Pope Emeritus Benedict and the New Evangelization

Blessed Pope John Paul II tends to be the Pope that is often associated with the New Evangelization, using modern methods to call those around us to a fuller conversion in Christ.

However, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has done a tremendous job over the last eight years of picking up where his predecessor left off and promoting the New Evangelization with great ardor.

In September 2010, he established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, saying that evangelization “sums up the Church’s entire mission.”

The Holy Father stressed that that evangelization is not an attack on the human freedom of those being evangelized. He explained that “to lead a person’s intelligence and freedom in honesty to the encounter with Christ and his Gospel is not an inappropriate encroachment, but rather a legitimate endeavour and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful.”

During this Lenten season and period of interregnum, it might be beneficial for us to reflect on the words of the Pope Emeritus regarding the New Evangelization, in which we are called to take part. Here are some highlights:

2000 address as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works.

2008 address to the US bishops during apostolic journey to the United States:

The family is also the primary place for evangelization, for passing on the faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious practice and Sunday observance. How can we not be dismayed as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society?

January 2012 address to U.S. bishops on their “ad limina” visit:

The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

Message for 2012 World Day of Migrants and Refugees:

Having grown up among peoples characterized by their Christian faith [migrants] often emigrate to countries in which Christians are a minority or where the ancient tradition of faith, no longer a personal conviction or a community religion, has been reduced to a cultural fact. Here the Church is faced with the challenge of helping migrants keep their faith firm even when they are deprived of the cultural support that existed in their country of origin, and of identifying new pastoral approaches, as well as methods and expressions, for an ever vital reception of the Word of God.

Message for the 46th World Communications Day:

When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning….

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world.