Declaring that the Church exists in order to evangelize, the Holy Father announced on Sunday that the next Synod for bishops, to take place in 2012, will focus on “new evangelization.” The Church must work “to welcome every man and offer him in Christ the fullness of life,” he said.
This is the Holy Father’s most recent initiative to re-propose the Gospel message in historically Christian areas. A new pontifical council was instituted on Oct 12, under the presidency of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, for this very purpose.
At the Mass to close the Synod for the Middle East on Sunday morning, the Pope reported that evangelization was one of the recurring themes of deliberations. The need to “offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church” was underlined often, especially by bishops from countries with ancient Christian roots.
To address this theme, he noted he had consulted the bishops of the world and the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
“I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: ‘Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam - The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith’,” he announced.
Before the Sunday Angelus, he explained his choice for the theme of the next Synod as a continuation of recent Church initiatives. Since the Synod for the Middle East and World Mission Sunday 2010 both were developed around the idea of communion, he said, they are invitations to "look at the Church as a mystery of communion that, by its nature, is destined to all man and to all men."
He highlighted the words of Pope Paul VI in this regard, who said in 1975 that the Church "exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection."
And, for this reason, said Pope Benedict, the next world assembly of bishops will examine "new evangelization."
He explained that "in every time and every place - also today in the Middle East - the Church is present and works to welcome every man and offer him in Christ the fullness of life."
The missionary task, he explained, "is not to revolutionize the world, but to transfigure it, drawing on the strength of Jesus Christ."
Pope Benedict concluded his pre-Angelus address by entrusting the Christians of the Middle East and all missionaries of the Gospel to the Virgin Mary, who received from Christ the "new mission of being the Mother of all those who wish to believe in Him and follow Him."
The 2012 Synod will be the fifth of Benedict XVI's pontificate. The first, in 2005, examined the Eucharist and was followed by Synods on the Bible in 2008, Africa in 2009 and this year's Synod for the Middle East.