When Cardinal Prospero Grech delivered a meditation to the cardinal-electors at the beginning of the 2013 conclave, he emphasized the value of the new evangelization in the face of Europe's loss of faith.

"In the West, at least in Europe, Christianity itself is in crisis … there is a rampant secularism and agnosticism which has diverse roots," Cardinal Grech, an Augustinian, told the 115 cardinal-electors in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel March 12.

"You feel therefore the urgency of the new evangelization which begins with the pure kerygma (Gospel proclamation) announced to non-believers, followed by a continuing catechesis nourished by prayer."

Cardinal Grech was delivering a meditation to the cardinal-electors on the problems facing the Church and the need for discernment "concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, having only God before their eyes," according to the document which governs the conclave process.

The text of his meditation, delivered in Italian, was recently released in the "Acts of the Apostolic See," the Vatican's official journal of record.
He began his meditation with a humble apology, saying that at 87 years old, he "is among the oldest in the College of Cardinals, yet in terms of appointment I am just a newborn."

Cardinal Grech was only made a cardinal in Feb., 2012. He added that his life has been once of study and that his knowledge of the Curia is "not above a third grade level."

"Only as such do I dare to present this simple meditation in the Lord's name," he concluded his apology.

He noted that the conclave is a "strong moment of grace" in salvation history but added that it is also a moment of "the maximum responsibility." The nationality or race of the man to be elected Pope is unimportant, he said.

"The only thing of importance is if, when the Lord asks the question 'Peter, do you love me?', that he can respond in all sincerity, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.' Then the sheep entrusted to him by Jesus will be safe, and Peter will follow Christ, the chief Shepherd, wherever he goes."

More in Vatican

Cardinal Grech said he was not there to "make a sketch" of the next Pope, "and much less to present a working plan for the future pontiff."

"It is my intent," he explained, "to draw from the Scriptures some reflections to help us understand what Christ wills for his Church, reflections which may assist you in your discussions."

Having explained his aim, Cardinal Grech began the preface to his meditation. His prefatory remarks focused on the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and the scandal of the cross – both Christ's and the Church's.

He called the Kingdom of God a "moment of grace and of reconciliation," brought through Christ and the Church, and warned against the temptation, since Vatican II, to give into religious "indifferentism," not stressing the necessity of baptism for salvation.

The proclamation of the Kingdom of God is "the proclamation of 'Jesus Christ, and him crucified,'" he stressed. The scandal of the cross, he said, "humbles the hubris of the human mind and elevates it to accept a wisdom which comes from above."

Christ's cross, he emphasized, must not be relativized, but regarded as the one, universal way to salvation, offered to "the modern world, which suffers from an existential depression."

Christ crucified, he told the cardinal-electors, is "intimately tied to the Church crucified" and the persecution of the Church for proclaiming Truth.

(Story continues below)

"Persecution is a constitutive element of the Church, as is the weakness of her members," which he called a "a cross which is to be embraced."

He noted the pedophilia scandal, and the acts of Benedict XVI to humble the Church and to remove the evil at all costs. In light of this, Cardinal Grech called for a greater "transparency" because the Church can be "obscured or hidden."

He called for courage in the face of the scandal, and to "trust only in God" rather than placing faith in political solutions.

After finishing his preface, Cardinal Grech moved to discuss God's will regarding the Church. Christ's "highest desire" is "the unity of his body," he noted, in a plea for Church unity, both within and without the Catholic Church.

With regard to ecumenism, he said that "to desist from dialogue would run explicitly contrary to the will of God." He also said the future pontiff would face the problem being able "to hold onto the unity of the Catholic Church herself."

"Between extremist ultra-traditionalists and extreme ultra-progressives … there will be always the peril of minor schism.

"Unity at any cost," he urged. "Unity yes, but this does not mean uniformity."

Cardinal Grech emphasized that it is "evident that this does not close the door to intra-ecclesial discussion, present in all of Church history. All are free to express their thoughts on the task of the Church, yet which are proposed in line with the deposit of faith which the Pope together with all the bishops has the task of preserving."

He lamented that both theology and philosophy today are suffering, and that "we need a good philosophical foundation from which to develop dogma with a valid hermeneutic that speaks in a language intelligible to the contemporary world."

Saying this, Cardinal Grech, who had been a priest 12 years when Vatican II began, noted that "certainly laws and traditions which are purely ecclesial may be changed, yet not every change signifies progress; we must discern whether changes act to augment the holiness of the Church or to obscure it."

Having addressed all of these issues, Cardinal Grech then moved on to what he called an "even more pressing chapter," the secularism and abandonment of Christianity in the West, and especially in Europe.

The roots of this secularism and agnosticism, he said, include relativism; a materialism that "measures everything in economic terms;" governments' desire to remove God from society; the sexual revolution; and scientific advances that recognize neither moral nor humanitarian brakes.

In the face of a culture which is ignorant not only of Catholic doctrine but of the very "ABCs of Christianity," he stressed the urgency of the new evangelization and its position as the central-most issue for the Pontiff who was to be elected.

Cardinal Grech added, however, that while doors are "closing" in Europe, they are being widened elsewhere, particularly in Asia.

And even in the West, he said God will "preserve a remnant of Israel that will not kneel before Baal," adding that the remnant is seen especially in the new movements which "contribute strongly to the new evangelization."

"Be on guard, though, that particular movements not believe that the Church is exhausted in them."

He re-assured the cardinal-electors that "God cannot be defeated by our carelessness" and that "the Church is his."

Cardinal Grech then turned to consider the importance of the sensus fidelium – sense of the faithful –  found among the "anawim," the "simple faithful," in whose prayerful hearts the "Logos of God shines."

He told the cardinal-electors this because, he said, while it is common to say that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, we "do not always take this into consideration in our plans for the Church."

Cardinal Grech emphasized that God is always greater, that the Holy Spirit "transcends every sociological analysis and historical prediction." The Spirit "exceeds" all the scandals that obscure Christ's face in the Church.

He concluded his remarks by noting Michelangelo's fresco "The Last Judgement," before which the cardinal-electors would shortly be casting their votes for the new Pope.

Christ's raised hand in the fresco, he told them, was there "to illumine your vote, that it might be according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh …. in that way the one chosen will not be only yours, but essentially His."

Cardinal Grech finished his meditation by telling the cardinal-electors, "the Lord be with you and bless you."