Pope Benedict XVI underscored "three pastoral themes" to a group of bishops and other church leaders from around the world. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope to synod: Foster 'missionary dynamism' and 'pastoral creativity'

By  Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
  • October 29, 2012

VATICAN CITY - Winning converts to the church, ministering better to practicing Catholics and bringing lapsed members back into the fold are all parts of the multifaceted effort known as the "new evangelization," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of bishops and other church leaders from around the world.

The pope made his remarks Oct. 28 during his homily at a Mass marking the end of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. The three-week gathering, which brought more than 260 bishops and religious superiors to the Vatican, along with dozens of official observers and experts, discussed how the church can revive and spread the faith in increasingly secular societies.

Pope Benedict underscored "three pastoral themes" that he said had emerged from the talks.

"Ordinary pastoral ministry ... must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful," he said, stressing the importance of the sacrament of confession, and the necessity of "appropriate catechesis" in preparation for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

The pope also called for a "new missionary dynamism" to "proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ."

"There are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel," the pope said. And as a result of migration driven by globalization, he added, the "first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago."

Finally, the pope spoke of the need to persuade lapsed Catholics, "especially in the most secular countries," to "encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful."

This effort, in particular, calls for "pastoral creativity" and use of a "new language attuned to the different world cultures," he said. As an example of such innovation, the pope mentioned the Vatican's "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, which promotes dialogue between religious believers and agnostics.

Referring to the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, the pope invoked Bartimaeus -- the blind man who miraculously received his sight back from Jesus and then joined him as one of the disciples -- as a model for Christians in countries "where the light of faith has grown dim."

"New evangelizers are like that," Pope Benedict said, "people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ."

The day before the closing Mass, at the synod's last working session Oct. 27, Pope Benedict thanked the participants for their work, including the final propositions that will eventually serve as the basis for a document of the pope's own reflections on the new evangelization.

At that same meeting, the pope said that he had decided to make two administrative changes relevant to the new evangelization. Responsibility for seminaries will shift from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy, he said; and responsibility for catechesis will shift from the latter office to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The pope also congratulated the six bishops, four of them members of the synod, whom he will induct into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24. He said he had named the new cardinals-designate, none of whom hails from Europe, as a sign of "the universality of the church, showing that the church is a church of all peoples, (and) speaks in all languages ... not a church of one continent, but a universal church."

One of the cardinals-designate, Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, was also one of 15 new members of the ordinary council of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops announced Oct. 26.

The new council members, who will oversee the international gatherings of bishops periodically held at the Vatican, include two U.S. bishops: Cardinals Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Timothy M. Dolan of New York. Others included Cardinals Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria; Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and George Pell of Sydney.

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