Catholic World News

Cardinal-designate Dolan in spotlight at meeting before consistory

February 17, 2012

As the world’s cardinals gathered in Rome on February 17 for a day of reflection, prior to the consistory at which Pope Benedict XVI will elevate 22 new members of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan captivated the group with an energetic talk on the “new evangelization.”

The New York prelate, one of the new cardinals due to receive his red hat at the February 18 consistory, had been invited to give the keynote address at the day’s meeting, which was devoted to the new evangelization.

After morning prayer, and an introductory talk by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Dolan delivered his remarks in Italian, apologizing for his lack of practice with the language. His audience at the closed-door meeting included 111 of the current members of the College, as well as those who would formally become cardinals the next day. The full text of the archbishop’s talk was released by Vatican Radio.

The American prelate opened by reminding his colleagues that “we gather as missionaries, as evangelizers.” He recalled with enthusiasm the emphasis that Vatican II placed on the teaching that “no Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus and offering His invitation to others in his own day-to-day life.”

During the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, the term “new evangelization” came into use as a way of recognizing that missionary work was needed not only in societies where the Gospel has never been heard but also in once-Christian societies that have succumbed to secularization, Archbishop Dolan said. “The New Evangelization became the dare to apply the invitation of Jesus to conversion of heart not only ad extra but ad intra, to believers and cultures where the salt of the gospel had lost its tang. Thus, the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.” He continued:

Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness.

The influence of secularization is powerful and pervasive, the cardinal-designated said, and its effects are clearly evident even within the community of believers. “It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within,” he said, and poses a challenge that the Church today must meet.

Cardinal-designate Dolan outlined “a creative strategy of evangelization,” calling upon Church leaders to proclaim the faith with clarity and confidence. “After the Council,” the New York prelate joked, “the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!” He called for a Church marked by confidence, tempered by humility and the recognition that the faithful, too, need constantly to be evangelized.

Again citing Pope John Paul II, the archbishop said that “the Church does not ‘have’ a mission…No, the Church is a mission.” Expanding on that thought, he said: “Over the 50 years since the convocation of the Council, we have seen the Church pass through the last stages of the Counter-Reformation and rediscover itself as a missionary enterprise.”

The cardinal-delegate closed his speech with a reminder that the red colors of a cardinal’s vestments symbolize the willingness to sacrifice for the faith “even to the shedding of your blood.” Surveying the life of the universal Church, he remarked, “Sadly, today we have martyrs in abundance.” But he ended with the observation that Church leaders should be proud of those martyrs, recognizing that they “spark the missio ad gentes and New Evangelization.

Following Archbishop Dolan’s speech—which was received enthusiastically by the assembled cardinals—the day of reflection continued with a report from Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Archbishop Fisichella said that the coming Year of Faith, like the creation of his dicastery, is a response to “a particular moment of crisis in which, first of all, many Christians are indifferent, far removed from the life of the community, and often confused by the events of history which at this moment has entered a serious crisis of identity and social responsibility.”

After the presentations by Archbishops Dolan and Fisichella, the floor was open to general discussion until the meeting ended with Vespers.

Secular news coverage on the eve of the February 18 consistory focused mainly on the controversy surrounding a series of leaks of confidential documents from within the Roman Curia. That topic, however, was not on the agenda for the cardinal’s Friday meeting.

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