By David Kerr
Today Pope Benedict XVI told over 8,000 Catholics involved in the “new evangelization” that he has every confidence they can return their respective nations to Jesus Christ.
“Seeing all of you and knowing the hard work that everyone of you places at the service of the mission, I am convinced that the new evangelists will multiply more and more to create the true transformation which the world of today needs,” the Pope said Oct. 15. in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.
The Pope was addressing a conference entitled “New Evangelizers for the New Evangelization – The Word of God grows and spreads,” organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Noting that the title of the conference was drawn from a phrase often used in the Acts of the Apostles, the biblical account of the early Catholic Church, the Pope suggested that modern society still yearns for God, just as it did 2,000 years ago.
“Modern man is often confused and cannot find answers to the many questions which trouble his mind in reference to the meaning of life,” said the Pope.
And yet, he observed, man “cannot avoid these questions which touch on the very meaning of self and of reality.” Consequently, modern man often despairs and simply withdraws from “the search for the essential meaning of life,” settling instead for “things which give him fleeting happiness, a moment’s satisfaction, but which soon leave him unhappy and unsatisfied.”
It was with such people in mind, that Pope Benedict said he created the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization last year. The council is charged with spearheading the re-evangelization of traditionally Christian countries that have been particularly affected by secularization in recent decades.
As he spoke to the thousands of evangelists from around the world, the Pope gave them three reasons for hope in their mission.
He first reminded them that “the power of the Word does not depend primarily on our action” but on God. Secondly, he said that even in the modern world “there continues to be the good soil” into which the word of God will fall and produce “good fruit.” And lastly, he counseled the missionaries that despite “indifference, misunderstanding,” and “persecution,” there are still many people willing to “courageously open their hearts and minds to accept the invitation of Christ,” and become missionaries themselves.
Those gathered in the audience hall heard testimony from those involved in various new movements, schools of catechesis and evangelizing projects.
“I felt it very important to be here today as a witness for our young people working in the new evangelization,” said 29-year-old Patrick Muldoon from Dublin, Ireland. He was at the Vatican gathering with 19 others from the Emmanuel School of Mission, a Rome-based project that prepares young people to be Catholic missionaries.
“We’ve all left jobs and studies to come to Rome for one year to spend that year for God and we really feel that in our own lives we can be great witnesses to other young people,” said Patrick.
Standing next to him was 22-year-old Haydi Koussa from Cairo, Egypt. She felt the meeting was “a great opportunity to learn new ways of carrying out evangelization, particularly in my home country.”
“The new evangelization is there,” Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England remarked to CNA. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
“It’s there in groups of young people who are already gathering together to witness to the faith with a new strength and a new courage,” the archbishop said, adding that this is particularly important “in those places where our young people can be influential – such as their places of work and study.”
Before imparting his blessing on the crowd, Pope Benedict asked them to continue to “be signs of hope, able to look to the future with the certainty that comes from the Lord Jesus, who has conquered death and gave us eternal life.” He entrusted them to the protection of the Virgin Mary, “star of the new evangelization.”