The new evangelization in Europe
To avoid the risk of the new evangelization becoming just another well chosen formula adapted for every season, it is important that it be filled with a content that informs the pastoral action of the different Christian communities. In this sense, everyday pastoral work, which has always animated the life of the Church, must seek to present itself and implement its activities in new ways.
Benedict XVI, speaking at the first Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, said that it was of decisive importance to look beyond the fragmentation of society and provide valid indications to respond to the great challenges present in society. To fill this need, a "metropolitan mission" has been set in motion. The goal is simple: to show a sign of unity among the different dioceses in the largest European cities that have been particularly affected by secularization.
At the moment, the initiative is limited to some of the larger European dioceses in order to test its practical effectiveness. The project, however, should eventually extend beyond the borders of the Old Continent, albeit in ways that respect the different cultural and ecclesial traditions.
Europe was chosen because two Synods have already reflected on the current situation. In 1991 and 1999, the bishops openly analyzed not only the social and cultural conditions of European countries but especially the way in which the Church could provide an adequate response. With Ecclesia in Europa, John Paul II pointed out the way to recover the unified commitment of the Churches.
In this sense, the "metropolitan mission" intends to be a first step. It will be achieved through common and contemporaneous initiatives, in ordinary pastoral work with special attention to formation, and through public events offered to the city during Lent 2012. The idea of these common initiatives which will take place at the same time in different cities, adds an original note. It is a pastoral experience which wants to place the entire Christian community in a state of evangelization.
The cathedral will be the place of these activities. Firstly, through a continual reading of the Gospels, to place the Word of God at the centre. Next, three catecheses by the bishop dedicated to young people, to families and to catechumens on the themes of faith; then, a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation to draw attention to confession and its high anthropological value. A charitable event will complete the experience to demonstrate that faith which is professed and prayed is also witnessed. Finally, a sign of spirituality of a cultural character will be given by the reading of various significant texts, such as excerpts from the Confessions of St Augustine.
These initiatives will begin in the cathedral because of its important symbolic significance, but the intention is to extend them to the parishes of the dioceses for a more direct impact on the territory. The "metropolitan mission" aims to reach all those who live the faith but often in a way that lacks
awareness of how this can infuse their style of life and those who, though far from the faith, are nonetheless attracted by the person of Jesus Christ, because with him they also encounter his Church. Thanks to this initiative, the dioceses are working together on a common project, strengthened by their individual experiences in the past, they sustain each other in the common difficulties they encounter. They look to the future with the hope of unity and with the intention of recovering a sense of involvement and responsibility, to encourage the creative and credible contribution of Christians.
*President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, titular Archbishop of Voghenza