jesus instructs us not to be served but to serve and even to the total gift of self, leading to the cross. (cf. Mt 20:28) These three qualities have been manifested in Hong Kong, Macao and Mainland China.
In Hong Kong, before the return of the sovereignty of the city to China in 1997, many families faced crises caused by fear of living under the Communist regime. The term “crisis” in the Chinese language is made up of two characters “danger” and “opportunity.” Thus, facing the crisis of insecurity, even non-practicing Catholics returned to the Church for spiritual support. And many faithful attended catechesis, Bible and theology courses to deepen their own faith and to be evangelizers. Today our diocese has more than a thousand well-trained volunteer-catechists. This year more than three thousand adults received baptism at the Easter Vigil.
Macao, our neighboring diocese, has made similar efforts and has seen an increase in the number of baptisms in recent years.
In northern China, a parish priest in the countryside shared with me his experience of evangelization. After much prayer, he decided to divide the parishioners into two groups with different missions. He gave the newly baptized the mission to bring their non-Catholic friends and relatives to learn the catechesis, and to the long-time Catholics the mission of teaching the catechism to the catechumens. During the teaching, this priest prayed fervently in the church. Eventually, the parish witnessed more than a thousand baptisms a year.
Among the characteristics of didache, koinonia and diakonia as exemplified in the Early Church and reflected in the testimonies given above, didache seems to me the most important, because God works through us as His witnesses. Nowadays, facing a materialistic culture in the world, and the problem of many fallen-away Catholics in the Church, we must be zealous witnesses of our faith. We must also pay attention to the youth, as the Holy Father frequently reminds us: “Let the young people be evangelizers of the youth”. God’s salvific plan is amazing. I am sure that, with faith, hope and love, we will succeed in our mission of evangelization.
Dear Holy Father, the Synod Fathers and participants, thank you for your kind attention. Looking forward to hearing your testimonies.
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REPORT BY THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS, H. EXC. MONS. NIKOLA ETEROVIĆ, TIT. ARCHBISHOP OF CIBALE(VATICAN CITY)
Most Holy Father
Your Eminences and Excellencies, Synod Fathers
Dear Brothers and Sisters
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19, 20). The Risen Christ’s words at the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew initiate the period of the Church’s mission. After receiving the Holy Spirit, who guides into all the truth (cf Jn 16:13), the disciples, who “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14), leave the Cenacle to proclaim “everywhere” (Mk 16:20) and in every tongue, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Risen Lord’s command is equally applicable to us, who are gathered in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to reflect on the topic: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. It concerns the Good News proclaimed by the Apostles and entrusted to the Church, namely, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5). The Gospel remains the same; changes occur only in the human, religious, cultural and social settings in which this Word of Salvation is to be lived and transmitted to others. The indispensable condition for this urgent missionary work is faith, the measure of apostolic dynamism. Conscious that the Lord could also reprove us as being men of little faith (ὀλιγόπιστοι) (cf. Mt 8:26), let us pray as did the apostles, “Increase our faith!” (πρόσθεςς ᾑμν πίστιν) (Lk 17:5). We make our prayer in a particularly intensive way during the synod, especially during the four Eucharistic celebrations presided over by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Besides the opening liturgy yesterday, he will preside at the Mass of Canonization of seven Blesseds on Sunday, 21 October and the Closing Eucharist on Sunday, 28 October. The Eucharist on 11 October has a special significance. The Bishop of Rome will preside at the solemn concelebration initiating the Year of Faith. Undoubtedly, this event will have a very positive influence on our synodal proceedings, considering the fact that the faith and its transmission are part of the synod topic, which will be thoroughly examined in the context of the new evangelization. In the name of all synod fathers and participants of the synodal assembly, I express heartfelt gratitude to Your Holiness for proclaiming the Year of Faith commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Entrusting ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit who the Risen Lord, present in our midst, gives “not by measure” (Jn 3:34), we have unwavering trust that the Year of Faith will bring abundant spiritual gifts to the Holy Church of God, Our Mother.
Most Holy Father, I wish to thank you, above all, for having convoked this synodal assembly, the 5th in your 8-year Pontificate. This high number indicates your esteem for the Synod of Bishops as the privileged expression of communion among the bishops as members of the Episcopal College, and their unity with you, as Head of this College. In fact, under your wise guidance, two Ordinary General Assemblies on the Eucharist and the Word of God have taken place in the years 2005 and 2008, respectively, as well as the two Special Assemblies for Africa in 2009 and the Middle East in 2010.
I am happy to greet you, the 262 synod fathers, who have come from the 5 continents: 50 from Africa, 63 from America, 39 from Asia, 103 from Europe and 7 from Oceania; representatives of the 13 synods of bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the 114 episcopal conferences and the Union of Superiors General. I also cordially greet you the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, close collaborators of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the 264th Successor of St. Peter in the See of Rome. The majority of the synod fathers taking part in the Ordinary General Assembly have been elected, namely 182, of which 172 have been elected by episcopal conferences and 10 by the Union of Superiors General. In the remaining number, 3 were designated by the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris; 37 participate ex officio, and 40 others were appointed by the Holy Father. Among these are: 6 patriarchs, 49 cardinals, 3 major archbishops (of which one is a cardinal), 71 archbishops, 120 bishops and 14 priests. As for the offices they hold, 10 are heads of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, 32 are presidents of episcopal conferences, 26 are heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, 211 ordinaries and 11 auxiliary bishops.
A special greeting to the fraternal delegates, representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities who share with Catholics a concern for the evangelization of our brothers and sisters in the world today.
During the synod, we will have an opportunity to greet 3 special guests, who have accepted the invitation of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to take part in the synodal proceedings.
I am happy to greet 45 experts and 49 men and women auditors, who have been chosen among many experts and persons involved in evangelization and human promotion, cognizant that their personal testimony and respective communities will notably enrich our synod work.
I extend a cordial greeting to the liaisons with the press, the assistants, the translators and technical personnel and, in particular, the collaborators of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, to whom I am grateful for their generous and dedicated contribution in preparing this synodal assembly.This presentation is divided into 4 parts:
I. The Activities between the XII and XIII Ordinary General Assemblies
II. The Preparation of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly
III. The Activities of the General Secretariat
I. The Activities between the XII and XIII Ordinary General Assemblies
The XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops took place from 5 to 26 October 2008 on the topic The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. At the conclusion of this synodal gathering, the XII Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was formed of 15 members. In accordance with the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, the synod fathers elected 12 members and the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI appointed 3 bishops to complete the foreseen number. The XII Ordinary Council had two principal tasks, namely, to bring to completion the conclusions of the XII Synodal Assembly on the Word of God and to prepare for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly.
To fulfill this task, the Ordinary Council held 7 meetings in Rome. The first meeting took place on 25 October 2008, as the synodal assembly was drawing to a close, thereby permitting the members of the Council better to know each other and to establish a calendar of future activities. During 2009, the Ordinary Council met three times, 20 - 21 January, 3 - 4 June and 24 - 25 September. The Ordinary Council held one meeting in 2012, 8 - 9 June; one in 2011, 22 - 23 November; and one in 2012, 16 February. In accord with the members of the Ordinary Council, the General Secretariat exchanged information and documentation by e-mail, with the intention of reducing as much as possible any inconvenience caused by the absence of bishops from their dioceses, because of repeated trips to Rome and the General Secretariat.
The principal purpose of the first two meetings of the XII Ordinary Council was to reflect on the rich documentation of the Synod on the Word of God. The members of the Ordinary Council concentrated, in a particular way, on examining the 55 Proposals which the synod fathers had approved, for the most part, by a two-thirds majority vote. The first proposal asked the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to consider “offering a document on the mystery of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church and also in light of the Year dedicated to St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, on the bimillennium of his birth”.
The Supreme Pontiff graciously accepted the request of the synod fathers. As in the past, the Holy Father was assisted in drafting the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation by the members of the XII Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, with the assistance of skilled experts. At the meeting in January, 2009, the members agreed on an outline of the document and made many detailed suggestions. In the month of June, they examined the first draft of the Apostolic Exhortation. Numerous observations sought to highlight the richness of the discussion at the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in light of the Church’s Magisterium, particularly the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers of the Church and the Teachings of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. After incorporating these initial observations, the text was sent by e-mail to the members of the Ordinary Council for further suggestions, which were later integrated in the final text. On 7 July 2009, the General Secretary forwarded the document to the Supreme Pontiff who made notable changes according to his proper charism as the Universal Pastor of the Church. During an audience granted to the General Secretary on 13 June 2009, the Holy Father accepted the proposal of the Ordinary Council and chose the very meaningful title of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation — Verbum Domini. The Bishop of Rome signed the document on 30 September 2010, the Memorial of St. Jerome, the Great Lover of Sacred Scripture. It was published on 11 November 2010, the same day on which it was presented in the Holy See Press Office by the following: His Eminence, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and General Rapporteur of the XII Ordinary General Assembly; His Eminence, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and President of the Commission for the Message of the Synod; His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops and Rev. Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation was originally published in 8 languages. Subsequently, translations were done in other languages.
On 30 May 2009, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops sent the Relatio circa labores peractos of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the presidents of the episcopal conferences, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the President of the Union of Superiors General. This document summarized the preparation and proceedings of the synodal assembly, and, among other things, included the following statistics: 253 synod fathers participated at the synodal assembly of 2009, of which 183 were elected, 38 were ex officio members and 32 were by papal appointment. As for continents, 51 synod fathers came from Africa; 62 from America; 41 from Asia; 90 from Europe; and 9 from Oceania. There were 23 General Congregations and 8 sessions of the small groups. The synod fathers approved the text of the Nuntius to the People of God by acclamation and the 55 Proposals by a great majority.
II. The Preparation for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly
The collegial nature of the Synod of Bishops is also demonstrated in arriving at the topic of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly. In fact, two consultations were done. Before the conclusion of the XII General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the synod fathers were invited to suggest topics which, in their opinion, could possibly be examined during the XIII Synodal Assembly. Though the responses were numerous and diverse, a significant number of them even then showed a certain preference for the topic of transmitting the faith.
At the beginning of 2009, following a papal audience on 9 January, His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, wrote to the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the presidents of the episcopal conferences, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the President of the Union of Superiors General, requesting them to indicate three possible topics, which, in their opinion, could possibly become the subject of synodal discussion. According to the norms of the synod, the proposed topics were to fulfill three conditions: 1) be of interest to the universal Church; 2) respond to a present pastoral need; and 3) be able realistically to be thoroughly examined in a Synod of Bishops. The responses were to arrive at the General Secretariat by 1 June 2009, so as to be examined by the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat in its meeting on 3 - 4 June.
At this meeting, the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops examined the numerous proposals coming from these groups with which the General Secretariat maintains official relations. After a thorough examination, three topics were formulated, which His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary, submitted to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for his kind consideration. In a papal audience on 13 June 2009, the Supreme Pontiff expressed his preference for the first of the three proposals, which was most frequently cited by the episcopates, namely, The Transmission of the Faith through Education and Christian Initiation. The other two proposals, cited less frequently by the episcopates, concerned the parish as the community of communities and the anthropological challenges in our times. During this audience, the Holy Father also decided that the XIII Synodal Assembly would take place in the month of October (2 - 23) of 2011. Both decisions were changed for the following reasons.
As for the topic, in an audience granted to the General Secretary on 7 September 2009, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, shared his intention of instituting a Council for the New Evangelization. For a greater coordination in his reflection, the Holy Father felt it opportune to combine the topic of the transmission of the faith with that of the new evangelization. In both cases, he encouraged the members of the Ordinary Council to consider the matter at their meeting on 24 - 25 September 2009, while they continued their work on drafting the Lineamenta for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. I duly referred the matter to the members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, who welcomed the suggestions of the Holy Father, and after deep reflection, reformulated the synodal topic in the following manner: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. In an audience given to the General Secretary on 3 July 2010, the Supreme Pontiff approved the topic of the synodal assembly. As noted, with the Apostolic Letter motu proprio Ubicumque et semper (21 September 2010), the Supreme Pontiff established the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
As for the date, ceding to the request of the Bishops of the Middle East, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, after having consulted with his closest collaborators, announced the convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, on 19 September 2009, during the meeting with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris. This synodal assembly, which took place in October, 2010, resulted in the postponement of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops by one year. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI himself wanted to announce the topic of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly, on 24 October 2010, during the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Saint Peter Basilica, at the conclusion of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, indicating as well that it would be held in October, 2012.
Therefore, the topic of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops represents the results of a broad consultation process of the world episcopate and the pastoral concern of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Church. He wishes to place the reflection on the transmission of the Christian faith within the context of the new evangelization, emphasizing their complementarity: the new evangelization has as its goal the transmission of the Christian faith; the transmission of the Christian faith is, in turn, done in a religious, cultural and social setting which requires a new evangelization, “new in its ardour, its methods and its expressions”.(JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to the XIX Assembly of C.E.L.AM., (Port au Prince, Haiti, 9 March 1983), 3: AAS 75 I (1983) 778.)
The Preparation of the Lineamenta
Preparation for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly began after the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI established the topic for synodal discussion, before the publication of its official formulation. The XII Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat met twice to study the text of the Lineamenta. At its meeting on 24-25 September 2009, the members, with the assistance of some experts, agreed on the outline of the Lineamenta, taking into consideration the observations of the bishops in their suggesting possible synodal topics and the existing pastoral and social situations where the particular Churches live and work in today’s world. They repeatedly made references to the teachings of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the successive pronouncements of the Church’s magisterium, in particular that of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
At the meeting of 8 - 9 June 2010, the members of the Ordinary Council examined the draft of the Lineamenta which treated the topic of the new evangelization and the transmission of the faith, even though the definitive topic had not yet been made public. After an in-depth discussion, various modifications were done to improve the text and, at the same time, members indicated certain aspects which required further development. The General Secretariat, with the assistance of some experts, sought to incorporate these observations. Once the topic of the synod was made public, the General Secretariat sent the text of the Lineamenta by e-mail to each member of the Ordinary Council for his approval or possible comments to improve the text. The few observations which were submitted were then incorporated into the text, which was translated into the various languages.
Once the translation process ended, the General Secretariat occupied itself with the publication of the Lineamenta of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which bore the date, 2 February 2011, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The document was presented in the Holy See Press Office on 4 March 2011 by His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary, and by Rev. Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. The Lineamenta were sent to the parties with which the General Secretariat maintains official communications. Furthermore, they were widely distributed, primarily by the customary means of communication of the Holy See and the Catholic Church. Under the designation “Synod of Bishops”, on the Holy See’s internet website, the text of the Lineamenta was made available in 8 languages: Latin, French, English, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and German, translations which were prepared by the General Secretariat. As in the past, the Lineamenta contained a series of questions, 72 in total, to facilitate reflection and in-depth discussion on the topic. In the Preface, the General Secretary requested that the interested parties respond by 1 November 2011, the Solemnity of All Saints, so that the Instrumentum laboris of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops could be drafted in timely fashion.
The Composition of the Instrumentum laboris
The General Secretariat received many responses, generally very detailed, which indicated great popular interest in the topic of the synodal assembly. Moreover, the responses recounted the pastoral activities which were already taking place in many particular Churches. At the same time, they underlined the necessity for renewed apostolic zeal in the work of evangelization, which would make it more receptive to the grace of the Holy Spirit, who inspires new ways of announcing the Good News to those near and far, above all, to the baptized who have distanced themselves from the Church.
The percentages of responses from institutions is 90.5%, which can be broken down in the following manner.
— Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iruis: 84.6% (11 of 13 Churches responded)(No response was received from the following Churches sui iuris: the Major Archbishopric of the Syro-Malankars and the Ruthenian Metropolitan Church.);
— Episcopal conferences: 81.5 % (93 of 144 episcopal conferences responded);
— Dicasteries of the Roman Curia: 96.1 % (25 of 26 dicasteries responded)(The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See did not respond.);
— Union of Superiors General: 100%.
With regard to the episcopal conferences, an alphabetical order of the percentages, according to each continent, might prove of interest:
— Africa: 66.6% (24 of 36 episcopal conference responded)(Twelve episcopal conferences did not respond: Cameroon, Chad, The Republic of Congo, Gabon, The Gambia and Sierra Leone, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Nigeria, Indian Ocean, Central African Republic and Uganda.);
— America: 95.8% (23 of 24 episcopal conferences responded)(The Episcopal Conference of Haiti did not send a response.);
— Asia: 88.8% (16 of 18 episcopal conferences responded)(The Episcopal Conferences of Sri Lanka and East Timor did not respond.);
— Europe: 81.25% (26 of 32 episcopal conferences responded)(No response was received from the following episcopal conferences: Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Turkey and Ukraine.);
— Oceania: 100% (4 of 4 episcopal conferences responded).
Added to these responses were contributions from the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (C.C.E.E.) and the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt. The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops also received observations from various ecclesial institutions, for example, the International Union of Superiors General (U.I.S.G.). Some universities and centres of higher leaning also supplied observations, not to mention many individuals interested in the synod topic. The General Secretariat took all these responses and observations into account, together with the results of various meetings and articles published in specialized and popular magazines.
In the meeting on 22 - 23 November 2011, the members of the XII Ordinary Council, assisted by experts, thoroughly examined the responses to the Lineamenta and agreed on an outline for the Instrumentum laboris and made many suggestions for drafting the text.
In the meeting of 16 February 2012, the Ordinary Council examined the draft of the Instrumentum laboris. The work had to be limited to one day only, because, on 17 February, a majority of the members of the Ordinary Council participated in the consistory convoked by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. To facilitate the discussion, the General Secretariat had previously sent the text of the document to the Council members. They, therefore, were able to immediately enter into a lively discussion, thus providing many sound observations to improve the text. The Council members also gratefully noted the decision of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to call the Year of Faith. In drafting the Instrumentum laboris, they gave considerable attention to the Apostolic Letter published in moto proprio form, Porta fidei.
To obtain final approval of the document, the General Secretariat again sent the text of the Instrumentum laboris, by e-mail, to the members of the Ordinary Council. Some members made further suggestions, which were incorporated to improve the text. The General Secretariat then proceeded to translate the document into 8 languages. The Instrumentum laboris, which carries the date, 27 May 2012, the Solemnity of Pentecost, was presented on 19 June 2012 in the Holy See Press Office by His Excellency, Most Rev. Nikola Eterović, General Secretary, and Rev. Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. The Instrumentum laboris received an ample distribution, also through the internet — under “Synod of Bishops”, on the Holy See’s website — and by means of many publications. The Italian version was published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The diffusion of the Instrumentum laboris provided many with the agenda of the synodal assembly, the positive undertakings of the particular Churches and some points which require greater reflection and development. The document on the new evangelization and the transmission of the faith — two very important subjects in the life and mission of the Church — is of particular interest to the synod fathers, who must refer to it in their interventions.
The Appointment of Those with Special Synodal Responsibilities
On 22 October 2011, in preparation for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI appointed as General Rapporteur, His Eminence, Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington (USA), and as Special Secrertary, His Excellency, Most Rev. Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop of Montpellier (France).
On 29 June 2012, His Holiness designated the three Presidents-Delegate: His Eminence, Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong (China); His Eminence, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara (Mexico); and His Eminence, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo).
III. The Activities of the General Secretariat
In the period from October, 2008 to the present, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was engaged in its routine activity, namely, to bring to conclusion the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and to make preparations for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly.
At the same time, at the request of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, the General Secretariat prepared two Special Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops: the Second Special Assembly for Africa and the Special Assembly for the Middle East. The former, which took place from 4 to 25 October 2009, had 244 synod fathers. The fruits of synodal discussion were gathered in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus, which the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI wanted personally to present to the presidents of the episcopal conferences of Africa, during his Apostolic Visit to Cotonou, Benin, 20 November 2011.
The Special Assembly for the Middle East, held from 10 to 24 October 2012, saw the participation of 185 synod fathers, gathered around the Bishop of Rome, among whom were all the bishops of the Middle East. The results of the synod’s work were set forth in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. On 16 September 2012, His Holiness presented this document to representatives of the episcopate of the Middle East, to the patriarchs and to the presidents of the respective episcopal conferences, during his Apostolic Visit to Lebanon.
The General Secretariat was also involved in other activities which I shall briefly recount.
In addition to the activity of the Ordinary Council, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was involved in meetings for the Special Councils, especially those of Africa and the Middle East, by reason of the preparation of their respective special assemblies. In fact, in the period of time since the celebration of the XII Ordinary General Assembly, the Special Council for Africa met six times (27 - 28 November 2008; 23 - 24 January 2009; 19 March 2009; 19 - 20 January 2010; 27 - 28 April 2010; 19 - 20 November 2011).
The Council for the Middle East held nine meetings (21 - 22 September 2009; 24 - 25 November 2009; 23 - 24 April 2010; 4 - 6 June 2010; 20 - 21 January 2011; 30 - 31 March 2011; 17 - 18 May 2011; 6 - 7 July 2011; 14 - 16 September 2012).
Of the other Councils, the Special Council for America met with greater frequency, practically once every year: 18 - 19 November 2008; 17 - 18 November 2009; 16 - 17 November 2010; 27 - 28 October 2011.
The Special Council for Asia met on 11/12 December 2008 and the Special Council for Oceania on 9 December 2011.
Updating the Vademecum
The Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, approved by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on 29 September 2006, focused attention on practices which have witnessed a certain development in recent synodal assemblies and have fostered greater collegiality in the proceedings of the synod. Permit me to point out some practical aspects which might be useful for the present synodal assembly.
As in recent synodal assemblies, each synod father will have the opportunity to make a 5-minute presentation. A longer text of his presentation can also be submitted to the General Secretariat. Please keep in mind that a brief summary of the presentation, prepared by each synod father according to the indications in the Vademecum, will be published.
Four-minute presentations are foreseen for the fraternal delegates and the auditors. Given the high number of auditors, each can submit a text in writing to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops so that it can be given consideration in the general discussion on the synod topic. In any case, everything possible will be done so that even the auditors can speak during the General Congregations, both individually or, possibly, one designated by a group.
During the afternoon Congregation today, after the presentation of the General Relatorr, representatives from the 5 continents will make a presentation which seeks to give an overall view on the topic of the new evangelization and the transmission of the Christian faith in their respective continents. Each will have the opportunity to speak for 10 minutes.
At the end of the General Congregations in the afternoon, a period of open discussion is scheduled from 6:00 to 7:00 P.M. A synod father is to speak for no more than 3 minutes and possibly one other time only. The same rule applies during other periods of discussion in the synod hall, so as to encourage greater participation. Discussion by topic is also anticipated. The first, on 8 October, ought to be centered on the presentation of the General Relator, His Eminence, Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington (USA). The second, on 9 October, ought to focus on the reception of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, following a 30-minute presentation on the subject by His Eminence, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Similar discussion periods will follow the presentation of His Grace, Rowan Douglas Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of all England and of the Anglican Communion, which will take place on Wednesday, 10 October. The Archbishop will share an Anglican perspective on the challenge of the new evangelization and the transmission of the Christian faith. On 12 October 2012, Dr. Werner Arber, Professor of Microbiology in Biozentrum of the University of Basel (Switzerland) and President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, will offer his observations on the relation between science and faith. Following his presentation, Dr. Arber will respond to questions from the synod fathers.
The first part of the synod proceedings is devoted to presentations by the synod father. To promote a certain order among the presentations by topic, each synod father who wishes to speak is asked to register in the General Secretariat, indicating the topic on which he intends to speak. It is highly recommended to make reference to the number or numbers in the Instrumentum laboris. Priority will be given to those who wish to speak on the first part of the Instrumentum laboris from numbers 1 to 40, which cover the Introduction and the subject of Jesus Christ, Good News of God to Humanity. Treatment of the second part will follow, numbers 41 to 89, Time for a New Evangelization. The third part then follows, numbers 90 to 128, Transmitting the Faith. The fourth part, numbers 129 to 169, includes the fourth chapter, Revivifying Pastoral Activity and the Conclusion. A more orderly approach, subject by subject, is to facilitate an in-depth development of the topic.
During this synodal assembly, electronic equipment will be employed in voting, not only to save time but to produce results in real time. However, considering the importance of the vote on the Propositiones and established custom, this vote will be done both in written form and electronically. As noted, the synod fathers, even those who cannot participate in the General Congregation when the electronic vote is taken, can vote on the Proposals in written form. Therefore, the official voting results are those done by the Commission for Voting, to be formed in due time, whose task is tabulating the voting results on paper.
During the synodal assembly, we have the joy of greeting three special guests: Brother Alois, Prior of Taizé (France), Rev. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society (USA) and the newly appointed, Mr. Werner Arber, Professor of Microbiology in Biozentrum of the University of Basel (Switzerland) and President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1978.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is expected to participate at the Solemn Eucharistic Celebration on 11 October, over which the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will preside.
As previously mentioned, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of all England and of the Anglican Communion, His Grace, Rowan Douglas Williams, will make a presentation in the synod hall on 10 October.
In the calendar of activity of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly, various initiatives are planned at which the synod fathers are encouraged to participate as a group. In this regard, information will be provided in due time. In any case, all these events are intended to foster collegiality among the bishops themselves and between them and the Bishop of Rome, Head of the Episcopal College, and to reinforcing communion in the midst of the People of God, whose representatives are gathered in this synodal assembly. Synod fathers are free to participate in other events, outside those on the synod calendar.
The activity of the General Secretariat also included the following publications. In 2011, the volume La Parola di Dio nella vita e nella missione della Chiesa was published by the Lateran University Press under the auspices of the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. Gathering the rich documentation from the preparation and celebration of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, this book contains all the official texts of the synodal assembly, among which are the summaries of the presentations of the individual synod fathers, and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the culmination of the synod’s proceedings. The index of persons provides a quick, profitable reference.
Assisted by his collaborators, the General Secretary also oversaw, in conjunction with the same publisher, the volume Il Vescovo Servitore del Vangelo di Gesù Cristo per la speranza del mondo, resulting from the work of the X Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place from 30 September to 27 October 2001. This publication by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops completes the series of Ordinary and Extraordinary General Assemblies and provides an abundance of synodal documentation, not only for the Pastors and those engaged in study but for all interested persons.
Thanks to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the General Secretariat supported the publication of the Volume, entitled La Chiesa in Africa a servizio della riconciliazione, della giustizia e della pace, by the Urbaniana University Press, Vatican City, 2012, which gathers the results of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in Rome from 4 to 25 October 2010.
Jesus Christ, the First and the Great Evangelizer
The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, the topic of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, makes us turn to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of all evangelization. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, wishing to recapitulate the work of the III Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (27 September - 26 October 1974) on the topic of Evangelization in the Modern World, wrote: “During the Synod, the bishops very frequently referred to this truth: Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and the greatest evangelizer; he was so through and through: to perfection and to the point of the sacrifice of His earthly life.” (EN, 7). We too, united in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly, in continuity with our predecessors, wish to begin anew with Jesus Christ, “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev 22:13), in reflecting on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.
In this regard, the catacombs of Priscilla has a fresco of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, which is very rich in theological content. The Lord, after leaving the 99, returns with a sheep on his back, who was lost but now is found. The image is an artistic representation of the parable of the lost sheep (cf. Lk 15:1-7; Mt 18:12-14). Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, does what God had promised in the Old Testament: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice” (Ez 34:16). In a particular way, one can perceive in the icon the joy of the Shepherd in bringing the lost sheep back to the fold, thus reflecting the words from St. Matthew the Evangelist: “He rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Mt 18:13).
Two sheep graze peacefully around the Good Shepherd. They are the faithful sheep, who remained with the Lord. They know their shepherd (cf. Jn 10:14) who calls each of them by name (cf. Jn 10:3). They are flanked by two green trees, on whose branches are perched two doves who carry in their beaks two olive branches. The image also recalls another biblical reference on the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven which “is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Lk 13:19; cf. Mk 4:31; Mt 13:31). Furthermore, the olive branches refer to the experience of Noah who knew the flood had ended, when the dove returned to the ark carrying “in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf” (Gn 8:11). With his coming, Jesus the Good Shepherd begins the salvation of the world. Through his sacrifice on the cross, he brings harmony and peace: He is “our peace” (Eph 2:14).
The image of Jesus the Good Shepherd — including the one in the catacombs of Priscilla — is an example of the inculturation of the Christian message in Greco-Roman culture. To the citizens of the Roman empire, the painting recalled Hermas — so-called Hermes Kriophoros — who carries a ram on his shoulders and leads the flock. A timely invitation can be seen in this symbol, namely, to present the enduring Gospel of Jesus Christ in the cultures of men and women today, which, in their time, ought to be purified and elevated by the Good News of the Lord Jesus, the One and only Saviour of the world (cf. Acts 4:12).
Among the sheep which the Good Shepherd brought into the fold, are distinguished saints and, in particular, great evangelizers, like St. Peter as well as St. Paul, who in a special manner is associated with the other apostles. As in the Cenacle, a special place is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, the Star of the New Evangelization. On Thursday, 4 October, at Loreto, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI implored her maternal protection on the synodal proceedings and the Year of Faith. Among the great ranks of the beatified and the saints who have followed their example during the history of the Church, we dutifully remember in a special manner Blessed Pope John Paul II who worked untiringly during his pontificate to foster the new evangelization and who, from heaven, will not neglect to follow our work. During this synodal assembly, the number of saints will increase by another seven, who will be canonized by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI on 21 October. We entrust the work of the synodal assembly to their intercession and to that of Saints John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen, the new doctors of the Church, so that our work might bring to fruition the words of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:16).
Thank you for listening.
[00008-02.07] [NNNNN] [Original text: Latin]
REPORT BEFORE THE DISCUSSION BY THE GENERAL RELATOR, H. EM. CARD. DONALD WILLIAM WUERL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON (USA)
It is a great honor for me to serve as the Relator General at this Synod and I am grateful to our Holy Father for this privilege. As we begin our deliberations on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, I want to touch on a number of points that I hope will help focus our discussion and provide some themes for reflection.
None of us come to this Synod without previous preparation realized in our own pastoral ministry, but also supported by the work of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops that produced first the Lineamenta that resulted in suggestions and recommendations from episcopal conferences, synods of the Catholic churches sui iuris, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, bishops without any episcopal conference and the Union of Superiors General. Observations also came from individual bishops, women and men in consecrated life and the laity, not to mention various Church movements and organizations. Most recently we are the beneficiaries of the Instrumentum laboris, whic7h provides a carefully developed reflection on the New Evangelization. The Instrumentum is already a framework for much of the Synod’s discussion and I intend to highlight certain areas which can be more deeply developed. Throughout this presentation I make reference to the Instrumentum laboris.
In my observations, I include the following points:
1) What or Who it is we proclaim – the Word of God;
2) recent resources to help us in our task;
3) particular circumstances of our day that render this Synod necessary;
4) elements of the New Evangelization;
5) some theological principles for the New Evangelization;
6) qualities of the new evangelizers; and finally,
7) charisms of the Church today to assist in task of the New Evangelization.
1) What / Who we proclaim
Our proclamation is focused on Jesus, his Gospel and his way. Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus. When Jesus first came among us, he offered a whole new way of living. The excitement spread as God’s Son, who is also one of us, announced the coming of the kingdom. The invitation to discipleship and a place in the kingdom that he held out to those who heard him, he continues to offer today. This has been true for 20 centuries. As his message was more fully understood, it became evident that Jesus offers us not only a new way of living, but also a whole new way of being. As Saint Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3). This new life as child of God through baptism is revealed to us by Jesus himself: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). (cf Instrumentum Laboris nn. 18-19, n. 31)
We rejoice that we have become adopted children and Saint John assures us this adoption is no legal fiction: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should become children of God: and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
The Gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is not information about God, but rather God himself in our midst. God made himself visible, audible, tangible. In return, he asks our love.
In the Sermon on the Mount presented in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear of a new way of life and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit. Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and a light set on a lamp stand. Later in that same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ. Jesus’ disciples are challenged to envision a world where not only the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the stranger is welcomed and the naked are clothed, but also most amazingly sins are forgiven and eternal life is pledged. (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 23, nn. 28-29)
Jesus beckons us. The joy we experience compels us to share it with others. We are not only disciples, we are evangelizers. Like those first disciples, we are called to envision ourselves walking alongside Jesus as the sower of the seeds of a new way of living, of a share in a kingdom that will last forever (cf Mt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mk 4:3; Lk 8:5). (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 25 & n. 34)
That same vision we must hold out today when we invite others to open the pages of the Gospel and read about the invitation to be branches connected to the vine of the Lord, to eat of the bread of everlasting life and to hear the words of truth, words that endure forever.
We need to be able, with lively faith, firm conviction and joyful witness, to renew our proclamation with the understanding that as God spoke to us in times past, so does he continue to speak to us today. As our Holy Father’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini so clearly points out, “The relationship between Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Church cannot be fully understood in terms of a mere past event; rather, it is a living relationship which each member of the faithful is personally called to enter into. We are speaking of the presence of God’s word to us today: ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).” (51)
What distinguishes our Catholic faith today is precisely the understanding that the Church is the enduring presence of Christ, the mediator of God’s redeeming action in our world, and the sacrament of God’s saving acts. The Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, began by recalling for us that “the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people….” (1) (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 27)
The intellectual and ideological separation of Christ from his Church is one of the first realities we must deal with as we propose a New Evangelization of culture and people today. Already in his encyclical letter God is Love (Deus caritas est) our Holy Father reminded us that “the Church is God's family in the world” and that “the Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity.” Further he points out that “these duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.” (25)
Everything the Church is, she has received from Christ. The first and most precious of his gifts is the grace bestowed through the Paschal Mystery: his passion, death and glorious Resurrection. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin and saved us from death. The Church receives from her Lord not only the tremendous grace he has won for us, but also the commission to share and to make known his victory. We are summoned to transmit faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Church’s primary mission is evangelization. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 23-26)
One of the challenges that both precipitates the New Evangelization and represents a barrier to it is the individualism of our day. Our culture and the emphasis in so much of current society exalts the individual and diminishes each person’s necessary relationship with others. In our society which values individual freedom and autonomy, personal achievement and dominance, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we have towards them. In his talk to the United States bishops during his 2008 visit to Washington, our Holy Father taught us that the emphasis on our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be a member of a redeemed community “is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 7, n. 35, nn. 43-44, n. 48)
The Church never tires of announcing the gift she has received from the Lord. The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that evangelization is at the very heart of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the fundamental text and nucleus of the Council’s expression on the life of the Church, the Council Fathers emphasized, “The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the Apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth.” The Council spoke eloquently of the truth that the divine mission that Jesus entrusted to the Church continues through the Apostles and their successors and will last until the end of the world. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 27 & n. 92)
2) Recent Resources
We do not address the task of the New Evangelization in a vacuum. For decades the Papal Magisterium has guided the Church into a profound awareness of both the problem and how we must confront it. Pope Paul VI initiated the focus, Blessed John Paul II urged a deeper awareness of its need and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has made this task of the Church a constant theme in his teaching and preaching.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI drew on the teaching of the Council when he affirmed that the Church is “a community which is in its turn evangelizing. The command to the Twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News is also valid for all Christians, though in a different way … the Good News of the kingdom which is coming and which has begun is meant for all people of all times. Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it.” In this historic document, issued ten years to the day of the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope discerned the need for “a new period of evangelization.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 3 & n. 27)
The pontificate of Blessed John Paul II provided us constant referral to elements of the New Evangelization and encouraging teaching in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, the exhortation following the Synod on the Laity, Christifideles Laici, as well as the encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio. Blessed John Paul reminded us that evangelization is “the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity,” and took up the commitment to an evangelization, “new in ardor, methods, and expression.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 3 & n. 45)
Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed that the discernment of “the new demands of evangelization” is a “prophetic task of the Supreme Pontiff.” He emphasized that “the entire activity of the Church is an expression of love” that seeks to evangelize the world. With the announcement, in his homily for the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, of the formation of a new Vatican office for the New Evangelization, our Holy Father gave a formal structure to this effort and highlighted the urgency and all-inclusive nature of this mission of the Church. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 130, n. 149)
Also among the resources available to the Church Universal in the effort once again to repropose the Gospel is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This compendium of the faith in its many manifestations and applications provides a beacon of light in what, unfortunately, has become in too many instances the gloom of religious ignorance. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 100-101)
3) Circumstances of Our Day
The dramatically changing societal background for the reception, appropriation and living of the faith is the context of this Synod. The call to repropose the Catholic faith, to repropose the Gospel message, to repropose the teaching of Christ, is needed precisely because we encounter so many who initially heard this saving proclamation and for whom the message has become stale. The vision has faded. The promises seem empty or unconnected to real life. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 41-44)
Across the Church we deal in many instances, but particularly in most of the so-called first world countries, with a dramatic reduction in the practice of the faith among those who are already baptized. Our Holy Father has further specified the work of the New Evangelization as the reproposal of Jesus Christ and his Gospel “in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where churches with an ancient foundation exist, but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God’…” (June 28, 2010). (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 12, nn. 52-53, n. 94)
The responses from bishops in the so-called third world – more recently evangelized societies – indicate the same experience in their own local churches. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 87-89)
This current situation is rooted in the upheavals of the 1970s and 80s, decades in which there was manifest poor catechesis or miscatechesis at so many levels of education. We faced the hermeneutic of discontinuity that permeated so much of the milieu of centers of higher education and was also reflected in aberrational liturgical practice. Entire generations have become disassociated from the support systems that facilitated the transmission of faith. It is as if a tsunami of secular influence has swept across the cultural landscape, taking with it such societal markers as marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong. Tragically, the sins of a few have encouraged a distrust in some of the very structures of the Church herself. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 69, n. 95, n. 104)
Secularization has fashioned two generations of Catholics who do not know the Church’s foundational prayers. Many do not sense a value in Mass attendance, fail to receive the sacrament of penance and have often lost a sense of mystery or the transcendent as having any real and verifiable meaning.
All of the above resulted in a large segment of the faithful being ill-prepared to deal with a culture that, as our Holy Father has pointed out on his many visits around the world, is characterized by secularism, materialism and individualism.
But the circumstances of our day are not all bleak. Just as it is possible to identify the causes or at least occasions for the negative situation today, so it is also possible to identify an increasingly recognized positive response. Many people, especially the young, who have been alienated from the Church are finding that the secular world does not offer adequate responses to the perennial and demanding questions of the human heart. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 63-64, nn. 70-71)
Many pastors have noted that the New Evangelization is unfolding on two levels simultaneously, the introduction into the faith of young children, and the instruction of their parents. For many teachers and those catechized, this is a particularly enriching moment because this time around, the young adults approach the faith with a great deal more openness out of their own need to know more.
Points of contact for many young adults today are found in campus ministry programs at secular universities and colleges, parish or diocesan programs with a focus on current issues of concern today, as well as family orientated events for those with children who seek both spiritual and social support.
Today special mention should also be made of the family itself as the Model – Place of the New Evangelization and related life issues. While contemporary society downplays, and at times even ridicules traditional family life, it remains a natural reality and the first building block of community. The family presents the natural and ordinary context for the transmission of both faith and values, and the reality we so often turn to for support throughout our lives. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 110-113)
A quality of the New Evangelization that is increasingly evident is that our efforts to spread the Gospel no longer necessarily take us to foreign lands and distant peoples. Those who need to hear of Christ, all over again, are with us in our neighborhoods and parishes even if they are distant from us in their hearts and minds. Immigration and widespread migration has created a new neighborhood environment for evangelization that too often is really an exercise in the New Evangelization.
The missionaries in the first evangelization covered immense geographic distances to spread the Good News. We, the missionaries of the New Evangelization, must surmount ideological distances just as immense, oftentimes before we ever journey beyond our own neighborhood or family.
4) Elements of the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting. It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit continues actively to work in the Church.
At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging. I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages:
a) the renewal or deepening of our faith both intellectually and affectively; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 24, nn. 37-40, nn. 118-119, nn. 147-158)
1. a new confidence in the truth of our faith; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 31, n. 41, n. 46, n. 49, n.120) and
2. a willingness to share it with others. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 33-34, n. 81)
The New Evangelization begins with each of us taking it upon ourselves to renew once again our understanding of the faith and our appropriation of it in a way that more deeply, willingly and joyfully embraces the Gospel message and its application today.
Following on our efforts to renew our own appreciation of the faith should be a new confidence in the truth of our message. Unfortunately, we have for too long seen this confidence eroded by an appropriation of so much of the secular value system that has been lifted up in the past decades as a superior and better way of life than the one proposed by Jesus, his Gospel and his Church. In the educational and theological culture reflective of the hermeneutic of discontinuity, too often the vision of the Gospel was clouded and a sure, confident voice gave way to apologies for what we hold and believe.
In the Gospel we read how Jesus taught with authority (Mark 1:21-22). He taught out of his own self identity. Jesus has authority because of who he is. “I am the way, the truth and the life” he proclaimed (John 14:6). This divine pedagogy remains the model for us today. The truth – the very revelation of who Jesus is – he shares with us through the Church. Jesus did not leave us orphans. As he returned to his Father, he called those he had chosen and anointed in the Holy Spirit to continue to teach everything that he had made known to them and to proclaim it even to the ends of the earth.
Many of those who today seek some assurance of the value and meaning of life are persuaded by the clear, unambiguous and confident message of Christ presented in his Church. To do this well we need to overcome the syndrome of embarrassment as some have identified the lack of confidence in the truth of the faith and in the wisdom of the Magisterium that characterizes our age.
The third element in the New Evangelization has to be the willingness and desire to share the faith. There are numerous people, particularly in the western world, who have already heard of Jesus. Our challenge is to stir up again and rekindle in the midst of their daily life and concrete situation, a new awareness and familiarity with Jesus. We are called not just to announce but to adapt our approach so as to attract and to urge an entire generation to find again the uncomplicated, genuine and tangible treasure of friendship with Jesus.
The first moment of any evangelization originates not from a program, but in an encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Church maintains that “it is the same Lord Jesus who, present in his Church, goes before the work of evangelizers, accompanies it, follows it and makes their labors bear fruit: what took place at the origins of Christian history continues through its entire course” (CDF, Some Aspects of Evangelization, 1).
We rely first and always on Jesus. He alone is the cornerstone. As we approach those who have grown cold or distant in their faith, the touchstone is the simplicity of instruction that motivates and speaks to the depth of the human person. We turn to our brothers and sisters who have received baptism, and yet, no longer participate in the life of the Church. To them we offer our experience of Jesus’ love, not a philosophical thesis on behavior.
How we communicate must gain access to hearts in a way that the Holy Spirit can reacquaint our sisters and brothers to friendship with Jesus, who alone “is the key, the center and the purpose of all human history” (Gaudium et Spes, 10).
The personal witness of the follower of Jesus is itself a proclamation of the Word. Our message today must, therefore, be grounded in the testimony of our life. These are also moments to invite, not to scold.
Into our world we need to communicate our own joy of being definitively and completely loved and, therefore, capable of loving. Our communication should be in words and in life, in prayer and in deed, in action and in bearing suffering.
5) Theological Foundations for the New Evangelization
Evangelization and the New Evangelization are theological concepts as well as pastoral initiatives.
The document Dominus Jesus from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith presents nine theological/philosophical deficiencies prevalent today in our conceptual thinking that undermine our evangelizing efforts. A decade earlier the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted a survey of catechetical texts and identified ten doctrinal deficiencies that needed correction.
Since theology uses concepts to convey our faith that is rooted in the Gospel, the very tenets of our faith are threatened if people struggle with its conceptual framework. Secularism and rationalism have created an ideology that subjugates faith to reason. Religion becomes a personal matter. Doctrine in matters of faith is reduced to idiosyncratic positions without any possibility of ever claiming universal truth.
Concepts such as incarnation, resurrection, redemption, sacrament and grace-core themes of theology used to explain our belief in Jesus Christ – have little meaning for the Catholic and the fallen away Catholic in a culture where rationalism prevails. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 20)
The temptation for the evangelizer, and perhaps for pastors, is to not confront these conceptual obstacles and instead place our focus and energies on more sociological priorities or pastoral initiatives or even develop a vocabulary apart from our own theology.
While it is important that the New Evangelization be alert to the signs of the time and speak with a voice that reaches people today, it must do so without losing its rootedness in the great living faith tradition of the Church already expressed in theological concepts.
As we begin our deliberations and reflections on the New Evangelization, I would suggest that from the Lineamenta, the Instrumentum laboris, and so much of the material provided from Conferences of Bishops from the around the world, a number of theological foundation stones have emerged. I would like to touch on four of them.a) Anthropological Foundation of Evangelization
If secularization with its atheistic tendencies removes God from the equation, the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered. Thus the New Evangelization must points to the very origin of our human dignity, self-knowledge and self-realization. The fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God forms the basis for declaring, for example, the universality of human rights. Here, once again, we see the opportunity to speak with conviction to a doubting community about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order and an objective right and wrong. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 63-64, n. 151)
The New Evangelization must rest upon the theological understanding that it is Christ who reveals man to himself, man’s true identity in Christ, the new Adam. This aspect of the New Evangelization has a very practical meaning for the individual. If it is Christ who reveals to us who God is and, therefore, who we are and how we relate to God, then God is not remote or distantly far off. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 19)
The presumptive foundation of the New Evangelization must be the natural desire that all have for communion with the transcendent – with God. Within each human being is the basic orientation to the transcendent and the right order of life rooted in the natural created order. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Decalogue is itself a privileged expression of the natural law. The New Evangelization has to rest on the understanding that it is the Christian faith that offers us some understanding when we address the problem of evil, the reality of sin, the fall and the call to new life. Evil and sin are indeed obstacles to the Gospel, but it is precisely the Gospel message that makes sense of the human condition and the possibility of a life that overcomes the inherent limitations of human frailty. Ultimately the New Evangelization must rest on the recognition that it is in the light of Jesus Christ that we understand fully what it means to be human.
b) Christological Foundation of the New Evangelization
As has already been noted, New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ. Our proclamation of Christ, however, begins with a clear theological explanation of who Christ is, his relationship to the Father, his divinity and humanity, and the reality of his death and Resurrection. At the center of our Christian faith is Christ. But the Christ we proclaim is the Christ of revelation, the Christ understood in his Church, the Christ of tradition and not of personal, sociological, or aberrant theological creation. On our own, none of us could come to know the mind, heart, love and identity of God. Jesus came to reveal the truth – about God and about ourselves. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 18-21)
c) The Ecclesiological Foundation of the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization must provide a clear theological explanation for the necessity of the Church for salvation. This is a sensitive aspect of our preaching and too often has been neglected in catechesis. Rampant in much of the revival culture of today is the sentiment that salvation is achieved through a relationship with Jesus apart from the Church. But what needs to be emphasized and demonstrated is that Christ meets man wherever he is, in and through the presence of the Church. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 35-36)
The scriptures provide many images and parables to describe the Church. One image of it is a great family of people united in Christ and with each other through baptism. Saint Paul speaks of the Church as the body of Christ with our Lord as the head and we as the members. Writing to the faithful of Corinth he says: “Now you are Christ’s body and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
The basis of our efforts in the New Evangelization must be the recognition that in baptism Christ gave each of us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit, the soul of the Church, that binds us together in a unity that overcomes every kind of division. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 119)
The New Evangelization must speak about God’s universal salvific will and at the same time recognize that Jesus has provided a clear and unique path to redemption and salvation. The Church is not one among many ways to reach God, all of them equally valid. While God does wish all to be saved, it is precisely out of his universal salvific will that God sent Christ to bring us to adoption and eventual eternal glory.
d) Soterological Foundations of the New Evangelization
Intrinsic to the understanding of God’s presence with us today is the awareness of what we mean by his kingdom. In the New Testament, we find the kingdom everywhere. To Jesus, it seems to be a preoccupation. From the moment he “began to preach,” he announced that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus spoke of the kingdom’s subjects, its power, its boundaries, its duration. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 24)
The heart of the Gospel is the kingdom. If we want to live a Christian life — if we want to make a credible claim that we are followers of Jesus — it’s essential that we look to this kingdom he has proclaimed.
On earth the kingdom is hidden mysteriously and may be encountered anywhere, but only in a spiritual way. God’s reign “already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him” (CCC 865).
Thus we learn that Christ has established his kingdom on earth, though not yet in the fullness of its glory. It is here, but it is still growing. “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness” (CCC 1060). In the meantime, “Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church” (CCC 680).
The four theological foundation blocks for the New Evangelization point out for us that whatever we hope to achieve in this Synod and whatever pastoral goals we set for reproposing Christ to this age, we must do so firmly rooted in the biblical vision of man created in the image and likeness of God, as part of a creation that reflects God’s wisdom and presents a natural, moral order for man’s activities. Marring this created beauty is sin and the egoism that has marked every successive generation. However, into this world God sent his Son to offer us new life. He established a Church to continue his living and saving presence. Our salvation is intimately related to our participation in the great sacrament that is the Church through which we hope both to manifest the kingdom coming to be now and to realize our part in it in glory.
6) The Qualities of the New Evangelizers
Among the qualities required for the evangelizer today, and there are many that can be identified, four stand out: boldness or courage, connectedness to the Church, a sense of urgency and joy. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 46, n. 49, nn. 168-169)
In the Acts of the Apostles the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.” Peter is depicted as boldly standing up and preaching the Good News of the Resurrection, later Paul takes up the theme and in frenetic movement around the world accessible to him, he boldly announces the word. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 41)
Today the New Evangelization must show a boldness born of confidence in Christ. Examples abound of the quiet boldness: Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and before them Blessed Miguel Pro and the recent martyrs of Lithuania, Spain, Mexico and the more distant witness by the saints of Korea, Nigeria and Japan. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 128 & n. 158)
When we speak of courage, we must also recognize the need for institutional witness in the those particular churches that enjoy the presence of institutional expressions of the Church, colleges, universities, hospitals, health care ministries, social services and other types of outreach to the poor, there must be a recognition that these institutional expressions of the life of the Church should also bear testimony to God’s Word.
The evangelizers for the New Evangelization need also a connectedness with the Church, her Gospel and her pastoral presence. The authentication of what we proclaim and the verification of the truth of our message that these are the words of everlasting life depend on our communion with the Church and our solidarity with its pastors. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 77-78)
Another quality of the New Evangelization and, therefore those engaged in it, is a sense of urgency. Perhaps we need to see in Luke’s account of the Mary’s Visitation of Elizabeth, a model for our own sense of urgency. The Gospel recounts how Mary set off in haste in a long and difficult journey from Nazareth to a hill country in the village of Judea. There was no time to be lost because her mission was so important. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 138 & n. 149)
Finally, when we look around and see the vast field open, waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so with joy. Our message should be one that inspires others joyfully to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God. Joy must characterize the evangelizer. Ours is a message of great joy, Christ is risen, Christ is with us. Whatever our circumstances, our witness should radiate with the fruits of the Holy Spirit including love, peace and joy (Galatians 5:22).
7) Charisms of the Church Today to Assist in the New Evangelization
Social Justice Issues
An area that points to a renewed appreciation of our Catholic faith and interest in it is the value being placed on questions of social justice. We recognize that more than a century of articulated Catholic social teaching has shaped and continues to influence much of the development of social justice in large parts of the world. Catholic social justice did not develop in a vacuum. In the decades prior to the encyclical Rerum Novarum, the stage was set on which the struggle for social justice and human rights would take place. With the promulgation of Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Church sought to confront the terrible exploitation and poverty of workers at the end of the nineteenth century. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 71, nn. 123-124, n. 130)
While it would be inaccurate to say that Jesus promoted any particular political, social or economic program, he did establish basic principles that should characterize any just, humane, economic or political system. Only faith can provide the conviction that our works of justice endure as part of the plan of God to bring about the kingdom of God.
Today when we look at issues that offer an invitation to many who are disaffected from the Church, we can take great encouragement from the desire of so many young people today to be involved in service ministry. For them, the Church’s teaching on social justice is both a revelation and an invitation to a fuller life in the Church.
New Communities / Ecclesial Movements
We do not set out on the task of the New Evangelization alone. Nor are we the first to address how this task must be carried out. A sign of the New Evangelization underway are the ecclesial movements and new communities that bring such blessing to the Church today. These expressions of the movement of the Holy Spirit add to the spiritual wealth of the long present charisms of the religious orders and congregations that work so faithfully to bear witness to the coming of the kingdom through their commitment to living the evangelical counsels of perfection. Christ’s invitation to many to close discipleship endures in the Church in a special way in the religious life. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 115)
I will not attempt to list the new religious communities for fear of leaving out too many that are already bearing great fruit. The same is true of the New Ecclesial Movements such as Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way, to mention just three. All point to the work of the Holy Spirit engaging the Church today with those who have drifted away.
One task of our efforts to engage the Church in the work of the New Evangelization might be to call upon all the new movements and new communities to integrate their energy and practices more fully into the life of the whole Church, especially as manifested in the local, particular Church under the apostolic care of the bishop. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 116)
At the September 2011 gathering sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, it became very apparent that there is a rich core of young, vibrant faithful who are already engaged in the tasks of the New Evangelization and who are already gathered in groups composing a vast array of movements and spiritual homes.
As we initiate our response to the call of our Holy Father for this Synod to address the New Evangelization, it seems appropriate to suggest that what lies before us is a fourfold mission:
1) reaffirm the essential nature of evangelization;
2) note the theological foundations of the New Evangelization;
3) encourage the many current manifestations of the New Evangelization;
4) suggest practical ways in which the New Evangelization can be encouraged, structured and implemented, for example, in parishes, campus ministry programs, organizations of professionals, chaplaincies to divergent groups, including military, health care and social service ministries, as well as the encouragement of young professionals in every area to see themselves as instruments of the Church’s evangelizing activity. Given the importance of public policy that is reflective of human freedom, human dignity and the natural moral order, the next generation of those involved in political life should also be a focus of our practical observations.
It would seem that out of the deliberations on the current situation that the Church faces today, should come the affirmation of her essential call to evangelization, the recognition of so many agents and instruments of renewal and a presentation of practical guidance and encouragement.
This Synod should be a call to all of the Church to see life and reality through the lens of the New Evangelization in a way that highlights that much is already underway and that many of the faithful are already familiar with aspects of it, even if not always identified by the name New Evangelization.
As we undertake our work, we have every reason to do so with optimism and enthusiasm because the seeds of the New Evangelization sown over the pontificates of Paul VI, John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are already beginning to sprout. Our task is to find ways to nurture, encourage and hasten the growth.
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EXHIBITION ON THE OCCASION OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
The new evangelization, starting from the origins of Christian faith. This is the meaning of the exposition in the entrance to the Paul VI Hall and entrusted to the Vatican Museums for the occasion of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Three ancient Christian artifacts will “accompany” the work of the Synod Fathers and the other participants at the Synodal Assembly. The artworks, of great historical and artistic value, come from the catacombs and represent symbolic images of primitive Christianity; their choice was made by the Pius Christian Museum, where the works are kept.
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We publish below the details of the works exhibited.
The “statuette” of the Good Shepherd
late 3rd - early 4th century AD
from the catacomb complex of Saint Callisto in Rome (ante 1764)
Vatican City, Vatican Museums, Pio Cristiano Museum
For conservational reasons, a marble resin cast of the original work will be displayed
The statuette of the Good Shepherd is the most celebrated artifact from the collection of ancient Christian archaeological finds held in the Vatican Museums, and it is certainly, tout court, one of the symbolic images of primitive Christianity. This splendid monument is part of a group of works acquired through the generosity of Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico (1758-1769), which were destined for the collection of Christian antiquaries contained in the Sacred or Christian Museum of the Vatican Apostolic Library, founded in 1756 at the illuminated behest of Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758), Clement’s predecessor. The most memorable among these works is, above all, a series of Christian sarcophagi of the first centuries, decorated with figurative reliefs, which entered into the Sacred Museum of the Library through their acquisition by the sculptor Giuseppe Angelini (1735-1811) in the flourishing antiquarian market for Christian antiques which was then active in the city of Rome, following the rediscoveries in the catacombs, which were explored between the 1600s and 1700s.
All the works that arrived in the Museum were appropriately restored and completed: the fronts of the sarcophagi, decorated with figures, were frequently detached from the full cases which were considered unusable as they were devoid of reliefs, as well as to enable their attachment to the high walls of the Museum. In some cases the “restoration” works were full re-workings, to the degree that it was no longer possible to distinguish the original stylistic traits; at times even the appearance of the work was transformed, distorting the original intended use, as in the case of the celebrated work presented here.
In order to understand the operation carried out by Angelini, it is worth rereading his own words, as related in the accounts he gave in order to receive payment: “Since I have received a piece of the Fragment of Bas-Relief portraying the figure of the Good Shepherd, I have restored it [...], and since the models were approved, the work in Marble has been carried out, reduced to a good figurine, of the Proportion of 4½ palms, at a fee of one hundred Scudi” (Vatican Secret Archives, Holy Apostolic Palaces, Book 309, Reg. 216 (year 1764). As a careful reading shows, our “Good Shepherd” was not originally, in reality, a statue, but rather a “Fragment of Bas-Relief”, the form of which, following the intervention, was “reduced to a good figurine”, carved in the round, approximately one metre high. Observing the work carefully, one may appreciate, ideally eliminating the additions, the rather two-dimensional outline of the figure, coherent with its origin as “bas-relief”, or more appropriately, as high-relief. Similar examples now enable the reconstruction of the original appearance of the archaeological find as a fragment of what would appear to be a monumental strigil sarcophagus, according to the hypothetical reconstruction we suggest here.
If the romantic figure of the statuette is thereby distanced from our imagination, this should not, however, diminish the extraordinary iconographic value of the work. The depiction of a shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders, as in a generic pastoral scene, was very widespread in ancient art, referring to a number of positive themes, among which the most significant appears to be that of philanthropy (in Latin, humanitas): the god Mercury, in fact, but also the hero Hercules, mercifully led the souls of the deceased to the afterlife, carrying them on their shoulders just as a shepherd carries a lamb. Images of “criòfori” shepherds (in Greek, “carriers of a ram”) were, therefore, frequently found in the artistic expression of Greek-Roman antiquity, understood as virtuous personifications of goodness towards humankind. The Christians of the first centuries found it completely natural to use these same artistic images as the vehicle for a new form of content: the revelation of Jesus as the Good (and Beautiful) Shepherd, according to the words first recorded by John. The evangelical image of the Shepherd recalls, in turn, one of the most significant themes of Jewish biblical culture. God Himself, indeed, is shown in the Old Testament to be the shepherd of His people (cf. Ez 34; Sal 23) and the prophets promised that He would sow among His people a shepherd of his choice, with the symbolic name of David, expressing the regality of the Messiah: "I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd. I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them” (Ez 34: 23-24). When Jesus defines himself as a “good shepherd” he therefore lays claim to his identity as Messiah and divine progeny, and reveals himself to be the guide of the people of the New Alliance.
The Fathers of the Church explain at length the profound meaning of this extraordinary ancient symbol that we refer to simply as the “Good Shepherd”, playing above all on the linguistic expressions of “descent” and “ascent”, as may be deduced by that “chaste shepherd” of who Abercio declared himself a disciple, in the famous inscription “who shepherds flocks of sheep over mountains and plains”. The descent toward the plain becomes, indeed, a symbol of Jesus’ incarnation: an extraordinary “descent” due to an excess of love for mankind, leading to, according to the mysterious expression of the Scriptures, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, descended from the mountains (Origen, Contra Celsum, 4, 17). The “descent” (katábasis, in Greek) of the shepherd becomes the image of his kénosis, or rather his “lowering”, “humiliation”. According to Saint Paul, although “being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8). Like Origen in the East, Irenaeus of Lyons (end II century) also reassumed the synoptic parable of the “good shepherd”, that of the lost sheep (cf. Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:3-7): “The Lord came to seek the lost sheep, and the lost man”(Demonstratio apostolicae praedicationis, 33). But the “descent” of the divine Shepherd in his incarnation is also his descent into death, extreme fulfillment of his kénosis: the parable of the lost sheep is included, therefore, as “the parable of the Passion” (Pseudo-Cyprian, De centesima, 10) indicating how Christ, dying, “descended to those things which are of the earth beneath, seeking the sheep which had perished” (Irenaeus, Contra haereses, 3, 19, 3). Irenaeus himself, however, returning to an image from the Letter to the Hebrews, “...who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb 13:20) brings to completion the rich symbology of the shepherd, finally showing his ascent (anábasis, in Greek), his rising from the dead, the Resurrection: “...descends to those things which are of the earth beneath, seeking the sheep which had perished,[...] ascends to the height above, offering and commending to His Father that human nature (hominem) which had been found” (Irenaeus, Contra haereses, 3, 19, 3). Thus Origen concludes: “For just one lost little sheep, he descended to earth; he found it; placed it on his shoulders and brought it to the heavens” (In Josue, 7, 16).
This is what richness of meaning is concealed in that shepherd with the lamb across his shoulders. This is the reason for which the pagan symbol of philanthropy could so well express the philanthropy of God, revealed in Christ: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). It is not important to establish whether the “criofori” shepherd figures which reached us from that precious moment of cultural and spiritual contact, that is, the third century, were truly created in a Christian environment: we can recognize, in any case, with the guidance of Biblical and patristic writings, without fear of error, the true Shepherd of which they speak to us. In some instances the identification appears more certain, for example in those where the figure of the Shepherd, by this time idealized, assumes–as in this one, which is the most celebrated among all the examples–the face of Apollo, delusory god of beauty and eloquence, which nevertheless bows, in that expressive, yet appreciated freedom , to illustrate an ancient biblical image referring to the Messiah: “Of all men you are the most handsome, gracefulness is a dew upon your lips, for God has blessed you for ever” (Ps 45:2).
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Sarcophagus front depicting the Good Shepherd and the apostolic college
60 x 221 x 11 cm
from the cemetery of Ciriaca (or St. Lorenzo)?; then in the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura; then at Santa Maria Nuova (Santa Francesca Romana); from 1575 in the Christian Museum of Benedetto XIV; from 1854 in the Pius Christian Museum
Vatican City, Vatican Museums, Pius Christian Museum
The wide front of the sarcophagus, today separated from its original case and without the top, is entirely decorated with reliefs: at the center is the face of Christ, with a haloed Apollinian face, shown as the “good shepherd” in the act of caressing a lamb on his right; at his sides are arranged, on each side, two groups of six virile characters wearing tunics and palliums, in various poses (the apostles, among whom we can see, to the right and the left of Christ, the physionomic traits of Peter and Paul) and, at their feet, six lambs, including the first to the right of Christ. At the edges of the iconographic field, two other shepherds (with anonymous faces) take care of other sheep, against a rustic background.
The sarcophagus is an excellent example of courtly art in Rome during the age of the Emperor Theodosius (379-395), which saw the production of refined sculptural artifacts, increasingly attentive to representing in images, the new awareness of the ecclesial community which, since the age of the Peace of the Church, had now at the end of the century, emerged as the sole religious representative recognized by the State (Edict of Thessalonika, 380). Thus were multiplied on the front of sarcophagi scenes showing the regal dignity of Christ, surrounded by the apostles and dignitaries; emphatic images spread of the maiestas Domini and of the traditio Legis; from a decorative point of view, there was a growth in triumphal biblical scenes such as the entry into Jerusalem, the presentation to Pilate (where Christ shows himself to be a true king), the healing of the paralyzed man at Bethesda (with the central figure of the thaumaturgical Christ), or also the grandiose journey through the Red Sea (with Moses as a prefiguration of Christ, guide and savior of the new people). But beyond the social substratum, it is the theological thought of the community itself - which is becoming deeper and more systematic - that is manifested in the works of art produced within. So the front of the sarcophagus under consideration here also constitutes an admirable page, written in images, of the Christology and Ecclesiology of the late 4th century, which we wish to deal with here.
Consider, first of all, the figure of the Shepherd. If the pastoral scenes and the one-time pagan image of the criòforo shepherd (“one carrying a lamb”) had filled the fronts of sarcophagi between mid 3rd and the start of the 4th century, steering - in an intercultural passage of surprising naturalness - the evangelical figure of the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn. 10:11), the expressive freedom that followed the Peace of the Constantine led to its gradual disappearance in favor of more explicit scenes featuring the miracles of Christ, which better emphasize the saving power of the Savior. Here, instead, the figure of Christ, the Good Shepherd, returns to the center of the representation, his human face, lent to him by the false god of beauty and eloquence, shows his celestial nature, as does the circular halo, borrowed from pagan iconography during those years. This figure of the Shepherd therefore has to be understood in connection to the apostolic college that lines up alongside him, in a surprising iconographic match. In fact the Twelve appear, portrayed canonically in sumptuous clothing, in gestures of acclamation or adlocutio, or simply holding a scroll, all revealing themselves to be discipuli in dialogue with their magister. But here is the surprise: the Master, whom other portrayals on sarcophagi have led us used to recognizing as a similarly and richly draped figure, is instead presented here humbly dressed as a shepherd, with his short tunic and buttoned cloak on his shoulders. Rather, he is shown caressing the first in a series of twelve lambs which, placed at the feet of the apostles, are shown as nothing other than the repeated images of the apostles themselves, in what is perhaps the most common of the paleo-Christian “zoomorphic substitutions”, which translate biblical characters into symbolic animals (think of Jesus as fish or lamb; the apostles as lambs or elsewhere as doves, etc). Usually, though, the theories of lambs/apostles turn their attention to a central lamb, Christ, usually shown on the mount of the apocalypse, as in many of the known portrayals. Our sarcophagus therefore is the fusion of two different iconographic typologies: the apostolic college presided over by the “philosopher” Master and the lambs/apostles who turn to the lamb/Christ. The conceptual trait d’union of this singular, dual composition is to be found in its central figure: John’s theology of the Good Shepherd, a cornerstone in a large part of Christological thought from early Christianity, which merges here with an ecclesiological consideration on the apostolic college and pastoral services in the Christian community of the late 4th century. If the mission of the apostles is that of pasturing the flock entrusted to them by the Lord (cf. 1 Pet 5:2), training the faithful in the truth of his Gospel, it is also true that this pastoral munus comes to them from the role of Jesus himself, “the chief shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4), the Good Shepherd shown at the center, that is, at the head, of this college. And it is in this sense, in the gesture of tenderness that Jesus directs to the lamb on his right, corresponding with the apostle Peter, that we can hear the echo of the words directed to him by the Risen One: “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15-17). Peter, the leader of the apostles, as the Gospel reveals at various points and as the iconography underlines by placing him as first on the right of the Lord, is explicitly indicated as the lamb/shepherd of the other lambs/shepherds, his companions. It would not be inappropriate to refer to the organization which was being increasingly defined at the time of the hierarchical structure of the Church, and the primatial awareness of the “apostolic see” of Rome, favored in fact by the two Popes of the second half of the 4th century, Damasus (366-384) and Siricius (384-389). Finally, to Christ’s right we can make out the presence of Paul who by now has taken the place in the iconography of the traitor apostle, imposing himself over Matthias of the Acts(cf. Act 1:26) and establishing himself definitively as the symmetrical correspondence of Peter, as seen already in the scenes of maiestas and traditio (to emphasize in this way the apostolic origins of the Roman Church, the site of the martyrdom of the two apostles, but also the unity of the western and eastern souls of Christianity). The shepherds caressing the lambs at the outside edges of the sarcophagus’ front, finally, close the portrayal (also as the iconographic pendant of the central Christ/shepherd) and provide the final interpretive key for the two groups of apostles: they are, in fact, “sent” (as their name suggests) to nourish his people with love, and from their great “shepherd” they hear the invitation that forms the explicit of Matthew’s Gospel: “Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him [...]. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (Mt 28:16-20).
[00019-02.10] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]
Sarcophagus fragments depicting Christ and the Evangelists on a ship
ca. 325-350 BCwhite marble
20 x 46 x 7.5 cm
unknown origin; then Spoleto, Apostoli, recycled as a wall element; bought by G.B. de Rossi and finally donated to the Pius Christian Museum by Natalia Ferraioli de Rossi; 1931
Vatican City, Vatican Museums, Pius Christian Museum
This small fragment on the top of the sarcophagus, from the beginning of the IV century, can be linked to the many maritime images that can often be found in ancient Greco-Roman art, and often used in the decoration of sarcophagi. One can see a boat with a slim prow and a low hull, navigated by a pilot with a full head of hair and rich clothing, while three rowers covered only with loincloths follow his orders. The ship moves over a choppy sea, while on the right one can just make out the remains of the base of a lighthouse. Inscriptions placed as captions next to the figures clarify the men’s identities: the pilot on the right is Iesus, Jesus - which can be guessed at from the iconography of the Apollinian face, even if vague - and the rowers who are instead, from left to right, Marcus, Lucas and Iojannes, the names of the three Evangelists, which leads us to expect for the sake of coherence, past the fracture, the presence of the fourth Evangelist, Matthew.
The generic boat which appears on many sarcophagi and on ancient inscriptions thus receives, on this fragment, its truest identity: in fact it represents the Church, who, like the ship in the calm after the storm (cf. Mt 8:23-27 et seq), “she is disquieted "in the sea," that is, in the world, "by the waves," that is, by persecutions and temptations; the Lord, through patience, sleeping as it were, until, roused in their last extremities by the prayers of the saints, He checks the world, and restores tranquillity to His own” (Tertullian, De Baptismo, 12, 8). In the letter addressed to James (14:1), at the beginning of his Homeliae (1, 14), the author of the Pseudo-Clementines also states that “the entire body of the Church looks like a great ship, which transports men from faraway places in a violent storm”. He points out also that Christ is this ship’s pilot - as our fragment clearly shows - the bishop is the look-out, while the deacons, the priests and the catechists are the rowers. Even Hippolytus of Rome picks up (De antichristo, 59) the same analogy, restating that “the sea is the world; the Church, like a ship, is rocked by the currents, but not submerged: in fact it has an expert pilot, Christ”, while “it has the two Testaments as its rudders”.
Other Fathers underline the meaning of the various parts of this ship, in particular referring to the main mast, which symbolizes by its shape the Cross, however we would like to underline here the reference to the Scriptures proposed by Hippolytus and the importance given by Clement, about the composition of the crew of the ship, to the catechists: these in fact teach the faith to the faithful, and primarily based on the Scripture and the Gospels, and are the true protagonists in the work of spreading and understanding the “good news” of salvation. The evangelists who push the boat guided by Christ, can not but refer to the invitation that Jesus addresses to His followers at the end of the evangelical story: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:15); “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
The boat rowed by the evangelists and guided by Christ to the port of salvation is also, in conclusion, an effective image of the unstoppable spreading of the Christian message (the kérygma, using a Greek word), of that evanghélion, the good news, which, when embraced leads to salvation (baptism, as the beginning of a new life), and which, thanks to the capillary spreading of the evangelical texts, was carried - truly by the ways of the sea - to the banks of the ancient world.
[00020-02.08] [NNNNN] [Original text: Italian]
The corrections published in the Errata Corrige in Bulletin No.04 can be found in the specific Bulletins published in these Internet pages.