By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012
VATICAN CITY — The synod recessed on Saturday afternoon and only returned to session on Tuesday. In the interim the rapporteurs, those elected to serve as secretaries of each of the small groups, have been working hard to formulate the propositions for consideration by the synod fathers.
There were 330 propositions submitted by the small groups. Over the weekend, they were organized by the rapporteurs according to similarity of content and reduced in number. This morning, 57 propositions were presented to the synod fathers covering a wide range of recommendations.
After prayer, before the announcement of the propositions, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, announced to the body that the Holy Father had intended to send a delegation of synod fathers to Syria to show solidarity to the people suffering the ravages of war and violence, but circumstances have made it necessary to postpone that trip until a time when it can be determined how the visit could be conducted safely and with maximum effect. While disappointing, the visitation remains a hope for the near future.
Many in our country and around the world have expressed interest in this Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith and hold great expectations for a renewal of faith during this Year of Faith. That expectation is moving toward reality in the formulation of the initial propositions.
Among the propositions (my summary; the official document covers 29 pages) that will now receive attention over the next two days as well as further revision by the small groups were:
- Evangelization has to be understood in a broad and profound theological/doctrinal framework reminding us that the new evangelization is not just a bunch of programs but needs to be grounded in the faith, the activity of word and sacrament emphasizing the primacy of God’s grace.
- There is a need for all Catholics to awaken their faith and to be inspired to witness that faith and share it with others. Each culture and society needs to find ways for this to happen in the circumstances of their society.
- The Gospel is meant for all which energizes our efforts to bring Christ everywhere.
- Every local church must rediscover its missionary dimension and make the new evangelization come to life in their community.
- Christians must be salt and light of a new world for which we hope.
- First proclamation must be linked with catechesis. There was a call by the synod fathers for a compendium of the initial proclamation of the kerygma.
- Every Christian has an obligation to proclaim the Good News. All have an inalienable right to hear the Gospel.
- The Bible is an important document of the faith. Sacred Scripture should be open to all Christians. There is a need for Bible study and for the Scriptures to permeate homilies, catechesis and every effort to pass on the faith. Believers should learn to pray the Scriptures, especially through Lectio Divina, the prayerful reading and reflection on the Bible.
Similarly the documents of Vatican II are a vital instrument for transmitting the faith. Reading and interpretation of those documents should reflect the Holy Father’s hermeneutical principal of reform within continuity.
- The Gospel offers a vision of life and of the world that cannot be imposed, but only proposed, as the good news of the gratuitous love of God and of peace. Believers must strive to show to the world the splendor of a humanity rooted in the mystery of Christ.
- The new evangelization must undertake the task of reconciling among themselves human beings and societies. The church has to make an effort to break down the walls that separate human beings and work to build harmony, peace and justice among all peoples.
- The synod calls upon lawyers, legislators, teachers and those who work in the field of human sciences to enable the human person, with all his essential goods, as set forth in natural law, to be recognized in legislation and in practice.
- Religious liberty is a basic human right including the freedom of conscience and the freedom to change religions as well as the right to teach religion in the family and/or school. There is a need to give broader consideration to Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II document on religious liberty. Consideration should be given by the Holy Father to establishing a commission of church leaders representing various parts of the church throughout the world or refer to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to address attacks on religious liberty and to uphold religious liberty and the freedom of conscience.
Faith is not opposed to reason and needs to highlight a number of truths and realities which pertain to a correct anthropology, including the value of natural law. The synod calls upon theologians to accept the intellectual challenge of the new evangelization by participating in the mission of the hurch to proclaim to all the Gospel of Christ.
- The role of social communication is important in handing on the faith. The primary mode of evangelization is personal witness, yet education in the wise and constructive use of social media is an important means to be utilized in the new evangelization.
- There needs to be proclamation of the full freedom from everything that oppresses the human person. Without a serious commitment for justice and the change of situations that generate poverty and exclusion, there can be no progress.
- There needs to be particular attention to the way of beauty. Beauty attracts us to love, through which God reveals to us his face in which we believe. Seminarians should be educated in beauty and in the sacred arts. Similarly care should be given to art in sacred spaces. The church remains interested and involved in all fields of art.
- The church must give its support to migrating peoples through a pastoral plan that includes them and their families and reminds them of their important place of society and the church. Parishes should help the migrants integrate themselves into society and the Christian community. The plan should not only welcome migrants and promote their human dignity but help them to be integrated into the life of the church and not get lost. The dignity of the human person must always be upheld.
- The new evangelization requires personal and community conversion including new methods of evangelization and renewal of the pastoral structures, in order to be able to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance to a pastoral strategy that is truly missionary.
- The common element in the varied stories of holiness found in the lives of the saints is the following of Christ expressed in a life of faith, active in charity. Holiness is a significant part of every evangelizing commitment for the one who evangelizes and for the good of those evangelized.
- Greater attention should be given to the church’s social doctrine. This embrace of the church’s social doctrine should permeate the content of catechesis, Christian education, formation of seminarians and religious, the continuing formation of bishops and priests, and most especially the formation of the laity.
Emphasis must be given to the urban context. The proclamation of the Gospel can be the basis to restore the dignity of human life in urban contexts in which such dignity is oftentimes not upheld.
- The parish continues to be the primary presence of the church in neighborhoods. Parishes are encouraged to orient themselves to a greater emphasis on evangelization which might include parish missions, parish renewal programs, and parish retreats. Movements can also play a part in the parish’s renewal.
- Education is a constituent dimension of evangelization. Children, teens, and young people have a right to be evangelized and educated. Appreciation was expressed to teachers in Catholic schools. Emphasis on the ongoing formation of teachers was emphasized. The Catholic identity of Catholic schools remains primary.
- One cannot speak of the new evangelization if the catechesis of adults is nonexistent, fragmented, weak or neglected. Catechumens inspire the faith of the baptized.
- All evangelizers need to be well catechized and well prepared. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a primary instrument of this formation.
- Theology as the science of faith has an importance for the new evangelization. The synod proposes the establishment of a Department of New Evangelization Studies, especially at the pontifical universities but also at other Catholic universities.
- We need to seek out the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick and abandoned, drug addicts, migrants and the marginalized, political and environmental refugees, the indigenous peoples. The current economic crisis affects especially the poor.
- In the sick, the suffering, the handicapped and those with special needs, Christ’s suffering is present and has a missionary force. For Christians there must always be a place for the suffering and the sick. They need our care, but we receive even more from their faith. The sick are very important participants in the new evangelization.
In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, all the baptized have a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ as well as an encounter with the church facilitating a full reconciliation. This sacrament must be put again at the center of the pastoral activity of the church. At least one place in the diocese should have reconciliation available at all times.
- The renewal of faith must lead to a more intense practice of the Catholic life. All must renew their love for the Eucharist. We must renew our identity as eucharistic people. Even though there is a tension between the Christian Sunday and the secular Sunday, Sunday needs to be recovered for the new evangelization. Full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy by the whole community is the goal. The liturgical year with its feasts should be followed by a true program of evangelization.
- The liturgy of the church is evangelizing by its nature. Evangelization in the church calls for a liturgy that lifts the heart of men and women to God. The liturgy of the church is the best school of the faith.
- The first agent of evangelization is the Holy Spirit. Prayer needs to be encouraged and taught from infancy. Children and youth should be educated in the family and in schools.
- Through confirmation all the baptized receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, his charisms and the power to give witness to the Gospel openly and with courage,
- Christian initiation is a crucial element in the new evangelization. The three sacraments of Christian initiation despite their theological unity are pastorally diverse. Study should be made to consider which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the center.
- Pilgrimages to shrines and sanctuaries are an important aspect of the new evangelization.
- Affirmation was made of the formation of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization established by the pope. The council should carry on the synodal discussions from this synod. Consideration by episcopal conferences to form such a body in their conference was suggested.
- The particular church led by the bishop who is helped by priests and deacons, with the collaboration of the laity and consecrated persons, is the subject of the new evangelization. It is desirable that each particular church, whatever difficulties occur, developed a sense of mission among her faithful by cooperating with other particular churches.
Each diocese is the primary community of the church’s mission. It must animate and lead a renewed pastoral activity able to integrate the variety of charisms, ministries, states of life, and resources. All these realities must be coordinated within an organic missionary project.
- There are hierarchical and charismatic gifts present in the church It is the responsibility of the bishop to judge the genuineness of charismatic gifts. He is to guide these charisms. These two gifts are not in competition with one another, but rather co-essential to the life of the church and to the effectiveness of her missionary activity.
- The parish remains the usual environment for the spiritual life of the parishioners. Consideration in the parish should be given to serving in hospitals, youth centers, prisons, etc.
- The vocation and mission proper to lay faithful is the transformation of worldly structures, to let all human behavior and activities be informed by the Gospel. It is so important to form the moral conscience of lay people. The church must value the role of lay people as a Christian vocation and provide adequate formation to awaken them to their evangelizing mission in the world.
- The synod acknowledges and appreciates the role of women in society and in the church, Women continue to be active in the Christian community. They keep their faith alive and educate others in the faith. Their growing contribution to theological reflection and to pastoral activity is a sign of the times as well as a treasure for our church. It is impossible to think of the new evangelization without the participation of women. Like Jesus, our Christian communities should joyously welcome the presence and evangelizing action of women.
- It is necessary to establish centers of formation for evangelizers where all learn how to speak of the person of Christ in a persuasive manner adapted to our time and to specific groups of people. Trinitarian Christocentricity is the most essential and fundamental criterion for presenting the Gospel message in all three moments of evangelization: initial proclamation, catechesis or ongoing formation.
- The Christian family as the domestic church is the locus and first agent in the giving of life and love, the transmission of faith and the formation of the human person according to the values of the Gospel. We must support the family. The new evangelization should strive to address significant pastoral problems around marriage: the case of divorced and remarried who cannot receive Holy Communion, the situation where couples are living together without marriage, and the trend in society to redefine marriage.
- Bishops and priests need to know the lives of the people they serve in a more personal way. People are looking for authentic and credible witnesses in their bishops and priests who live and model the faith and the new evangelization. Ongoing formation for clergy on the new evangelization and methods of evangelization in the diocese and parish are needed in order to find effective ways of mobilizing the laity to engage in the new evangelization. Seminaries should take as their focus the new evangelization so that it becomes the recurring and unifying theme in all programs. Attention in seminary to homiletics and the celebration of the sacrament of penance needs to be highlighted. The work of deacons was also acknowledged for their great service.
- The consecrated life, of both men and women, has made a very important contribution to the church’s work of evangelization throughout history. The synod asks all religious to live their identity as consecrated persons radically and with joy. Because the new evangelization is essentially a spiritual matter, the synod also underlines the great importance of the contemplative life in the transmission of the faith.
- Particular attention must be given to young people who need to experience the encounter with Christ and the truth he reveals. The young must be be given time and be listened to. It is necessary to establish with them a personal relationship in which the beauty of following Jesus can be proposed. The young are themselves called to be active participants in the new evangelization especially with those their own age.
The credibility of our service to the Gospel will be much greater if we can overcome our divisions as Christian Churches. The new evangelization promotes ecumenical collaboration. Progress has been made in this since Vatican II. The presence of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the presence of fraternal delegates at this synod give witness to this.
- The dialogue with all believers is a priority of the new evangelization with special emphasis on dialogue with Muslims. Despite difficulties, the dialogue must continue. Faithful to the teaching of Vatican II, the church respects the other religions and their adherents and is happy to collaborate with them in the defense and promotion of the inviolable dignity of every person.
- The dialogue between science and faith is a precious field for the new evangelization. It is important for science to recognize the limits of scientific knowledge and that not everything that is technically possible is ethically justified. Faith needs to be open to reason and to the results of scientific research.
- There needs to be a place where believers and non-believers can dialogue about fundamental life themes. A place where this can happen is Catholic universities.
- The stewardship of creation also serves evangelization in many ways. It is a witness to our faith in the goodness of God’s creation and a concern for future generations.
- Mary is the star of evangelization, the model of faith and love, the first helper who brings disciples to the master. She is the missionary who will aid us. We fix our gaze on her.
As you can read, the propositions, now to be considered by the small groups, are wide ranging and comprehensive. Yet, it seems to me, that they lay out very well what every diocese and each parish might consider in this Year of Faith to engage fully in the new evangelization. We are challenged now to find concrete ways to engage the laity, to attend to the poor, to enliven our parishes, to expand the involvement of women, to improve and make more available our catechesis, to form people in the social doctrine of the church, to realize our vocation as missionary disciples, to make use of new technologies, to make better use of the Scriptures and church documents in our catechesis and prayer, how to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance to one that is truly missionary, among a number of other possible directions for action. Each proposition calls for a diocesan response.
A strikingly comprehensive outline of how to make the new evangelization live has been given that each diocese can utilize now in developing a program of new evangelization. I look forward to discussing with our priests, religious, deacons, and laity how we might formulate a pastoral plan to address these important dimensions of the new evangelization.
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Bishop Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., is chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services and is a former vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also a former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee, he is blogging from the world Synod of Bishops this month by special arrangement with Catholic News Service. He was elected an alternate delegate to the synod by the U.S. bishops and became a full delegate when Cardinal Francis E. George was unable to attend.