Humility, solidarity are key to evangelization, synod members say
By Cindy Wooden and Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
The archbishop was one of several synod members who emphasized the importance of humility and solidarity with the poor as the Catholic Church attempts to strengthen the faith of its members and encourage lapsed Catholics to return.
Villegas’ speech to the synod was met with applause, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred in the synod hall.
“The new evangelization calls for new humility,” Villegas told the synod. “The Gospel cannot thrive in pride.”
Following Christ means imitating him with “a deep sense of awe and reverence for humanity,” he said. “Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers.”
A fellow Filipino, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, also emphasized the importance of imitating Jesus’ humility, which he said was seen most clearly in Jesus’ willingness to become human, to suffer and to die for humanity.
Jesus’ humility allowed him to demonstrate real love and concern for all people, particularly “those neglected and despised by the world,” and the church must do the same, Tagle said.
Being humble also means recognizing when the church does not have all the answers, and therefore being willing to remain silent, he said, adding that “a church at home with silence will make the voiceless believe they are not alone.”
Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, told the synod that the greatest obstacle a priest or theologian faces in becoming an effective evangelizer “is without a doubt pride, along with its natural ally, selfishness. The obsession with becoming great, original (and) important reduces more than a few to being ‘pastors who shepherd themselves and not their flocks,’ ’’ as St. Augustine once said.
Salvadoran Bishop Jose Rauda Gutierrez of San Vicente told the synod that bishops and priests are often an obstacle to evangelization.
The new evangelization, he said, must be “like a medicine to give joy and life” in the place of fear.
Bishop John Corriveau of Nelson, B.C., told the synod that building community and promoting a sense of communion, particularly in the face of increasing individualism, is an important part of the new evangelization.
The “spirituality of communion” is modelled on the relationship of love found among the members of the Trinity, a creative love revealed to humanity with the incarnation of Christ.
“The call to communion is more than a slogan. It is a conversion of heart,” he said.
Evangelization is not a project, but the natural “overflow” of an experience of Christ and his church that transforms lives, giving them meaning and joy, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion told the synod.
“Those who know little and care even less about the institutions and hierarchies of the church these days” nevertheless are attracted and challenged by Christians whose lives show they have been transformed by their encounter with Christ, said Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Church of England. He was invited by Pope Benedict to deliver a major address at the synod on the new evangelization Oct. 10.
In many ways, Williams said, the synod on new evangelization is a continuation of the work of the Second Vatican Council.
“With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow,” he said.
“The face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth toward love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look toward that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it,” Williams told the synod.
Need joyous women
New evangelization will never be possible without women who are proud and happy to belong to the Catholic Church, the president of the Belgian bishops’ conference told the Synod of Bishops.
“Two-thirds of active members of the church are women,” and the primary evangelizers are usually women, “however many women feel discriminated against by the church,” Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels told the synod Oct. 9.
“It’s high time” the church better explain why only men may be ordained, he said.
It is not because women are looked upon as being less worthy or able to minister to others, “it’s absolutely the contrary,” the archbishop said.
A male priesthood “is only out of respect for this profound symbol of marriage,” Leonard said. “Let us remember and remind the church of her profound feminine nature as the bride of Christ and our mother.”
The archbishop spoke forcefully and with emotion, said Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred in the synod hall. The speech was a bit of a “shocker,” said one synod participant, because the archbishop is considered to be very conservative.
Leonard asked everyone to give thanks for “the quality and the specificity of the massive contribution of women to evangelization.”
“Without joyous women who are recognized for all of their qualities” and who are proud of belonging to the church, “there will be no new evangelization,” he told synod participants.
He called on church leaders to “never hesitate to entrust more important roles to women in the life of the church. We must find new and strong ways to do this,” he said.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops