Organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
Rome, Sept 18-19-20
I was blessed to participate today in the first of three days in which the Church is inviting pastoral agents from all over the world to reflect on how to make Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium a true “pastoral project” in the practical sense of the word.
Vero Fernández, Alice Bresolin and Bernardo Pérez, consecrated members of the Movement, also participated.
This first day was an introduction to what is to follow tomorrow and Saturday. After a moment of communitary prayer, we heard Jean Vanier tell us about his experiences caring for and learning from the handicapped and disabled. He encouraged us to learn to “listen to the sufferings of the poor, listen to their tears”, and through our contact with them understand our own barriers to loving and tear them down.
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.
The next talk made me very glad, as Mons André Léonard, Archbishop of Malines-Bruselles, outlined clearly where Evangelii gaudium mirrors and gives continuity to the main messages of Evangelii nuntiandi (Pope Paul VI, 1975, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi_en.html ). Did you know that such topics as kerygmatic proclamation, a “spirit of evangelization”, popular piety and homilies had already been addressed by the soon to be beatified Paul VI? Naturally, Pope Francis has put his own twist on them, his cultural and pastoral background being so different from Paul VI’s. But their intuitions were essentially the same on those points. One thing I thought Mons. Léonard underlined beautifully was the real meaning of evangelization, which has nothing at all to do with “Catholic marketing” and needs to be understood by all of us in the Church as task that pertains to us, and as a way of life.
Mons. Rino Fisichella, the Prefect of the Congregation, closed the afternoon with a talk on Evangelii gaudium as a pastoral project that has to get us moving as a Church towards people who need to hear the good news of Jesus’ love for them. He spoke about the Word, about prophecy and about welcoming as three important aspects, and pushed strongly for solid formation for all pastoral agents and all Catholics as we are called to “give an account for the hope that is within us” (1 Peter 3:15).
There were many priests and religious present, but also lay people: married, single, consecrated, and even a few children with their parents. Everyone there is committed to the evangelization in a direct way. As the Pope tells us, “The Church exists for the purpose of evangelizing.” And we as her members, children of God and participants in the salvation Christ came to offer us, share her “endless desire to show mercy” (EG n.24).
Tomorrow there are several interesting topics to be discussed and the program mentions a meeting with Pope Francis at 4 pm. I will keep you posted.