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Pope Francis’ call to seize with enthusiasm “a new phase in the journey of evangelization” by offering this new document, called Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel, 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.”
This is a continuation from last issue and is the final part of the Synthesis of the Joy of the Gospel:
Chapter Three: The Proclamation of the Gospel
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 urges 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”; it 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-judgmental”.
Chapter Four: The Social Dimension of Evangelization
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.
Chapter Five: Spirit-Filled evangelizers
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 (parrhesç°) 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”