The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, and Relator of the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelisation, English language Working Group B, gave the following report to the Synod Fathers last Friday, 19 October, in the presence of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI:
“The New Evangelisation is not a strategy or programme, but an invitation to an encounter and life-long relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. It involves falling in love with the person of Jesus Christ and his bride, the Catholic Church. This encounter with Christ takes place in and through the Church so as not to foster a false dichotomy between spirituality and religion. Encounters with Christ in the Church help the faithful to understand the need for salvation and forgiveness from sin. Following the initial encounter with Christ, the faithful desire to spend time with the beloved in prayer, sacrament and to contemplate the face of God.”
The Archbishop of Birmingham continued: “Hence, the Synod Fathers might propose a lifelong accompaniment of each Catholic on their journey of faith modelled on Christ’s walk with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.
“The faithful need the need the continued work of systematic, comprehensive and lifelong catechesis. Evangelization and catechesis should help the faithful known, understand, live and share the faith. A catechesis for youth and adults that is age-appropriate and presented in an appealing and apologetic manner that answers the genuine questions of those participating in their formation would enhance the New Evangelization.
This basic presentation of the fundamentals of our faith, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is an attractive and appealing manner, of example at World Youth Day, will help to revive a confidence in the faith and a greater ability to share it with others.”
Archbishop Longley said: “Fostering some practical initiatives would assist the New Evangelisation and catechesis: Lectio Divina, teaching prayer, making the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacrament of Penance more readily available - perhaps though offering the Sacrament at new times and on a consistent basis during Lent or Advent – pilgrimages, sharing the stories of the saints and martyrs, and making known the excellent work and ministry undertaken by Catholic institutions and apostolates.
The Archbishop continued: “We discussed presenting the Sacraments in a new light aimed at reaching contemporary society. The preparation for individual sacraments should model the catechumenate and allow for personal encounters with Christ and the proclamation of the kerygma. Small Christian communities can help to connect people to one another allowing for prayer and reflection on the Scriptures”
Archbishop Longley emphasised: “We encouraged the Synod Fathers to pray for a New Pentecost for the whole Church and to better understand the ways in which the Holy Spirit is working in the Church and lives of Catholics and other Christians.
“We stressed the importance of Liturgy well-celebrated and homilies that inspire and share the faith in a compelling manner. This will require formation for the clergy in the liturgy, homiletics, and the New Evangelization since they are formators for the New Evangelization.
“In order to be effective evangelists, the laity need better preparation for evangelization. This should include doctrine, helping evangelists share the faith, perhaps through a wider use images, suitable for the people they serve, some of whom may be illiterate; humility, acquiring the ability to articulate one’s story of faith and testimony in Christ.”
The Archbishop said: “Our group would wish to encourage bishops, priests and permanent deacons to known the lives of the people they serve in a more personal way. The bishop is an evangelist who leads by example and shares with all the baptized the blessings of being called to evangelization. His ministry must have the characteristics of the shepherd (ad intra) and the fisherman (ad extra).
“On going formation for clergy on the New Evangelization and methods for evangelization in the diocese and parish are needed.”
Archbishop Longley said: “The family is a privileged centre for the New Evangelization. Catholic families are in great need of regular support and direct assistance from the Church and parish to become witnesses to the faith. Continuing inculturation of the gospel could bring together the life of Christ with the life and culture of all people. The inculturation of the Gospel involves becoming more of a welcoming Church to immigrates and those in need.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded: “We also considered the contribution of Religious and the witness of consecrated life, the establishment of catechists as a stable ministry within the Church, the need for post –sacramental catechesis, especially following Confirmation, the wisdom of consulting our Canon Lawyers when formulating diocesan policy, the particular needs of the Deaf Community, and the management of natural resources in times of conflict or warfare.”