Cardinal George Focuses On 'New' in Evangelization

CHICAGO—Pope John Paul II recognizes that past methods of evangelizing will not suffice in the high-tech world of the third millennium, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told Register Radio News in an interview Oct. 15.

The comments echoed remarks he made Oct. 11 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

“Our Holy Father called us to a new evangelization because you have a new phenomenon,” he told Register Radio News.

He said Pope John Paul II has called for a new evangelization because old ways of evangelization no longer suffice. Those included missions to territories where people never heard the Gospel.

Today, the archbishop said, “Entire peoples and cultures that once were faithful to Christ are no longer in the Church. That demands a new evangelization because it's a new phenomenon. Our Holy Father says it must be new in its methods and new in its imagination.”

Four days earlier he had told conferees at Notre Dame: “Many of these peoples have simply given up on the faith itself. The Gospel is not news, and it's not good. We have to go in and find again a new form of expression.”

His talk was part of a three-day conference organized by the university's theology department to consider ways to implement the Pope's apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia In America (The Church in America).

More than 60 bishops, theologians, students and other interested people from across the Western Hemisphere attended.

Saying “human solidarity is possible,” Cardinal George noted that an Apollo 8 photograph of Earth from space shows no political or cultural divisions but only a beautiful array of continents.

Cardinal George stressed the need for entire cultures to be reached with the message of the Gospel.

“We are all converted by Jesus Christ,” he told Register Radio News, “but we live in groups called cultures. … If a culture is compatible with the Gospel … our own personal conversion is easier. If it's very much opposed to the Gospel, then you have to evangelize the culture.”

He also stressed the importance of updating methods of evangelization.

“I think the Holy Father is calling continentwide synods before the year 2000 precisely to ask how are we to evangelize, what is the mission of the church that Jesus gave us 2000 years ago now to be implemented in a genuinely global society,” he said.

Pope John Paul convened the Synod of Bishops from America at the Vatican in late 1997. His post-synodal apostolic exhortation was issued in January. European bishops are holding their synod throughout October.

Cardinal George said this new evangelization will require a new vocabulary — just as it did for St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles.

“The merchants in the Areopagus in Athens didn't understand what he was talking about when he spoke of the resurrection from the dead,” said the cardinal, so Paul used their own religious language for his purposes, making a reference to their shrine to an “unknown God.”

Today's Catholics should also use a “new vocabulary,” to attract people “out of the entrapment of their own sinfulness and their own experience into the freedom that Jesus offers his people,” the archbishop said. “Sometimes when we preach the Gospel it doesn't sound like we are offering people freedom.”

John Cavadini, chairman of the theology department at Notre Dame, told the Catholic News Service that he hoped the gathering would produce concrete ways to implement the Pope's vision for the American hemisphere.

“It is kind of unusual to have this kind of meeting of bishops and theologians and other interested persons to have a kind of colloquy like this — to take the papal document as the visionary document it is and see if we can have it inspire our imagination,” Cavadini said.