Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New evangelization -- yes, it's that important

Today at the Vatican, the administration of the Holy See grew by another office. Here in the Philadelphia area, so far away and living in a time of shrinking staffs and the budgets that sustain workers, one has to wonder about adding a new department to the Roman curia of the Catholic Church.

But this is a good move because it lies at the heart of what the Church is all about.

Pope Benedict has established a new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. (OK, so it lacks an elegant title. It’s the thought that counts.)

Its fundamental task, the Pope said in making the announcement, is to promote “renewed evangelization in countries where the first announcement of the faith has already been heard and where there are Churches of ancient foundation, but where a progressive secularisation of society is being experienced, a kind of 'eclipse of the meaning of God.'" These countries, he said, "are a challenge to us to find the adequate means to re-present the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ."

The Holy Father concluded by affirming that "the challenge of the new evangelisation calls to the universal Church, it asks us to remain committed to the search for full unity among Christians.”
The concept of “new evangelization” began with Pope Paul VI and was expanded and promoted heavily under his successor, Pope John Paul II. Now that venerable pope’s successor places it at the highest level of the Church’s administration under the leadership of its president, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.

That is how important new evangelization is.

But just what is it? And what’s new about it?

The Catholic Standard and Times earlier this year described what is meant by a new evangelization. It’s not doing the same things of the past to share the Gospel message with others in perhaps an attempt to convert. It is a whole new way of sharing the person of Jesus with the rest of the world.

The Pope said at that time, in May, that it requires a personal witness: “Bear witness to all of the joy that (Jesus’) strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries,” Pope Benedict said. “Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following Him.”

So the work of this new office couldn’t be more important. Its task is to help every Catholic and Christian working together to tell (and show by our lives) the beauty of being a friend of Jesus.