Sebastian Gomes (left) and Cheridan Sanders, producers at Salt + Light Media, will be speaking on Pope Francis’ ability to evangelize young people. Photo by Joshua Lanzarini

Evangelizing Pope Francis style

  • January 16, 2015

TORONTO - Pope Francis’ “profound sense of authenticity” is what attracts young people to the pontiff, says Catholic media personality Cheridan Sanders.

In this age young people have access to all kinds of information, but they are unaccustomed to someone who “really walks the talk,” and therefore have become “deeply cynical,” she said.

But “what we see with Pope Francis is a person who has lived with integrity his entire life. He’s never shied away from the tough decisions. He’s gone through difficult periods in all of his challenges and responsibilities, and yet he has been able to maintain consistency, which is why people are just so enthralled and oh-so intrigued by him.”

She says that “there are so many areas in Europe and North America where people need to be re-evangelized. So that’s what the New Evangelization is about: how do we re-propose Christ to people today?”

Sanders, a producer with Canada’s Catholic broadcaster Salt + Light Media, is giving a talk to young adults on Jan. 22 with fellow producer Sebastian Gomes on the New Evangelization — Pope Francis Style.

Sanders and Gomes will be speaking at Theology on Tap East held at The Bear, 1294 Kingston Rd., Pickering, Ont.

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But Francis’ style was born before he was Pope. To understand his style of evangelization we need to look back to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, says Gomes, which both he and Sanders spent time focused on.

From the Synod, called by Pope Benedict XVI, came the idea that “New Evangelization has to begin with ourselves,” Gomes told The Catholic Register. The bishops surmised that there needs to be elements of conversion, reflection and education of the self in order to become credible to evangelize, Gomes said.  

“Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Archbishop of Washington, D.C.) told me in an interview I did with him last year, it’s almost like Pope Francis came out of that Synod in the way he presents the Gospel in a kind of humble, simple way, even referring to himself as a sinner. He knows that personal conversion and that kind of reflection is also important for him as the Pope, just like it is for every other Christian and every other Catholic,” said Gomes.

The 2012 Synod also focused on the importance of listening, he added.

“Pope Francis in the way that he is reforming the bureaucracy and dealing with people one on one, meeting with people and paying attention to people, exemplifies kind of a person who listens, who genuinely listens,” he said. Young people are bombarded with so many voices through their phones, social media, computers, etc., but if “you don’t help them to grasp a new understanding of listening, they won’t understand the New Evangelization.”

Sanders thinks Pope Francis’ style of evangelization also stretches back before the Synod.

“A lot of the things that we see in Pope Francis that just connects so deeply with us, I think are a result of the formation that comes out of that Second Vatican Council… and the desire to meet the world where it’s at and walk with that world to a better world,” she said.

“Young people want to do great things with their life. They don’t start out life thinking I want to do the least amount. They want great things. So I think there’s something about the mission of Christ, even what Pope Francis is calling us to do, that naturally connects with young people. What greater thing could you do with your life than to aim to be a saint, really?”

Gomes believes the Pope realizes that the most important message to share with today’s world is that Jesus is for everyone and is loving, merciful and compassionate.

“And you can tell that he believes it wholeheartedly, and his whole life is grounded in that. And that’s very appealing,” he said.

“If our presentation is effective, they (young people) should feel the same way as they’d feel about Pope Francis and the way he makes people feel, and that is welcomed, included, important, needed, necessary... loved.”

Sanders wants the audience to walk away feeling inspired, realizing that their actions matter, having “a profound sense of their own agency,” and knowing the Church has confidence in “their ability to bring about the Kingdom of God.”

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