Dear Brother Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
I was very pleased to accept an invitation to come to your Congress and reflect with you on some of the challenges facing our evangelizing and catechetical activity to-day. With much intuition, it has been said that the next millennium is going to be either a Christian millennium or it will not be a Christian millennium.
I wish to thank you, firstly, for the great contribution you make in your local Churches by your service to the Word. I am aware of your solicitude and pastoral zeal. I know that you employ the best personnel, means and resources to promote evangelization and catechesis in every area and for all age groups: children, adolescents, young people and adults.
May God reward you for this work and grant you a share in the reward promised to those who work for the Gospel.
The Congregation for the Clergy is close to you; it follows you with affection; admires your enthusiasm and encourages the important work you have been doing for some time now.
Permit me to begin my contribution with some considerations which are intended as a indispensable background for the picture I am preparing to paint.
To-day, the terms "evangelization" and "catechesis" are often understood in an immediate way as "things to be done", "activities to be organized" or "programmes to be drawn up and realized". In itself, this is laudable since proclaiming the Gospel cannot be separated from competent use the methods and means which are necessary for its proclamation. However, the question of evangelization and catechesis is more complex than this and cannot be reduced to mere technology.
In addressing you to-day on some aspects of evangelization and catechesis, I begin by situating myself within the profound horizon of truth in which both of these ecclesial actions are rooted.
This does not mean anchoring them artificially in some abstract or nebulous theory. Rather, it means firstly that these are realities which are proper to the Church and to each particular Church which is sent to proclaim Christ, the truth that saves.
Evangelizing and catechizing, more than being activities or programmes, vehicles or technologies, are actions of the ecclesial body requiring subjects-persons who act in relation to other subjects and whose primary reference point is the unique person of the Incarnate Word.
I cannot over emphasize this point which has been clearly highlighted in the new catechetical Directory when it
In this profound rational, the responsibility of our episcopal ministry emerges clearly and decisively. Our episcopal office cannot be devalued or reduced to that of mere bureaucrats. By virtue of the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders, we have received the certain charism of truth and we have been invested with primary responsibility for preaching the Gospel (GCD 222).
The comments of the Holy Father on the occasion of the presentation the latin editio typica of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Osservatore Romano, 8-9 September 1997, p.5) last year are most enlightening:
On that occasion the Holy Father clearly identified the Pastors of the various dioceses throughout the world as those to whom this text is principally directed. What the Holy Father said in relation to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, can be applied validly to the entire catechetical service. From the Lord we have received the precious gift of the Gospel which, in turn, by our commitment and daily efforts, we must transmit to those entrusted to our care.
In concluding my introduction, I must express special gratitude for the praiseworthy efforts of you, my brother Bishops, shown in production of the National Catechetical Directory for the Catholics of the United States, Sharing the Faith (1977).
With prudent patience, courage and resolve, you must now begin the important work of revision and renewal of catechesis in your country in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the General Directory for Catechesis.
Without further delay, let us reflect on the various themes that you have asked me to comment on.
Evangelization as the foundation and context of Catechesis
1. The term evangelization
The first point of my paper touches on the relationship between evangelization and catechesis. To understand this relationship it is necessary to clarify these terms. Let us begin with the first, evangelization.
1.1. Evangelization in the General Directory for Catechesis
The General Directory for Catechesis synthesizes the contents of the conciliar and post-conciliar Magisterium relating to the concept of evangelization, especially AG, EN, CT and RM. The General Directory presents evangelization as a process through which the Church:
We can say that the General Directory for Catechesis presents evangelization as a great frame enclosing all of the Church's pastoral action and in which all of her evangelizing actions are present and highlighted.
2. The term catechesis
Article 63 of the General Directory for Catechesis, in the wake of AG, EN and CT, also describes catechesis as a "moment" in the process of evangelization and defines it as: "The 'moment' of catechesis is that which corresponds to the period in which conversion to Jesus Christ is formalized and provides a basis for first adhering to him. Converts, by means of a 'period of formation, an apprenticeship in the whole Christian life', are initiated into the mystery of salvation and an evangelical style of life. This means 'initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life'".
The Holy Father in his ad limina discourse of 30 May 1998 to Bishops of the United States indicated that catechesis "plays a fundamental role in transmitting the faith...The Gospel message is the definitive response to the deepest longings of the human heart. Young catholics have a right to hear the full content of that message in order to come to know Christ, the One who has overcome death and opened the way to salvation. Efforts to renew catechesis must be based on the premise that Christ's teaching, as transmitted in the Church and as authentically interpreted by the Magisterium, has to be presented in all its richness and the methodologies used have to respond to the nature of the faith as truth received (cf. 1 Cor 15:1)".
3. Evangelization as foundation and context for catechesis
If we take evangelization in the full sense of EN as does CT and the General Catechetical Directory, and if we take evangelization in the sense of ministry of the word embracing in itself the various forms of missionary preaching, catechesis, liturgical preaching, theological activity etc., then evangelization and the ministry of the Word do not appear as foundations for catechesis, understood specifically (bringing initial faith maturity in the fullness of Christian life). Rather it appears as a frame or context for these.
Evangelization is that rich, complex and dynamic reality of which catechesis is an indispensable element, an most important stage, an essential moment (cf. CT 18)
Ministry of the Word is a genus containing, together with various species, that of catechesis.
If, however, we understand "evangelization" as kerygma or primary proclamation of the Gospel to non- believers which stirs up faith and if catechesis is understood in its specific sense as a maturing of faith and incorporation into the Christian community, then evangelization is rightly regarded as the founding principal and general presupposition of catechesis. Only a faith aroused by primary proclamation of the Gospel can be brought to maturity. Only someone who has already converted and who, having accepted the kerygma, has given total acceptance to the Gospel of Christ can be incorporated into his Church.
The Role of Priests in Catechesis
This is the second point of my contribution.
This is an interesting topic and one which currently has a certain urgency. It pains me to have to say that a severe examination of conscience is required in its regard.
Let us begin with Lumen Gentium 28: "Priests are ordained to preach the Gospel, feed the flock and celebrate divine Worship".
This duty derives from the Sacrament of Orders which the priest has received. The General Directory for Catechesis emphasises this aspect more forcefully than the Directory for the ministry and life of Priests:
"The function proper to the presbyterate in the catechumenal task arises from the Sacrament of Holy Orders which they have received. 'Through that Sacrament priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed by a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest, in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head'. In virtue of this ontological configuration to Christ, the ministry of the priest is a service which forms the Christian community and co-ordinates and strengthens other charisms and services. In catechesis the Sacrament of Holy Orders constitutes priests as 'educators of the faith'. They work, therefore, to see that the faithful are properly formed to reach true Christian maturity" (GDC 224).
Some tasks for the priest in catechesis
In outlining some of the tasks of the priest in catechesis the following must be mentioned:
1. The particular responsibility of the priest in a shared task
The priest is not the only one responsible for catechetical activity. he works in communion with the diocesan Bishop and is assisted by a multiplicity of catechists both religious and secular (ChL 34). In his relations with catechists he should avoid taking oscillating or polarizing positions which could lead him to a monopoly of catechesis one minute or to delegating to others the next minute, thereby abandoning de facto his particular responsibilities. Promoting unity among catechists and those who assist in the pastoral ministry in the parish is the peculiar task of the priest.
From the new consciousness of the ecclesial communion of which the priest is promotor and for which he has responsibility, necessarily, there follows good coordination of catechesis and of the various roles to be played in it.
In this way the role of the parish as the principal and privileged locus of catechesis is underlined (cf CT 67).
2. A priority task in the pastoral ministry of the priest
Catechetical activity is still regarded by many Christians as something only belonging to childhood or as a prerequisite for reception of the Sacraments.
For these reasons it is necessary to emphasise the primary value of catechetical action in the life and mission of the priest since it is through education in the faith, especially through systematic catechesis, that the personality of the baptized and the very life of the Church are constituted and the mission of the salus animarum is advanced.
The priest should thus ensure that the community has been informed of the importance of catechesis at the various stages of life so as to help them to overcome the impoverished vision of catechesis prevalent among so many Christians.
The manner in which the priest responds to his catechetical responsibilities, the extent of his commitment, the enthusiasm of his personal dedication will always illustrate the importance which he attaches to this fundamental task. In turn, this depends greatly on the vision that he has of catechesis and of its role in the pastoral ministry. An inadequate or poor understanding of catechesis will lead the priest to see his role as something merely organizational or as just another of the many things he has to do.
3. Catechesis for adults and young people
The responsibilities of priests for educating the faith of the baptized extends to activities other than promoting or ensuring adequate systematic catechesis for each of the distinct stages of life. Other activities deserve to be mentioned, especially in relation to the family, training religion teachers for Catholic schools and Christian formation in educational and apostolic movements.
In all of these activities the proper function of the priest is to ensure and guarantee that such activities are in place and that they have attained an acceptable quality level. It is not his task, however, to concentrate the realization of these activities in his own person.
In the present circumstances of society and the Church, on the other hand, it is necessary for priests, together with those who collaborate in the educational and catechetical mission of the community, to take on the task of promoting systematic catechesis for adults and young people.
This requires a Christian initiation or a re-initiation for those whose faith has not matured to that point which is the indispensable base for the missionary demands made by the present moment.
Restricting catechesis to childhood or adolescence would be tantamount to a refusal to multiply the effects of evangelization and to dedicate greater effort on the part of the Church to spreading the Gospel. Young people and adults are a new challenge for the catechetical responsibility of the pastors of the Church.
Priests must be conscious and convinced of this. Hence the urgency attached to the catechetical formation of priests and seminarians.
The catechetical formation of priests and those preparing for ordination, hence, is an urgent priority for renewal efforts in the Church's pastoral care of catechesis which is required in order to meet the challenges posed by new evangelization.
All renewal and revitalization of catechesis must necessarily pass through the maturity of faith and the spiritual revitalization of priests.
At the present time, priestly formation must emphasise the need to be able to communicate the Christian message as good news, which enlightens and transforms the whole of human life and leads to eternal life (GCD 1971, 111).
Together with the ability to dialogue with others, it is also necessary to know and be able to explain in a convincing way the content of the faith in which are expressed the proclamation and the great events of Christian salvation. Formation must, thus, help to individuate the fundamental elements of the Christian faith in correlation with the life of men as well as capturing and identifying the original outlines of faith that is lived.
Consequently, such formation attaches particular importance to studying profoundly those texts in which the Church expresses her faith in a complete and ordered manner: Catechisms (in primis The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and local catechisms). At the same time, this also demands a cultural and theological renewal so as to assist priests in presenting the faith in an authentic and relevant manner, in response to the more dramatic challenges of our time: the discrepancy between faith and culture.
The Formation of Catechists
I have also been asked to speak about the formation of catechists. The Directory states: "Catechesis is a shared but differentiated responsibility. Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and the lay faithful play their part, each according to their respective responsibilities and charisms" (GDC 216).
There are four areas which best touch upon and complete the formation of catechists whose object is to facilitate the communication of the Christian message under the following headings:
This is what the General Directory for Catechesis defines as : being, knowing and acting as a catechist.
Being called to the service of catechesis does not of itself imply an ability to exercise this service and neither does it involve an innate competence. Vocation is a also a call to training which is permanent, systematic and whole. The 1971 Catechetical Directory already noted this in #110 and the Holy Father, during the aforementioned ad limina visit highlighted it when he stated "The Bishop should encourage catechists to see their work as a vocation: as a privileged sharing in the mission of handing on the faith and accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15)".
The need for continuous updating is self evident. The reasons for it are to be found more in a general situation of continuous and epoch-making world evolution rather than in the any particular problem facing the Church. The permanent formation of catechists is a serious work of assimilation which is connected to basic formation and presupposes that continuity which starts with initial formation. Two considerations must always be present in this initiative: on the one hand, it must refer to the Word of God, and to theology which comments on and develops it; on the other, it refers to present reality and the context in which men and women live as well as their needs. In the case of catechists, it is a dual fidelity of which permanent formation must always be conscious (cf GCD 145).
Along with being permanent, formation must also be systematic. While it is opportune that formation take place in an experience of the faith and of the ministry of the catechist, it is also true that formation cannot be episodic. Rather, precise goals should be set for the formation journey consisting of successive and complementary stages which continually develop and deepen an essential nucleus.
Formation must also be whole. This is true above all in the sense of harmonizing the diverse and different moments in the formation process. Catechists become catechists by doing catechesis and by systematic reflection on it. The interchange of formative and operative moment; between action, interpretation and verification creates true integration.
Who are those responsible for formation?
The answer to this is that the Bishops, above all others are responsible.
From my experience as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, I should like to emphasize two points that may facilitate your work. You, dear brothers in the episcopate, have responsibility for the supervision of catechesis in virtue of the charism of being authentic teachers of the faith and not simply because of some merely organizational or functional power. I would underline that the supervision of catechesis in every country is the responsibility of the local Bishops in close collaboration with the Apostolic See.
It would be very useful and pastorally fruitful were the United States Conference to constitute a specific Catechetical Commission comprised of Bishops.
Together with the Bishops, it must be recalled that priests are the primary collaborators of the diocesan Bishops in the work of evangelization and catechesis.
Priests must, primarily, promote the responsibility of all Christians to transmit the faith, by adequate preaching, by close contact with them so as to invite them to play their proper part in the realization of the fundamental task of evangelization.
Inculturating the Gospel Message
A further element in our reflection concerns inculturating the Gospel message in the area of evangelization and catechesis.
The General Directory for Catechesis states:
"The Word of God became man, a concrete man, in space and time and rooted in a specific culture: 'Christ by his incarnation committed himself to the particular social and cultural circumstances of the men among whom he lived'. This is the original 'inculturation' of the word of God and is the model of all evangelization by the Church, 'called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures'" (GCD 109).
Ever since Pentecost, when may peoples with different languages heard the same saving Word (cf Acts 2: 1-13), the Church carries on the mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world. In this sense, the history of the Church, which is that of evangelization and catechesis, can be described as the history of the inculturation of the Gospel cf RM 52).
We may ask ourselves
Concerning the first question - what is culture? - I would like to refer to Gaudium et Spes 53 :
"The word "culture" in the general sense refers to all those things which go to the refining and development of man's diverse mental and physical endowments. He strives to subdue the earth by his knowledge and his labour; he humanizes social life both in the family and in the whole civic society through the improvement of customs and institutions; he expresses through his works the great spiritual experiences and aspirations of men throughout the ages; he communicates and preserves them to be an inspiration for the progress of many, even of all mankind"
This passage indicates that the term "culture" embraces all of man's life. With culture man can become producer, popularizer and user. Because culture is human it evolves, merges, transforms, vanishes an asserts itself as the life of man and nations. Rather than culture we must necessarily speak of cultures.
The religious component is universally present in the life of all cultures.
We can speak of Christian culture when the common understanding of life current among a people has been completely imbued by the faith so that the "Gospel message forms the basis of thought, of fundamental life principles, of criteria for judgment, for the norms governing activity and from thie poition is projected onto the ethos of an people as well as their institutions and structures" (Discourse of Pope John Paul II to University teachers, Medellin, 5 July 1986, n2).
Turning to the term "inculturation" I would like to refer to Redemptor Missio 52 which states that inculturation "the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration with Christianity and Christianity's being rooted in various cultures".
The General Directory for Catechesis in a good synthesis of recent teaching of the Magisterium describes inculturation as:
"Inculturation of the faith, whereby, in a wonderful exchange are comprised 'all the riches of the nations which have been given to Christ as an inheritance', is a profound and global process and a slow journey. It is not simply an external adaptation designed to make the Christian message more attractive or superficially decorative. On the contrary it means the penetration of the deepest strata of persons and peoples by the Gospel which touches them deeply, going to 'the very centre and root' of their cultures" (cf GDC 109)
The catechetical process of inculturating the faith
Inculturating the faith means not only expressing it in the language and symbols of a given culture but also accepting and living the Gospel with the deepest values, vital aspirations, anthropological roots and symbols of a given culture. Promoting a catechesis of inculturation implies giving catechesis an innovative form in respect to extrinsic concepts of mere teaching so as to save it from superficiality or degenerating to level of a tactical instrument. In reality this implies making room for the mystery of God who encounters cultures so as to save them as well as to reveal Himself to man.
"Catechesis will seek to know these cultures and their essential components ; it will learn their most significant expressions; it will respect their particular values and riches. In this manner it will be able to offer to these the knowledge of the hidden mystery and help them to bring forth from their own living tradition original expressions of Christian life, celebration and thought" (CT 53).
For catechesis (both catechist and those being catechized), this gives rise to a whole range of responsibilities which can be summarized as follows:
Catechesis has diverse tasks in inculturating the faith. Among them the General Directory for Catechesis mentions the following:
Catechesis, therefore, is obliged to be open to modern cultures and to assist them in avoiding introversion. It should create spiritual expectations as well as seeking out and finding anchorage points for the Gospel in contemporary mentalities.
During the ad limina address of 30 May of this year, the Holy Father stated: "...the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors...and to grow into genuine freedom through their acceptance of that truth...".
The Ecumenical Formation of catechetical Workers
With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church, listening to the Spirit of Christ, committed herself irrevocably to the search for ecumenism. The re-establishment of full visible communion between Christians is willed by Christ and is essential for the life of the Catholic Church (cf Ut Unum Sint 3).
"In the hour of his passion, Jesus prayed that all "might be one" (John 17:21). The unity given to the Church by the Lord and with which he wills to embrace all is not a mere accessory but is central to his work.
The source of Christian unity is the Trinitarian unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Faithful are one because, in the Spirit, they are in communion with the Son and, in him, they share in his communion with the Father" (DE 8-9).
This is the foundation on which rests the search for Christian unity and inter-religious dialogue in their more profound dimensions which is that of revealed truth. Hence it is not possible to imagine an ecumenical formation in catechesis which is detached from Revelation, the deposit of which is conserved in the Catholic Church.
Catechesis and ecumenical formation
The Directory for the application of the principles and norms of ecumenism contains several provisions, based on Catechesi Tradendae 32-33, which shed light on the question of catechesis as a means of ecumenical formation.
Ecumenical collaboration in catechesis
In addition to the ordinary catechesis which all Catholics must receive, the Catholic Church recognizes that in circumstances of religious pluralism collaboration in catechesis can be enriching for the Catholic Church and for other ecclesial communities. Such collaboration, to the extent that its possible, also affords an opportunity of giving common witness before the world to the truth of the Gospel.
The basis for such collaboration, the conditions governing it and its limits are clearly stated in Catechesi Tradendae 33: "Such experiences have a theological foundation in the elements shared by all Christians. But the communion of faith between Catholics and other Christians is not complete and perfect; in certain cases there are even profound divergences. Consequently, this ecumenical collaboration is, by its very nature, limited: it must never mean a 'reduction'to a common minimum. Furthermore, catechesis does not consist merely in the teaching of doctrine: it also means initiation into the whole of Christian life, bringing full participation in the sacraments of the Church. Therefore, where there is an experience of ecumenical collaboration in the field of catechesis, care must be taken that the education of Catholics in the Catholic Church should be well ensured in matters of doctrine and of Christian living" (CT 33).
Careful attention must always be given to the loci of ecumenical formation. According to the Directory these are: the family, the parish, schools, diverse groups, associations and ecclesial movements.
The entire Church, Pastors and faithful, are bound to ask the Spirit of God incessantly for the grace to strengthen her own unity and increase communion with other Christians.
It is always difficult to conclude.......
One thing remains to be said and I say it mindful of all catechists throughout the world, with respect and friendship for them, and I say it with love and appreciation.
It is a word of encouragement which recalls the true font of all ecclesial mission and I would hope that catechists would take it to heart:
"Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit.... The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. It is He who explains to the faithful the deep meaning of the teaching of Jesus and of His mystery. It is the Holy Spirit who, to-day just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the Kingdom being proclaimed.
Techniques of evangelization are good, but even the most advanced ones could not replace the gentle action of the Holy Spirit. The most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the most convincing dialect has no power over the heart of man. Without Him the most highly developed schemas resting on a sociological or psychological basis are quickly seen to be quite valueless". (EN 75).
Again, let us help each other to preserve "the fervour of the Spirit. Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, event when it is in tears that we must sow.....May it be for us the great joy of our lives. May the world of our time, which is searching - sometimes in anguish, sometimes with hope - be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world". (EN 80).
Dario card. Castrillon Hoyos