Pope summarizes key themes of Synod
October 29, 2012
"The new evangelization applies to the whole of Church life,” Pope Benedict XVI said as he presided at a Mass closing the 13th ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on October 28.
In his sermon the Pope reflected on the character of Bartimeus, the blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus in the day’s Gospel reading. Bartimeus, the Pope said, “represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.” But more particularly, since he had lost his sight—rather than being born blind—Bartimeus “represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope.” In that respect, the Pope said, Bartimeus is a fitting model for the New Evangelization, the initiative to revive interest in the Gospel message in societies that were once Christian but have become secularized.
Recalling the Synod’s discussions in his homily, Pope Benedict mentioned three important themes. First he mentioned the Synod fathers’ stress on the “sacraments of Christian initiation.” Pope Benedict advocated proper preparation for these sacraments. Significantly, he listed them as “Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist”—perhaps signaling his sympathy for the argument that the sacraments should be administered in that order, with Confirmation preceding First Communion. The Pope also called attention to the Synod’s stress on the need to encourage use of the sacrament of Penance.
Next the Pope mentioned that “the new evangelisation is essentially linked to the missio ad gentes.” In other words there should be no tension between the desire to revive the faith in once-Christian lands and the determination to preach the Gospel in societies where the Word of God has not yet been heard.
Third the Pope noted the Synod fathers’ concern for “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism.” While these people can be found everywhere, he said, their presence is particularly noteworthy in “the most secularized countries.” Persuading them to live out the challenges of Christian life is the great challenge of the New Evangelization.
Later on Sunday, during his regular midday audience, the Holy Father told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that it was appropriate to conduct the Synod for the New Evangelization on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, because the Synod’s discussions were an extension of the Council’s work. Those discussions, he said, “helped us to recognize that new evangelization is not an invention of our own, but a dynamic that began to develop in the Church in the 1950s, when it became clear that even countries of ancient Christian tradition had become, so to speak, mission lands.”
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