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3/12/2012 - RMG - PE: New Evangelisation in Europe: address by Archbishop Fisichella
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(ANS – Rome) – An address by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of New Evangelisation, opened the working sessions for Provincials from Europe at their 4th combined meeting, on Saturday 1st December.

The archbishop's address was a complete 'lesson' in new evangelisation with plenty of points that could point to strategies and techniques but more than that he really urged the need for a change of mindset and greater faithfulness and adherence to faith on the part of Catholics but especially their “leaders” (Heb 13:7). New evangelisation, Archbishop Fisichella, reminded them, is addressed to baptised Christians caught up in a context and time that is lacking perception of God, and who have lost their Christian identity.

Citing Benedict XVI the explained: “The nub of the crisis of the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith. If we do not find an answer to it, if the faith does not recover its vitality, and become deep conviction and a real strength in the encounter with Jesus Christ, all the other reforms will be ineffective”, so it is a faith that has to be rethought and lived anew.

Then referring to Peter's exhortation – “be ready to give reasons for the hope that is in you, to whoever asks you for them (1Pt 3:15)” – Archbishop Fisichella lamented that fact that “giving reasons for our faith does not seem to have got too many people excited in recent decades!”. Christian hope today is not encountering so much theoretical ('scientific' is the word he used) atheism, but a practical atheism rooted in behaviours, “often with a complicit weak theology and religious sense based on feelings, unable to demonstrate faith's broader horizons. God loses his central place in such a context. And a consequence of this is that man also loses his place. Where is the centre to be found, between God, man and creation?”. This is why the Christian has to recover his and her mission and make it their own: we need to be sentinels of the morning!

“It is strange to see this situation precisely in countries shaped and formed by the Christian faith. The choice that many countries are making of remaining neutral as regards religion is about as damaging as one could imagine. In the West, religions cannot be considered all equal… The primacy of reason, something we have achieved over the centuries, can't just be leveled out by an egalitarianism of shifting sands which allows for no critical stance at all”.

“Our history has its light and shade”, he added, “but the message we bear is one of genuine liberation for mankind and progress for peoples”. There is a doubt as to whether modern man can actually see that there is novelty in Jesus Christ! “If the West is ashamed of what it has been, the roots that have supported it and the Christian identity still shaping it, then it will have no future”.

We need to put certain principles and values at the centre of cultural and political effort: family, primacy of human life, school, … “We Christians should not step back from taking up responsibility and we should not accept being sidelined”.

The road of new evangelisation – which renews the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the mystery of his death and resurrection, to produce renewed faith in him through conversion of life – is marked by a formation that allows us to recover our patrimony of faith and culture; marked by liturgy understood as a celebration of the life of faith; and by charity that breaks down individualism and opens up to the other, to participation, responsibility and witness.

Archbishop Fisichella concluded with words from the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a few days before he was elected Pope, where he attended a meeting in Subiaco on the situation in Europe. “What we need at this moment in history is men who through an enlightened and lived faith make God credible to this world… we need people whose gaze is fixed on God, and learn true humanity from that. We need people whose intellect is enlightened by the light of God and whose heart has been opened by God, so that their intellect can speak to the intellect of others and their heart can touch other hearts. Only with people like this touched by God, can God come back amongst mankind”.

Responding to questions in the lecture hall, Archbishop Fisichella explained that the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation is aiming at providing a unified project but one which could be carried out in different ways, respecting the difference and peculiarity of local contexts. New Evangelisation – which is a real challenge for a secular and ephemeral culture neither of which have a future – has two practical and privileged choices: recovering reconciliation (the sacrament) and the interpersonal dimension, or the aspect of spiritual direction.

The complete text of this address is available in Italian in the Project Europe section of

Publishedl 03/12/2012

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