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Ramiro Pellitero, School of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain.

The landscape of the New Evangelization

Tue, 22 Feb 2011 12:53:00 +0000 Published in

Fisichella's first lecture as president of the Pontifical committee for the Promotion of the New Evangelization (delivered on February 6, 2011, at the Pontifical Bolivarian University, Medellin) clearly emphasizes that the new evangelization must start from convinced Christians. Christians who do not take refuge in a nostalgic romanticism of the past or fall into a utopian horizon, and who live their faith in the present cultural context, without "secluding themselves" in the churches. Only in this way can the negative result of the process of secularization be confronted. That is, the fact that secularization (the attempt to build a world apart from God) has degenerated into secularism.

This diagnosis is undoubtedly accurate. Other aspects of secularization could be developed from here. Concretely, the Second Vatican Council assumed that temporal realities (the created world, the human family, work, culture, human sciences and technology, etc.) have an autonomy with respect to the ecclesiastical sphere (certainly not with respect to God). This seems important for a Christian vision of the world (secularity). Fisichella knows it well, but perhaps those who listen to his message do not know it so much, and that is why it is good to underline it.

The majority of Christians (the lay faithful) are called to live their faith and develop their mission statement "in the midst of the world", in the heart of civil society. How to present today the presence not only of the churches (temples), but of "the Church" in the city? Because, first of all, who or what is the Church? What is its beauty and how to present it in an attractive way? Would it be sufficient and adequate to speak of the Church with an almost exclusively institutional reference letter ? If the "institutional" or "sociological" presence of ecclesiastics diminishes in the street, where is the Church? Is not the Church the family of God in the world, with different styles and functions (the hierarchy at the service of the faithful), according to the status and the circumstances of the different Christians?

How, then, to be a Christian in the present? What does Christian hope imply today for "street Christians" and how are they to live their faith, first of all, and secondly explain their faith to their fellow citizens? Here would be the challenge to develop the condition that Benedict XVI set the day before his election: "Only through men touched by God can God return to men". How can this be achieved or at least promoted?

What is essential to be "truly" Christian can be stated as follows: faith, liturgy, charity. Today this must be lived in the heart of families, professions and cultures, in the midst of the moral and economic crisis, taking into account the ever-present desire to "live in fullness".

Before that, there is what Benedict XVI pointed out about realism at the beginning of the Synod of 2008: "A realist is the one who recognizes in the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, the foundation of everything. A realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which remains permanent" (October 6, 2008).

Non-believers can also accept God as a supreme being who guarantees the "pre-moral" instructions of public life (such as human dignity, respect for life, religious freedom, etc.). Only those who count on the existence of God are in reality. For this reason, in his book "Light of the World", the Pope proposes "starting afresh with God". It can help to highlight the Christian roots of the West: the very notion and dignity of the person, human rights, the idea and origin of the university, charity, especially towards those most in need, etc. It can and should also encourage the common witness of Christians (also in association with other people of good will) in the defense and promotion of ethical values, the culture of life, justice and peace, ecological values that encourage a respectful and supportive attitude in the care of the earth, etc.

Secondly, it seems appropriate to draw the concrete consequences of the universal call to holiness proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council(Lumen gentium, chapter V). The Church is not (only) "ecclesiastics"; it is Christians, the majority of whom live and work in civil society, and it is there that each of them must show that "it is possible to be modern and believe in Jesus Christ" (John Paul II, on his farewell to Spain in 2003). The tasks and professions directly related to people ( Education and politics, art and culture, the media, health and sports, etc.) have a particularly important role to play. A Christian life in the midst of the world can be made compatible with the partnership in the activities organized by the ecclesiastical hierarchy (such as the catechesis, the liturgical acts and the charitable attention from the parishes, etc.).

At final, the new evangelization calls for a realism that is capable of concretizing today and now very diverse aspects, all of which are necessary, in an overall work: a proposal of full life for all, counting on God, and a advertisement of renewed faith also within the Church itself, together with an adequate training permanent of all.

This training should include the biblical, catechetical and sacramental-liturgical training (starting from Christian Initiation) and the moral and spiritual training , including the social and missionary dimension of the Gospel. All this must be preceded and accompanied by the coherent witness of Christian life. In fact, as St. Ignatius of Antioch said, and as Bishop Fisichella reiterated, "it is not enough to be called Christians; it is necessary to be truly so".