Evangelization synod aims to reverse 'tsunami of secularism'

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington DC speaks during a press conference in the Vatican Press Office 3 CNA500x320 Vatican Catholic News 10 8 12 Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaks at an Oct. 8, 2012 press conference for the synod on the New Evangelization.

The 2012 Synod of Bishops on evangelization began its second day with a call for the Catholic Church to roll back the "tsunami of secularism" that has swept over modern society in recent decades.

"It is almost as if this tsunami, this wave has washed across everything we lived by and simply took most of it away," Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. told CNA on Oct 8.

"We have experienced, I believe, in recent decades such a movement of secular hegemony that sees the horizons of life limited to the secular world that doesn't see a role for faith, for the belief that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, that there is a moral order that is objective and that we cannot change."

The 71-year-old American cardinal is charged by Pope Benedict XVI with steering the work of the synod.  Under the title of General Relator, Cardinal Wuerl is tasked with guiding the discussions of the 262 participants as they attempt to map out a plan for bringing the Gospel to the modern world. 

His role also involved presenting the opening report on the first day of the Synod.

"What the new evangelization is all about is calling us back to appreciate all over again the person of Jesus Christ, the truth of his Gospel and what that means to the world," he said. 

It has also been part of Cardinal Wuerl's job to undertake 12 months of preparation for the Oct. 7-28 meeting in Rome. The process helped reinforce his view that the Church has to give particular help to the "two generations of people who were under-catechized."

"One of the problems we faced in the Church in the United States following the Council was a whole period, two decades, the 70s and 80s particularly, when there was a lot of experimentation with catechetical material," Cardinal Wuerl remarked.

The result of that experimentation was that some of the classes failed to provide "the foundational understanding of something even as simple as the Creed."

He believes a significant turning point was the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1992.  The synod falls on its 30th anniversary.

Cardinal Wuerl thinks that the upturn in orthodox catechesis has resulted in the new evangelization resonating with a new generation.

"One of the encouraging elements that we are finding in the preparation of this synod, and certainly in my own experience as a bishop, is that there is a whole generation of youngsters who are at high school, colleges and universities who are looking for answers, answers that are found in the Gospel." 

He pointed to the opening of a new seminary in his diocese last year as evidence of this new momentum, as well as the flourishing of campus ministry at Washington D.C.'s universities.

Looking ahead to the synod's discussions, Cardinal Wuerl wants the Synod Fathers to share their experiences of "what is working" in their own territories, which he believes will lead to "a fresh confidence in the truth of the Faith."

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