Australian Prelate Speaks on Returning "Christ to the Heart of the Church"
By Ann Schneible
ROME, 18 OCTOBER 2012 (ZENIT)
"The fundamental task for the Church of all time… is to return Christ to the heart of the Church, and return the Church to Christ."
These are the words of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Australia who is currently in Rome as a participant in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly on New Evangelization. The Australian archbishop recently sat down with ZENIT where he spoke about the intervention he delivered at the Synod earlier this month. He also spoke about the importance of recalling that Christ is at the heart and center of the Church.
ZENIT: What have been your impressions of the Synod up until now?
Archbishop Costelloe: One of the strong impressions that I have is the complexity of this topic of the New Evangelization. It's got so many aspects, and I think a lot of us are just starting to get a little bit clearer in our minds as to what exactly it means. We've got bishops here from all over the world. Some are from countries which have traditionally been very Christian countries, and now perhaps that dimension is being a bit obscured. And then many bishops are from countries where Christianity is a new phenomena. How the new evangelization relates to those different things is taking us a while to work out.
ZENIT: You delivered an intervention during the first week of the Synod. What where some of the key points of your address, and what objectives did you hope to achieve?
Archbishop Costelloe: I made the point that the fundamental task for the Church of all time – but certainly in our time in terms of the New Evangelization – is to return Christ to the heart of the Church, and return the Church to Christ.
I need to explain that, because theologically, of course, the Church is always united to Christ. It's the Body of Christ; He's our head. We speak of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Theologically, there's no division between Christ and His Church.
But I think it's very easy for us as individuals, and as communities of faith, to lose sight of the fact that the only treasure the Church has to offer is Christ. We all know that, but we get so caught up in other issues and other concerns that we can easily forget why we're getting concerned about all these things, and we forget that, really, if Christ isn't very clearly and very explicitly at the heart of everything we do we've lost our way.
I'm a Salesian, and the superior general of the Salesians some years ago made the statement that the greatest challenge facing religious life in the Church is to return the religious life to Christ, and return Christ to the religious life. It struck me as such a significant statement that I reflected on it then in terms of the Church herself.
Theologically, we already are: but pastorally, practically, in our day-to-day living, I'm not sure we're as clear about this as we should be.
ZENIT: How can we bring the teachings of this Synod to the people in the pews?
Archbishop Costelloe: One of the things that's coming out very strongly in many of the interventions of the Synod fathers is really a very obvious point, and that is the New Evangelization depends on the New Evangelizers. I think one of our tasks is to identify those people in our local diocesan communities, our local parish communities, Church agencies, schools, whatever we have, identify those people who are already engaged committed and really work with them, to help them understand just how important this is, so that they then become excited and enthusiastic about it, because it's not going to work if it's just the people at the top, so to speak. We need to work with the people who are already committed, and try as best we can to really energize them.
Australian Prelate Speaks on Christian Joy and the Gift of Faith
By Ann Schneible
ROME, 19 OCTOBER 2012 (ZENIT)
Christians must be confident in the gift of faith, and "its ability to meet the deepest needs of people."
These are the words of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Australia who is currently in Rome as a participant in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly on New Evangelization. The Australian archbishop recently sat down with ZENIT where he spoke about the role of the laity in the mission of the New Evangelization.
ZENIT: What can the laity – and in particular the youth – take from this Synod with regard to their role in the New Evangelization?
Archbishop Costelloe: I think the answer to that is partly tied to what I said before about returning Christ to the Church. Jesus is a very attractive, very engaging figure, and I think that if, for example, we bishops and our priests were really to do our best to make Jesus the heart of our preaching, to really get people to focus on Jesus, hopefully will help them to see how attractive and how engaging He is. As I said before: Jesus is the greatest treasure – the only treasure – that the Church has. One of the greatest tasks that we have – and the methodology that we should adopt – is to continually point people to Jesus.
Young people, for example, are very easily attracted by Jesus once they begin to understand Him and He's presented to them as He actually is, in the pages of the Gospels, in our tradition of the Church. Once people understand who this person is, I think that desire to not just to follow Him, but to commit themselves to Him, to become both His disciples and His friends, and His collaborators, I think that does start to grab people.
This return to Jesus is the key. It's something that Pope John Paul II was very strong about in that famous letter he wrote at the dawn of the new millennium, Novo millennio ineunte. There is a wonderful invitation there where he says that we must contemplate the face of Christ. In that letter, he says unless we do that, then the witness we want to give will be hopelessly inadequate. I just think the Church needs to recognize the great treasure that Jesus is, and put Him at the heart of everything, because in the end it's about Him, it's not about us.
It's a bit like John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus going past, he points away from himself and says: "Look! There's the Lamb of God!" and everybody started to follow him. I think we've got to be new "John the Baptists," pointing people to Jesus.
ZENIT: What do you hope to take back from this Synod to Australia, and in particular your own Archdiocese of Perth?
Archbishop Costelloe: One of the things I hope I can take back is the sense of enthusiasm that is there in the Synod. It's really very inspiring to sit there, and listen to bishops from all around the world, many of whom will talk about issues and challenges they are facing – we all have those – but who, in all kinds of different ways, show that they are men of great hope because they are enthusiastic about the faith, and they believe that, in our Christian and Catholic faith, we have this wonderful gift that we can offer to our society. Certainly in my own country of Australia, in my own Archdiocese, like many other places it has lots of challenges. The values that we espouse as Christians are less and less understood and appreciated by the wider society.
However, we have this wonderful gift of faith. It might sound a little bit arrogant, but it is, in fact, the answer to so many of the problems that the people of our time are facing. We have to make sure that we're there, joyously living our faith, preserving this wonderful gift in all its fullness and all its integrity, and are ready to offer it, because eventually, people are going to realize nothing else is giving us the peace and the joy and the hope that we're looking for. Hopefully these Catholics will be peaceful and joyful and happy people, and people might start to say: "Maybe we need to go and see what they've got to offer."
That's what I would hope to take back. One of the challenges for the Church today, particularly in Western countries like Australia, is for us to be very confident about this extraordinary gift that we have; not to apologize for it, not to water it down, but to be very confident in its ability to meet the deepest needs of people. Not to be arrogant about it, but simply to be humbly, quietly confident in what we have, and in our duty and our responsibility and the privilege we have to be there, offering it to people.