Year of Faith and New Evangelization
By Fr. Victor Roche SVD - Catholic Bishops’ Conference General Secretary.
The Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith” is taking place in Rome while the Year of Faith is also being inaugurated on the 11th of this month. I have already discussed these issues in a previous Commentary (Aug. 2012), but I have further reflected on them before putting down these thoughts.
I love my Catholic Church. I have praised it much and I have criticized it much. Br. Carlo Carretto of the Little Brothers of Jesus writes, “How much I criticize you, my Church, and yet how much I love you! How you have made me suffer and yet how much I owe you. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand holiness” (1994).
I have similar sentiments. After many months of discussion and research, the working paper for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization is out. The first chapter is dedicated to the heart of evangelization: the encounter with Jesus Christ. The second chapter focuses on the changes which affect the way we live our faith and which influence our Christian communities. The third chapter deals with the basic places, means, persons and activities in the transmission of the Christian faith. The fourth chapter discusses areas of pastoral activity with a special focus on New Evangelization.
The focus is on the relationship of the Church with the outside world. But it presupposes first an ongoing internal renewal, a continuous passing from evangelizing to being evangelized.
The internal renewal is necessary to be effective evangelizers. I have three practical suggestions.
Bishops should retire at 70 instead of 75. In any case a bishop should serve in a diocese for a maximum of twenty years. The pressure of administration in the modern world is very high. Many of our bishops have stress-related sicknesses. Eventually they get burnt out fast.
Priests should be appointed and constantly evaluated by the Bishop in coordination with the Parish Pastoral Council. It is commonly accepted that the reforms and renewal promoted by the Second Vatican Council did not reach the ordinary people of the parishes because of the priests. I blame myself too. Sometimes, the directives from the Bishop about pastoral renewal do not reach the people. Nor the cries of the people reach the Bishop. People need to care for their priests but also to hold them accountable.
Religious congregations were founded with a vision and in order to answer a particular need. Their members, therefore, should live and minister according to the charism of their founders and foundresses. Thus they will play an important role in the evangelizing mission of the Church. (CBC Communications 20121011 – firstname.lastname@example.org)