SYNTHESIS OF THE APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION “THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL”
Vatican City, 26 November 2013 (VIS) – “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”; thus begins the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, by which Pope Francis develops the theme of the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world, drawn from, among other sources, the contribution of the work of the Synod held in the Vatican from 7 to 28 October 2012 on the theme “The new evangelization for the transmission of the faith”. The text, which the Holy Father consigned to a group of thirty-six faithful following the closing Mass of the Year of Faith last Sunday is the first official document of his pontificate, since the Encyclical “Lumen fidei” was written in collaboration with his predecessor, Benedict XVI. “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come”, he continues. It is a heartfelt appeal to all baptized persons to bring Christ’s love to others, “permanently in a state of mission”, conquering “the great danger in today’s world”, that of an individualist “desolation and anguish”.
The Pope invites the reader to “recover the original freshness of the Gospel”, finding “new avenues” and “new paths of creativity”, without enclosing Jesus in our “dull categories”. There is a need for a “pastoral and missionary conversion, which cannot leave things as they presently are” and a “renewal” of ecclesiastical structures to enable them to become “more mission-oriented”. The Pontiff also considers “a conversion of the papacy”, to help make this ministry “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization”. The hope that the Episcopal Conferences might contribute to “the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”, he states, “has not been fully realized”. A “sound decentralization” is necessary. In this renewal, the Church should not be afraid to re-examine “certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some of which have deep historical roots”.
A sign of God’s openness is “that our church doors should always be open” so that those who seek God “will not find a closed door”; “nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason”. The Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness”. He repeats that he prefers “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church … concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us … it is the fact that many of our brothers and sisters are living without … the friendship of Jesus Christ”.
The Pope indicates the “temptations which affect pastoral workers”: “individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour”. The greatest threat of all is “the grey pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, which in reality faith is wearing down”. He warns against “defeatism”, urging Christians to be signs of hope, bringing about a “revolution of tenderness”. It is necessary to seek refuge from the “spirituality of well-being … detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters” and to vanquish the “spiritual worldliness” that consists of “seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and well-being”. The Pope speaks of the many who “feel superior to others” because “they remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” whereby “instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others” and those who have “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact” on the needs of the people. This is “a tremendous corruption disguised as a good … God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!”.
He appeals to ecclesial communities not to fall prey to envy and jealousy: “How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities!”. “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?”. He highlights the need to promote the growth of the responsibility of the laity, often kept “away from decision-making” by “an excessive clericalism”. He adds that there is a need for “still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church”, in particular “in the various settings where important decisions are made”. “Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected … cannot be lightly evaded”. The young should “exercise greater leadership”. With regard to the scarcity of vocations in many places, he emphasizes that “seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever”.
With regard to the theme of inculturation, he remarks that “Christianity does not have simply one cultural expression” and that the face of the Church is “varied”. “We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history”. The Pope reiterates that “underlying popular piety … is an active evangelizing power” and encourages the research of theologians, reminding them however that “the Church and theology exist to evangelize” and urging them not to be “content with a desk-bound theology”.
He focuses “somewhat meticulously, on the homily”, since “many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry and we cannot simply ignore them”. The homily “should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture”, should be a “heart-to-heart communication” and avoid “purely moralistic or doctrinaire” preaching. He highlights the importance of preparation: “a preacher who does not prepare is not ‘spiritual’; he is dishonest and irresponsible”. Preaching should always be positive in order always to “offer hope” and “does not leave us trapped in negativity”. The approach to the proclamation of the Gospel should have positive characteristics: “approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgemental”.
In relation to the challenges of the contemporary world, the Pope denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”. “Such an economy kills” because the law of “the survival of the fittest” prevails. The current culture of the “disposable” has created “something new”: “the excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’”. “A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual”, of an “autonomy of the market” in which “financial speculation” and “widespread corruption” and “self-serving tax-evasion reign”. He also denounces “attacks on religious freedom” and the “new persecutions directed against Christians. … In many places the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism”. The family, the Pope continues, “is experiencing a profound cultural crisis”. Reiterating the indispensable contribution of marriage to society”, he underlines that “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which … distorts family bonds”.
He re-emphasizes “the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement” and the right of Pastors “to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives”. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society”. He quotes John Paul II, who said that the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. “For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category” rather than a sociological one. “This is why I want a Church that is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us”. “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved … no solution will be found for this world’s problems”. “Politics, although often denigrated”, he affirms, “remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity”. I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by … the lives of the poor!”. He adds an admonition: “Any Church community”, if it believes it can forget about the poor, runs the risk of “breaking down”.
The Pope urges care for the weakest members of society: “the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned” and migrants, for whom the Pope exhorts “a generous openness”. He speaks about the victims of trafficking and new forms of slavery: “This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity”. “Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence”. “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity”. “The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question … it is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life”. The Pope makes an appeal for respect for all creation: we “are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live”.
With regard to the theme of peace, the Pope affirms that “a prophetic voice must be raised” against attempts at false reconciliation to “silence or appease” the poor, while others “refuse to renounce their privileges”. For the construction of a society “in peace, justice and fraternity” he indicates four principles: “Time is greater than space” means working “slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results”. “Unity prevails over conflict” means “a diversified and life-giving unity”. “Realities are more important than ideas means avoiding “reducing politics or faith to rhetoric”. “The whole is greater than the part” means bringing together “globalization and localization”.
“Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue”, the Pope continues, which opens the Church to collaboration with all political, social, religious and cultural spheres. Ecumenism is “an indispensable path to evangelization”. Mutual enrichment is important: “we can learn so much from one another!”, for example “in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of Episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality”; “dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples”; “interreligious dialogue”, which must be conducted “clear and joyful in one’s own identity”, is “a necessary condition for peace in the world” and does not obscure evangelization; in our times, “our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance”: the Pope “humbly” entreats those countries of Islamic tradition to guarantee religious freedom to Christians, also “in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries!”. “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism” he urges us to “avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence”. And against the attempt to private religions in some contexts, he affirms that “the respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions”. He then repeats the importance of dialogue and alliance between believers and non-believers.
The final chapter is dedicated to “spirit-filled evangelizers”, who are those who are “fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit” and who have “the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition”. These are “evangelizers who pray and work”, in the knowledge that “mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people”: “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others”. He explains, “In our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns”. “Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary”; “if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life”. The Pope urges us not to be discouraged before failure or scarce results, since “fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable”; we must know “only that our commitment is necessary”. The Exhortation concludes with a prayer to Mary, “Mother of Evangelization”. “There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness”.
To read the full text of the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, or to download it in PDF format, click on or copy the following link: http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm
ARCHBISHOP FISICHELLA PRESENTS THE APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION “THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL”
Vatican City, 26 November 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), written following the Synod of Bishops on “New Evangelization for the Transmission of Faith”, which took place from 7 to 28 October 2012, and convoked by his predecessor Benedict XVI. The text was presented by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, accompanied by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli.
The exhortation, which is 222 pages long, is divided into five chapters and an introduction. The chapters are dedicated to the Church’s missionary transformation, the crisis of communal commitment, the proclamation of the gospel, the social dimension of evangelization, and spirit-filled evangelizers.
We publish below the text presented by Archbishop Fisichella, preserving the numbers referring to the corresponding paragraphs in the exhortation:
“If we were to sum up Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium in a few words, we could say that it is an Apostolic Exhortation written around the theme of Christian joy in order that the Church may rediscover the original source of evangelization in the contemporary world. Pope Francis offers this document to the Church as a map and guide to her pastoral mission in the near future. It is an invitation to recover a prophetic and positive vision of reality without ignoring the current challenges. Pope Francis instills courage and urges us to look ahead despite the present crisis, making the cross and the resurrection of Christ once again our “the victory banner” (85).
The several references in Evangelii Gaudium to the Propositions of the October, 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith are a testimony to the extent to which the last Synod has influenced the drafting of this Exhortation. This text, however, goes beyond the experience of the Synod. The Pope commits to paper not only his previous pastoral experience, but above all his call to seize the moment of grace in which the Church is living in order to embrace with faith, conviction and enthusiasm a new phase in the journey of evangelization. Extending the teaching of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi of Paul VI (1975), he emphasizes the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ, the first evangelizer, who today calls each and every one of us to participate with him in the work of salvation (12). “The Church’s missionary action is the paradigm for all of her endeavours” (15), affirms the Holy Father, so that it is necessary to seize this favorable moment in order to catch sight of and live out this “new stage” of evangelization (17). This missionary action is articulated in two themes which mark the basic outline of the Exhortation. On the one hand, Pope Francis addresses the particular Churches because, living in the first-person the challenges and opportunities characteristic of their cultural context, they are able to highlight aspects of the new evangelization which are peculiar to their countries. On the other hand, the Pope sets out a common denominator in order that the whole Church, and each individual evangelizer, may discover a common methodology born of the conviction that evangelization is always participatory, shared and never isolated. The following seven points, gathered together in the five chapters of the Exhortation, constitute the fundamental pillars of Pope Francis’ vision of the new evangelization: the reform of the Church in a missi onary key, the temptations of pastoral agents, the Church understood as the totality of the People of God which evangelizes, the homily and its preparation, the social inclusion of the poor, peace and social dialogue, and the spiritual motivations for the Church’s missionary action. The cement which binds these themes together is concentrated in the merciful love of God which goes forth to meet every person in order to manifest the heart of his revelation: the life of every person acquires meaning in the encounter with Jesus Christ and in the joy of sharing this experience of love with others (8).
The first chapter, therefore, proceeds in the light of the reform of the Church in a missionary key, called as she is to “go out” of herself in order to meet others. It is “the dynamic of exodus and the gift of going out of oneself, walking and sowing ever a new, always further and beyond” (21), that the Pope explains in these pages. The Church must make “this intimacy of Jesus, which is an itinerant intimacy”, its own intimacy (23). The Pope, as we are already accustomed to, makes use of effective expressions and creates neologisms to grasp the nature of the Church’s evangelizing action. First among these is the concept of “primerear”, namely God preceding us in love and indicating to the Church the path to follow. The Church does not find herself in a dead-end, but is following in the very footsteps of Christ (cfr. 1 Peter 2,21). Thus the Church is certain of the path she must follow. She does not tread this path in fear since she knows that she is called “to go out in search of those who are far from her and arrive at the crossroads in order to invite those who are excluded. She is filled with an unlimited desire to offer mercy.” (24). In order for this to occur, Pope Francis again stresses the need for “pastoral conversion” (25). This involves passing from a bureaucratic, static and administrative vision of pastoral ministry to a perspective which is not only missionary but is in a permanent state of evangelization (25). In fact, alongside the structures which facilitate and sustain the Church’s missionary activity there are, unfortunately, “ecclesial structures which can jeopardize the dynamism of evangelization” (26). The existence of stagnant and stale pastoral practices obliges us, therefore, to be boldly creative in order to rethink evangelization. In this sense, the Pope affirms that: “an identification of the goals wit hout adequate research on the part of the community as to how to achieve them is doomed to end in mere fantasy” (33).
It is necessary, therefore, “to concentrate on what is essential” (35) and to know that only a systematic approach, i.e. one that is unitary, progressive and proportional to the faith, can be of true assistance. This implies for the Church the capacity to bring out “the hierarchy of truths” and its proper reference to the heart of the Gospel (37-39), thereby avoiding the danger of presenting the faith only in the light of some moral questions as if these could stand apart from the centrality of love. If we lose sight of this perspective, “the moral edifice of the Church runs the risk of becoming a house of cards, and this is our biggest danger” (39). So there is a strong appeal from the Pope to find a healthy balance between the content of the faith and the language in which it is expressed. It may happen at times that the rigidity of linguistic precision can be to the detriment of content, thus compromising the genuine vision of the faith (41).
One of the central passages in this chapter is certainly paragraph 32 in which Pope Francis illustrates the urgency of bringing to fruition some of the perspectives of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the exercise of the Primacy of the Successor of Peter and of the role of Episcopal Conferences. John Paul II in Ut unum sint, had already requested assistance in order to better understand the obligations tof the Pope in ecumenical dialogue. Now, Pope Francis continues in this request and sees that a more coherent form of assistance could be derived from the further development of the theoretical foundations of Episcopal Conferences. Another passage of particular intensity for its pastoral implications are paragraphs 38-45. The heart of the Gospel “is incarnate within the limits of the human language”. As a consequence, doctrine is inserted into “the cage of language”—to use Wittgenstein’s expression—which implies the necessity of a real discernment between the poverty and the limits of language, on the one hand, and the often yet to be discovered richness of the content of faith, on the other. The danger that the Church may at times fail to consider this dynamic is a real one, giving rise to an unjustified fortress mentality in relation to certain questions which risks rendering the Gospel message inflexible while at the same time losing sight of the dynamic proper to its development.
The second chapter is dedicated to recognizing the challenges of the contemporary world and to overcoming the easy temptations which undermine the New Evangelization. In the first place, the Pope affirms, we must recover our identity without those inferiority complexes which lead to “concealing our identity and convictions … and end up suffocating the joy of our mission as we become obsessed over becoming like everyone else possessing the things which they possess” (79). This makes Christians fall into “a kind of relativism which is more dangerous than the doctrinal one” (80), because it impinges directly on the lifestyle of believers. So it happens that many expressions of our pastoral activity suffer from a kind of weariness which derives from placing the accent on the initiatives themselves and not on the person. The Pope believes that the temptation of a “de-personalization of the person” in order to become better organized is both real and common. By the same token, the challenges in evangelization should be accepted more as a chance to grow and as not as a reason for falling into depression. There should be no talk, then, of a “sense of defeat” (85). It is essential that we recover interpersonal relationships to which we must accord a priority over the technology which seeks to govern relationships as with a remote control, deciding where, when and for how long to meet others on the basis of one’s own preferences (88). As well as the more usual and more diffuse challenges, however, we must be alive to those which impinge more directly on our lives: the sense of “daily uncertainty, with evil consequences”, the various forms of “social disparity”, the “fetishism of money and the dictatorship of a faceless economy”, the “exasperation of consumption” and “unbridled consumerism”… In short, we find ourselves in the presence of a “globalization of indifference” and a “sneering contempt” towards ethics, accompanied by a constant attempt to marginalize every critical warning over the supremacy of the market which, with its “trickle down” creates the illusion of helping the poor (cfr nn. 52-64). If the Church today appears still highly credible in many countries of the world, even where it is a minority, its is because of her works of charity and solidarity (65).
In the evangelization of our time, therefore, and most especially in the face of the challenges of the great “urban cultures” (71), Christians are invited to flee from two phenomena which undermine its very nature and which Pope Francis defines as “worldliness” (93). First, the “charm of Gnosticism” which implies a faith closed in on itself, not least in its own doctrinal certainties, and which erects its own experience as the criterion of truth by which to judge others. Second, a “self-referential and Promethean Neo-Pelagianism” of those who maintain that the grace is only an accessory while progress is obtained only through personal commitment and force. All of this stands in contradiction to evangelization. It creates a type of “narcissistic elitism” which must be avoided (94). Who do we want to be, asks the Pope, “Generals of defeated troops” or “foot soldiers of a platoon which continues to fight”? The risk of a “worldly Church in spiritual or pastoral trappings” (96), is not hidden but real. It is vital, then, not to succumb to these temptations but to offer the testimony of communion (99). This testimony is reinforced by complementarity. Starting from this consideration, Pope Francis explains the necessity of the promotion of lay people and women, and the need to foster vocations and the priestly life. To look upon the Church in the light of the progress of these last decades demands that we subtract ourselves from a mentality of power and embrace a logic of service for the united construction of the Church (102-108).
Evangelization is the task of the entire People of God, without exception. It is not, nor could it be, reserved or delegated to any particular group. All baptized people are directly involved. Pope Francis explains, in the third chapter of the Exhortation, how evangelization may develop and the various stages which may indicate its progress. First, he is keen to underline the “the primacy of grace” which works tirelessly in the life of every evangelizer (112). Then the Pope develops the theme of the great role played by various cultures in the process of the inculturation of the Gospel, and which prevents a particular culture from falling into a “vainglorious sacralization of itself” (117). He then indicates the fundamental direction of the new evangelization in the interpersonal relationships (127-129) and in the testimony of life (121). He insists, furthermore, on rediscovering the value of popular piety as an expression of the genuine faith of many people who thereby give true testimony of their simple encounter with the love of God (122-126). Finally, the Pope invites theologians to study the mediations necessary in order to arrive at an appreciation of the various forms of evangelization (133), reflecting more at length on the homily as a privileged from of evangelization which requires an authentic passion and love for the Word of God and for the people to whom it is entrusted (135-158).
The fourth chapter is given over to a reflection on the social dimension of evangelization. This is a theme which is dear to Pope Francis since, as he states, “If this dimension is not explained in the correct way, we run the risk of disfiguring the authentic and full meaning of the mission of evangelization” (176). This is the great theme of the link between the preaching of the Gospel and the promotion of human life in all of its expressions This promotion of every human being must be holistic and capable of avoiding the relegation of religion to the private sphere, with no incidence in social and public life. A “faith which is authentic always implies a profound desire to change the world” (183). Two great themes emerge in this section of the Exhortation: the “social inclusion of the poor” and “peace and social dialogue”. The particular evangelical passion with which the Pope speaks about them is indicative of his conviction that they will decide the future of humanity.
As far as concerns the “social inclusion of the poor”, with the New Evangelization the Church feels it is her mission “to contribute to the resolution of the instrumental causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor”, as well as undertaking “simple and daily gestures of solidarity in the face of the many concrete situations of need” which are constantly before our eyes (188). What emerges from these closely written pages is an invitation to recognise the “salvific force” which the poor possess and which must be brought to the centre of the life of the Church with the New Evangelization (198). This implies that first of all, before any concrete experience, there be a rediscovery of the attention due to this theme together with its urgency and the need to promote its awareness. Moreover, the fundamental option for the poor which asks to be put into practice is, in the mind of Pope Francis, primarily a “religious and spiritual attention” which must take priority over all else (200). On these questions Pope Francis speaks with extreme frankness and clarity. The “Shepherd of a Church without borders” (210) cannot allow himself to look away. This is why the Pope demands that we consider the problems of migration and is equally strong in his denunciation of the new forms of slavery. “Where is the person that you are killing every day in his secret little factory, in networks of prostitution, in children used for professional begging, in those who must work in secret because they are irregular? Let us not pretend. All of us have some share of responsibility in these situations” (211). Also, the Pope is equally forceful in his defence of human life in its beginning and of the dignity of every human person (213). Concerning this latter aspect, the Pope announces four principles which serve as a common denominator for the promotion of peace and its concrete social application. Recalling, perhaps, his studies into Romano Guardini, Pope Francis seems to create a new polar opposition. He reminds us that “time is superior to space”, “unity prevails over conflict”, “reality is more important than ideas”, and that “the whole is greater than its parts”. These principles open up to the dimension of dialogue as the first contribution towards peace, a dimension which is extended in the Exhortation to the areas of science, ecumenism and non-Christian religions.
The final chapter seeks to express the “spirit of the New Evangelization” (260). This is developed under the primacy of the action of the Holy Spirit which always and anew infuses the missionary impulse in the Church beginning with the life of prayer whose centre is contemplation (264). In conclusion, the Virgin Mary, “Star of the New Evangelization” is presented as the icon of every authentic preaching and transmission of the Gospel which the Church is called to undertake in the coming decades with a strong enthusiasm and an unchanging love for the Lord Jesus.
“Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization” (83). The language of this Apostolic Exhortation is clear, immediate, free from rhetoric and insinuations. Pope Francis goes to the heart of the problems which touch the lives of men and women of today and which demand of the Church more than a simple presence. The Church is asked to actively program a renewed pastoral practice which reflects her engagement in the New Evangelization. The Gospel must reach everyone, without exception. Some, however, are more privileged than others. Pope Francis leaves us in no doubt as to his position: “Not so much friends and rich neighbours, but above all the poor, the sick, those who are often ignored and forgotten … there must be no doubts or explanations which weaken the clarity of this message” (48).
As in other crucial moments of her history, it is with a sense of urgency that the Church prepares to engage in the New Evangelization in a spirit of adoration so as to behold once again, with a “contemplative gaze”, the signs of the presence of God. The signs of the times are not only encouraging, but are serve as a criterion for effective witness (71). Pope Francis reminds us, first of all, of the central mystery of our faith: “Let us not run away from the resurrection of Jesus, let us not surrender, come what may” (3). He shows us a Church which is the companion of those who are our contemporaries in the seeking after God and in the desire to see him.
OTHER ASPECTS OF THE APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
Vatican City, 26 November 2013 (VIS) -Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, speaking at the press conference presenting the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, presented aspects referring to synodality, while Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli considered aspects relating to communication.
“The Holy Father’s document Evangelii Gaudium (EG) is the outcome of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on ‘New Evangelization for the Transmission of Christian Faith’ (2012), a proclamation of joy to Christian disciples and missionaries, and to all humanity”, said Archbishop Baldisseri. “The Holy Father received and reviewed the Synod Fathers’ Propositiones, and made them his own, re-elaborating them in a personal way, and has written a programmatic, exhortative document in the form of an “Apostolic Exhortation”, central to which is mission in its fullest sense. A striking aspect, from the very first pages onwards, is the joyful presentation of the Gospel – thus, Evangelii Gaudium – which is expressed also in the repetition, 59 times throughout the text, of the word ‘joy’.
“The Pope has taken the Propositiones into account, citing them 27 times). On this basis, emerging from the reflections of the Synod Fathers, he develops the Exhortation within a solid doctrinal framework, founded on biblical and magisterial references, with a thematic presentation of the various aspects of faith, in which he affirms the principles and the doctrines incarnate in life. This development is enriched by references to the Fathers of the Church, including St. Irenaeus, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, to mention just a few, and is further supported by the work of Medieval masters such as Blessed Isaac de l’Etoile, St. Thomas Aquinas and Thomas à Kempis, modern theologians including Blessed John Henry Newman, Henri De Lubac and Romano Guardini, and other writers such as Georges Bernanos.
“In particular, there are frequent textual references to Apostolic Exhortations such as Paul VI’s Evangelii nuntiandi (13 references), and other post-Synodal texts such as Christifideles laici; Familiaris consortio; Pastores dabo vobis; Ecclesia in Africa, in Asia, in Oceania, in America, in Medio Oriente, in Europa and Verbum Domini. Furthermore, significant attention is paid to the pronouncements of the Latin American episcopates, as well as the Puebla and Aparecida documents, those of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East in their 16th Assembly, and those of the Episcopal Conferences of India, the United States, France, Brazil, the Philippines, and Congo.
“The theme of synodality is introduced in the first part of the document, which deals with ‘The Church’s missionary transformation’. From the perspective of a Church who ‘goes forth’ (20), ‘from ourselves to our brothers and sisters’ (179), the Holy Father proposes a complete ‘pastoral of conversion’. … It is clear that he intends to include in this ‘pastoral of conversion’ special attention to the exercise of the primacy; he therefore affirms that ‘the papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion’ (32).
With reference to the Vatican Council II, along with the ancient patriarchal Churches, the Holy Father expresses his hope that the Episcopal Conferences may be able “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit” (Lumen Gentium 22, Evangelii Gaudium 32). This expression of synodality would bring specific attributions, in relation to doctrinal authority and governance (cf. 32). With regard to ecumenism – and thanks also to the presence at the Synod of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Canterbury (cf. 245), synodality is expressed in a particular way since, through “dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality” (246).
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli spoke about the “communicative dimension in the new evangelization” in the light of the Apostolic Exhortation.
“It is immediately clear that the Pope is aware of what is happening in today’s world, especially in the fields of health, education, and communications”, said the Archbishop. “and he makes reference to technological innovation”.
“There is no doubt that there has been progress and achievement in these fields, but the Pope is also aware that the current information society bombards us indiscriminately with data, all treated as of equal importance, which can lead to great superficiality in the area of moral discernment. For this reason the Pope emphasizes the need for a true education which teaches how to think critically and encourages the development of mature moral values. The document also recognizes that the current, enhanced possibilities for communication can open wider avenues of encounter among people. Hence the need to discover and share the mystery of living together, of mingling and encounter”.
He went on to explain that a significant part of the text focuses on analysing how the message of the Church is communicated. “The Pope is aware of the speed of communication today and how at times the media have a selective interest in various types of content. This is why there is a risk that the message can appear to be distorted or reduced to secondary considerations. … In confronting these risks, the Pope maintains that we must be realistic, we should not ‘assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel’. For this reason the Pope emphasises that in our proclamation of the message we must concentrate on the essence, on what is truly beautiful, most significant , most attractive and at the same time truly necessary. We must keep the message simple without losing anything of its depth and truth so that it remains convincing and powerful”.