DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY January 25, 1999 vol. 10, no. 16
NEWS & VIEWS
POST SYNODAL EXHORTATION OF POPE JOHN PAUL II: A CALLING TO THE NEW EVANGELIZATION OF THE AMERICAN CONTINENT
MEXICO CITY, 24 (NE) After an intense day of encounter with the Lord Jesus, Pope John Paul II addressed the whole American continent with his Post synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America. The Holy Father placed the document at the feet of our Virginal Mother of God, our Lady of Guadalupe. The document has been issued under the title: Post synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America of the Holy Father John Paul II, to the bishops, priests and deacons, men and woman religious, and to all the faithful on the encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.
The document consists of an introduction, six chapters and a conclusion. The different chapters develop the theme proposed by the Synodal Assembly: The encounter with the living Jesus Christ, path to conversion, communion and solidarity in America. Thus, the first chapter is titled The encounter with the living Jesus Christ. The second is Encountering Jesus Christ in America today. The path of conversion and The path to communion are the titles of the third and fourth chapter. The fifth develops the theme The path to solidarity. Finally, the sixth chapter is titled The Church in America today: the New Evangelization.
The calling to a New Evangelization
The document expounds diverse important aspects on the life of the Church in the American continent at the threshold of the Third Millennium of Faith. In the first paragraphs, and all along the whole exhortation, we find the nucleus of the Holy Father's message: the calling to a New Evangelization of the Continent of Hope. Remembering the words of the Apostle: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!," the Pope pointed out in his first paragraphs: "This command goes to the whole Church, and the Church in America, in this particular moment of its history, it is a calling to receive and respond with loving generosity to this fundamental mission."
Full of joy for the gift of its faith received over five hundred years ago, and aware of the greatness of the blessings received, "the pilgrim Church in America wishes to bring the whole of society and every man and woman to share the richness of faith and communion in Christ." Referring to the series of synodal Assemblies that have been carried out, the Holy Father pointed out how "the theme underlying them all is that of evangelization, or rather the New Evangelization, the foundations of which were laid down in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI."
Starting point: The encounter with the living Jesus Christ
In this urgent calling to a New Evangelization the Holy Father pointed out the starting point of the evangelizing program: The encounter with the Lord. Remembering how "the encounters with the Lord risen, true, real and substantially present in the Eucharist have constituted a spiritual climate along the Synod of America," Pope John Paul II highlighted in the first chapter the essentiality of the encounter with the living Jesus Christ, referring to the encounter with the Lord risen- as presented in many of the New Testament narratives- and the Church, as a place where man can discover the presence of Jesus Christ and have an encounter with Him. As privileged places for the encounter with Christ, the Holy Father highlighted the Holy Scriptures, "read in the light of Tradition, the Fathers and the Magisterium, as well as the sacred Liturgy, especially the Eucharist, privileged for the encounter with the living Jesus Christ."
Recalling the Constitution of the II Vatican Council Gaudium et spes, the Pope states that indeed, "the Word of God, by taking on our human nature in all things save sin, manifests the Father's plan by revealing to each human person the way to realize fully his or her vocation. Thus Jesus not only reconciles man with the Father, but also reconciles man with himself and thus reveals his true nature."
Presence of Mary in the American continent
The maternal presence of our Blessed Virgin Mary is highlighted by the Holy Father in a special way. "How couldn't we mention the Blessed Virgin's role concerning the Pilgrim Church in Latin America, on the path to the encounter with the Lord? Indeed the Blessed Virgin is tied in a special way to the History of the American People that reached the encounter with Jesus through Mary. In many places of our continent," the Supreme Pontiff added, "the presence of the Mother of God has been very intense from the days of the first evangelization," adding that "the apparition of our Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego at Tepeyac, in the year 1531, had a decisive repercussion for the evangelization. Influence that goes beyond the boundaries of the Mexican nation, reaching the whole continent." Within this context, Pope John Paul II declared that on the 12th of December the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe be celebrated throughout both North and South Americas - the One America.
The Calling to holiness
Some of the chapters of the Holy Father's Exhortation point out the urgency of the calling to conversion. Conversion that is not complete if the conscience of the demands of a Christian life are lacking and if one doesn't make the effort to complete them, which implies abandoning the world way of thinking and acting and accepting and making one's own the new mentality proposed by the Gospel. Conversion must also aim toward holiness. "Holiness," affirmed the Holy Father, "is the goal of the path to conversion, because conversion is not a goal in itself, but rather a process toward God, who is Holy. Holiness involves imitating God and glorifying his name in the deeds we carry out in our lives. In that path of conversion and of striving for holiness the ascetic means that have always existed in the Church's practice, and that reach their summit in the sacrament of pardon, received and celebrated with the necessary dispositions; should be stressed on. Only he who is reconciled with God can be a protagonist of an authentic reconciliation with and among brothers," the Holy Father affirmed.
Pope John Paul II also remembered the fruits of holiness in the American continent, that "offer heroic models of Christian life in the diversity of states of life and of social spheres. The fruits of holiness have flourished from the first days of the evangelization of America. Thus we have Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617), the New World's first flower of holiness, proclaimed principal patroness of America in 1670 by Pope Clement X. After her, the list of American saints has grown to its present length." Upon remembering the models of holiness, the Holy Father pointed out the importance of the Popular piety deeply rooted in the diverse nations of the continent. "The Synod Fathers stressed the urgency of discovering the true spiritual values present in popular religiosity, so that, enriched by genuine Catholic doctrine, it might lead to a sincere conversion and a practical exercise of charity."
Evangelization of the culture
The Holy Father's concern for the families is also manifested in the document. "Many insidious forces are endangering the solidity of the institution of the family in most countries of America," the Vicar of Christ said. "The family life is a path to carry out the universal vocation to holiness." Also, the Holy Father accused "a model of society in which the powerful rule, marginalizing and even eliminating the weak. I am thinking of the children who are not born yet, defenseless victims of abortion; in the elderly and incurable sick people, victims sometimes of euthanasia; and in so many other human beings marginalized by consumerism and the materialism," also referring to the unnecessary death penalty. The Pope underlined the importance of the defense of human life "from the moment of conception up to the moment of natural death." He also made a special reference to the importance of the evangelization with the youth, "a great social and evangelizing force."
The evangelization of the culture appears as a topic of supreme importance in the document of Pope John Paul II. "My Predecessor Paul VI widely remarked that 'the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time.' Hence the Synod Fathers rightly felt that 'the New Evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture.' The incarnation of the Gospel appears as a key element in the New Evangelization. The mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within."
Speaking on the evangelization of the culture, the Holy Father makes a special reference to the evangelization of the social communications media. "For the New Evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. On the other hand," he adds, "the same media can contribute to model the culture and mentality of the men and women of our time."
"The memories of the dark chapters in the American history concerning the existence of slavery and other situations of social discrimination, must be situated in a sincere desire for conversion that leads to reconciliation and communion," the Holy Father affirmed, pointing out that the Church in America should embody the solidarity of the universal Church toward the poor and marginalized, of all genders, in their pastoral initiatives. "The attention to the more needy arises from the option of preferential love for the poor. A love that does not exclude and can not be interpreted as a sign of particularism or sectarism; loving the needy, the Christian imitates the attitudes of the Lord, that was devoted with feelings of compassion to the necessities of the people who were spiritually and materially indigent."
Throughout the document, the Pope John Paul II also calls the attention on diverse areas in the pastoral at the threshold of the Third Millennium of the Faith, as, for example, the action of the Church in the educational field, the growing respect for the human rights, the phenomenon of globalization, the reality of urbanization, the weight of the foreign debt, the corruption, the dealing and consumption of drugs. Upon talking about the importance of the eclesial communion, the Holy Father highlighted the relationships with the Oriental Church Catholics; the effort to consolidate the unity of the clergy in each particular church; the development of the vocational pastoral and the formation of seminarists; the revaluation of consecrated life in the future of the New Evangelization, and the participation of the lay in the ecclesial life, among others. Concerning the participation of the lay, the Pope affirmed that "the renovation of the Church in America won't be possible without the active presence of the lay, working in the family life, as well as the social, labor, cultural and political life, to which evangelization he has been called to, as well as in the construction of the ecclesial community as delegates of the Word, catechists. Also visiting sick people or imprisoned people, animating groups, etc."
"Trusting in this promise of the Lord, the pilgrim Church in America prepares enthusiastically to meet the challenges of today's world and those that will come in the future," said the Holy Father in the conclusion of the document. "The Church in America wishes to walk in hope, as the Synod Fathers declared: 'With serene trust in the Lord of history, the Church prepares to cross the threshold of the Third Millennium freed from prejudice, hesitation, selfishness, fear or doubt, and convinced of the fundamental and primary service which she must provide as a testimony to her fidelity to God and to the men and women of the continent.'
"The celebration of the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium can be the right moment for the People of God in America to renew 'their thanks for the great gift of faith', that it began to receive five centuries ago. "The year 1492, beyond its historical and political meaning, was the great year of grace when America welcomed the faith: a faith which proclaims the supreme gift of the Incarnation of the Son of God two thousand years ago, and which we will solemnly commemorate in the Great Jubilee now so close."
"This twofold sense of hope and gratitude must accompany every pastoral action of the Church on the continent, permeating with the spirit of the Jubilee the various initiatives in the dioceses, parishes, religious communities, ecclesial movements, and the activities which will be organized at both regional and continental levels. Therefore," Pope John Paul II concluded-, I invite all the Catholics of America to take an active part in the evangelizing initiatives which the Holy Spirit is stirring in every part of this immense continent, so full of resources and hopes for the future." The Apostolic Exhortation ends with a prayer for the families.
The full text of the Pope's document has been placed in the
Internet in different sites. It can be currently found at
http://www.newevang.org/mvceng/text/ecclesia.htm or at the
Vatican web page (www.vatican.va)
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