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Cardinal exhorts religious orders to be missionary again; Brazilian prelate calls for beauty in liturgy

Catholic World News - October 17, 2012

On the tenth day of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 31 synod fathers spoke on various aspects of the synod’s theme, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The president of India’s episcopal conference issued a rousing call to religious orders to return their missionary roots.

“In my country, India, time and again I have seen the power of the Gospel at work among Christians and non-Christians alike,” said Cardinal Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi. “I would like to make a humble appeal to the religious orders to become missionary again! In the history of evangelization, all the religious orders led by the Holy Spirit have done outstanding and marvelous work.”

“Can we say the same of the Religious congregations today?” he added. “Could it be that they have begun working like multinationals, doing very good and necessary work to meet the material needs of humanity, but have forgotten that the primary purpose of their founding was to bring the kerygma, the Gospel, to a lost world?”

Cardinal Toppo also appealed to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, led by Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz and American Archbishop Joseph Tobin, to “to be proactive in promoting the sensus Ecclesiae [sense of the Church] among all religious.”

Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Mariana (Brazil) spoke of the evangelizing role of beauty in the liturgy:

The fascinating and contagious beauty of the mystery hidden in rites and symbols must be capable of being expressed in all its strength for the liturgy to truly evangelize. Therefore the new evangelization depends to a great extent on the capacity to make the liturgy the source of spiritual life. Probably our most demanding task and the greatest challenge is to succeed in ensuring that our liturgical celebrations are ever more beautiful and transparent in their divine beauty, source of new and renewing strength that brings joy and hope to the Christian, in order to live in Christ and in the love of the Lord.

After a Swiss prelate (Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel) called for a “deep listening” to the laity and a Maltese prelate (Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo) urged the synod to issue a formal message to the divorce and remarried, a Dutch bishop called for greater devotion to the Holy Spirit and to angels.

“Our problem is not so much a visible adversary, but the invisible evil powers,” said Auxiliary Bishop Everardus de Jong of Roermond. “It was Pentecost that started the first evangelization, and we need a new Pentecost. We should, therefore, pray first of all fervently and constantly to the Holy Spirit … This should be the first element of a worldwide strategy of the new evangelization.”

“Maybe the Holy Father will introduce Benedictine prayers at the end of Mass (compare the Leonine prayers of Leo XIII), or a constant novena, to ask Him to come,” Bishop de Jong continued. “We should promote the prayer to the angels and archangels in the new evangelization.”

He added:

Still, sin has its influence on the openness to the gospel-message. Pornography, sexuality outside marriage of man and woman, contraception, abortion, will close the heart. Who, indeed, can say yes to God, the giver of life in abundance, if he or she, consciously or unconsciously, says no to human life? This means that the Church should courageously promote the gospel of life, including the theology of the body, natural family planning, and at the same time announce the very merciful God.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called upon the Church to do more to assist “the many young men and women who, at what is a complex and difficult time in their lives, in their search for meaning find themselves very much alone among their classmates and fellow students and indeed may experience hostility and incomprehension as they try to find or maintain their faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Young people live in a culture of relativism and indeed banalization of the truth often without even being aware of it,” he said. “It is a culture which they did not create. They may not know any other culture, yet they must find Christ in the midst of this culture while they have little familiarity with the language of faith.”

“The challenge of the New Evangelization must be marked by a robust confrontation of ideas, not in terms of ideological aggression, but in helping young people in the discernment of ideas,” he added.

In one the more out-of-the-ordinary interventions of the synod, an Austrian bishop praised the controversial Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).

“I would like to specifically recall his work during this Synod,” said Bishop Ägidius Zsifkovics of Eisenstadt. “Whether we like it or not, the global phenomena foreseen by him over sixty years ago surround us today. We all live in a world where the existence of not only the individual person but also all of humanity has become precarious. Teilhard saw life and the universe as a creative movement done by God, a movement which still has not reached its goal. I am convinced that this vision of the Church and the world could indicate a resolution to the crisis and, on the division which exists between faith and life, will have the same beneficial effect on the problems of understanding between Christian reasoning and technological research.”

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