Organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
Rome, Sept 18-19-20
Today’s agenda was full. We celebrated the Eucharist together in St. Peter’s Basilica; dozens of priests and bishops joined Mons. Rino Fisichella to concelebrate a beautiful Mass sung by Fr. Marco Frisina’s choir (directed by him in alb and stole).
By a little after nine, most people were in their seats, but the conferences began a little late, giving us time to save seats not only for us four, but also for Br. Luis Ramírez, LC and Fr. Alex Yeung, LC, who joined us today.
Mons. Fisichella told us that there are nearly 2,000 people participating in the Meeting, from more than 60 countries. Can you imagine the variety of languages, clothing and pastoral personalities that this enthusiastic group of pastoral agents represents?
Among the topics discussed this morning were urban evangelization (Card. Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, France); popular piety (Rev. Horacio Brito, the Rector of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes); pastoral conversion (Mons. Victor Fernández, Rector of the Catholic University of Argentina); spirituality of the evangelizers (Mons. José Rodríguez Carballo, Secretary of the Congregation for Consecrated Life). All of these topics are addressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, which I heartily recommend (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html) .
I think the talk that most inspired me, however, was given by Michaela and Robert Schmalzbauer, a married couple from Austria, who have recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Their presentation was livened up by pictures of their eight children, showing the sequence of how their family has grown year by year. They shared the spirituality of “being” a family as the chief way families announces the good news. They stressed how much couples and families need to be encouraged in their specific vocation. Their decision to dedicate the best of their time and efforts to raising their children cannot be taken for granted, but must be supported and valued by others in the Church. I wonder if the topic of changing diapers had ever been mentioned in a conference given in Paul VI Hall!
Mons Octavio Ruiz Arenas, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council organizing this event, gave a brief but thorough explanation regarding the way Pope Francis uses the term “New Evangelization” in relation to the way his predecessors did. He touched on most of the novel expressions the Holy Father uses in Evangelii gaudium that have sparked interest because they respond to real pastoral concerns and needs.
At the lunch break everyone had to leave so the security measures for the Pope’s arrival could be carried out. But no one went very far! Most just grabbed a “pizza al taglio” from the nearest pizza shop and ran back for the line, so as to get a good seat when the doors opened at 2:00.
The afternoon opened, however, with three interesting conferences on communication (Dr. Raphael C. Monthienvichienchai from Thailand), beauty (Fr. Marko I. Rupnik, S.J.) and a “culture of encounters” (Professor Franceso Boutturi from Sacro Cuore in Milan). By the end of them, though, everyone was a little antsy as journalists and security personnel came in and out of the various doors of the hall. After a brief wait, Pope Francis came through the front left door of the hall and proceeded to the chair placed for him in the middle. He spoke about the parable of the workers in the vineyard, comparing the evangelizers to the owner who went out to hire workers. He underlined that the owner did not tire of going out, and that each time workers responded. He spoke of perseverance and patience in bringing others to experience the joy of the Gospel.
After Pope Francis greeted some of the speakers and participants, he left the hall, and we continued with one more talk, on the dynamism of joy in the Christian life (Card. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, from the Congo). On that “joyful” note we ended the day.
Tomorrow there are still great speakers. I am hoping that Professor Tracey Rowland, from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Australia, will give her talk… We were expecting her today but evidently there were changes to the program. There will also be a time for questions and answers.