VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict announced today that he’s chosen “new evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops in 2012.
The pope said the topic reflects a need to re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people “have even moved away from the church.”
The pope made the announcement at the end of his homily at the closing Mass for the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which focused on the pastoral challenges of the region. He said that in this synod, too, bishops spoke of the “need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well.”
“What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots,” he said.
The pope said he chose the next synod topic, “The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith,” after consulting with the world’s episcopate. He recently created the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, and has made re-evangelizing a main theme of his pontificate.
In his homily, the pope also touched on the sensitive subject of religious freedom in the Middle East, especially in predominantly Muslim societies:
Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the synodal fathers.
The pope made a plea for peace in the region, saying it was the best way to stop Christian emigration:
Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life of dignity for human beings and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East.