VATICAN — The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization released a “message to the people of God” Oct. 26, emphasizing hope in the face of an increasingly secular culture because Christ promises salvation.
Addressed to all “people of God,” the nearly 7,000-word proclamation focused on the theme that all the problems confronting the Church throughout the world — from evil expressed in bloody persecutions to the deadening allure of Western secularism — should not cause fear because Christ promises salvation, now and forever.
“There is no room for pessimism in the minds and hearts of those who know that their Lord has conquered death and that his Spirit works with might in history,” the message proclaims. “The work of the New Evangelization rests on this serene certainty.”
In fact, the most dire spiritual assaults on faith should be seen as opportunities, it says. Even “the most bitter forms of atheism and agnosticism” represent not a spiritual “void, but a longing, an expectation that awaits an adequate response.”
At the Oct. 26 synod press briefing, one reporter asked if the synod message was too optimistic.
Cardinal-designate Luis Tagle of Manila replied, “I think it is important to affirm that the Church is alive,” in spite of the “fear of some people about the decreased numbers of practicing Catholics … and the influence of oppressors of the Church quite increasing.”
Referring to his native region of Asia, where the overall number of Christians has always been a tiny, often oppressed minority, he said that this should pose no overarching problem for the faithful.
“You live there; you thrive there; you express your joy and your hope. You don’t wait for the situation to change.”
His fellow synod fathers’ closing message is a ringing call to personal conversion and to bring the Gospel to others in all places and stations of life in an ever-changing world.
The message begins with the Gospel story about the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well and is instantly transformed. This “shows that whoever receives new life from encountering Jesus cannot but proclaim truth and hope to others. The sinner who was converted becomes a messenger of salvation and leads the whole city to Jesus,” the document says.
But without inner conversion, evangelists for the faith will fall flat, the message also states. Starting with the synod fathers themselves, Catholics must humbly recognize their weak and sinful natures and accept the transformative power of Christ. This alone makes people worthy of his call to conversion and evangelization. Without Christ, the Christian mandate to share the message of salvation in Jesus is an impossible mission.
“If this renewal were up to us, there would be serious reasons to doubt,” the synod fathers say. But “through conversion” and following the Lord, “we find our strength and our certainty that evil will never have the last word, whether in the Church or in history.”
The message goes on to address different ways the New Evangelization can move people in all areas of life — the arts and sciences, politics, consecrated life — to accept Christ’s salvation through the ministry of the Church.
One of the most important aspects of the New Evangelization concerns families and the young, both of which are under attack due to families falling apart and an anti-Christian culture, especially in secularized Western culture, which is being increasingly exported to the world.
“A New Evangelization is unthinkable without acknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families and to sustain them in their task of education,” the message proclaims. “Family life is the first place in which the Gospel encounters the ordinary life and demonstrates its capacity to transform the fundamental conditions of existence in the horizon of love.”
It calls for a strengthening of couples in sacramental matrimony, with a renewed emphasis on catechizing children living in a wayward culture.
In fact, young people are a prime focus and vehicle for the New Evangelization, the message notes.
“We want our communities to harness, and not to suppress, the power of their enthusiasm; to struggle for them against the fallacies and selfish ventures of worldly powers which, to their own advantage, dissipate the energies and waste the passion of the young, taking from them every grateful memory of the past and every earnest vision of the future.”
The message ends by calling on the Virgin Mary to guide the Church in its vocation to represent her Son and his Church to a dark world.
“Our work … can seem like a path across the desert; we know that we must journey, taking with us what is essential: the company of Jesus, the truth of his word, the Eucharistic bread which nourishes us, the fellowship of ecclesial communion, the impetus of charity.
“It is the water of the well that makes the desert bloom. As stars shine more brightly at night in the desert, so the light of Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, brightly shines in heaven on our way. To her we confidently entrust ourselves.”