Jesus Christ has entrusted the mission of proclaiming the Gospel primarily to the body of pastors who need to work together and with the Successor of Peter, so that it reaches all people. . . . The Bishop, the first witness of faith, accompanies the journey of believers offering the example of a life lived in trusting in God . He, therefore, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, must live in the presence of the Lord, as a man of God. One cannot be in the service of men, unless being first a servant of God.
Pope Benedict XVI
The Catholic Church is the one and only Church founded by Jesus Christ, and it is through the Catholic Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, that all truth and light comes into the world. All spiritual truth in the world originates from the Church. This is a great blessing, but it also places a tremendous responsibility upon the Church. As Luke 12:48 tells us:
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
For [the Kingdom of Heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. His master said to him: "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently gave a very interesting talk in Rome to the newly ordained bishops on the topic of evangelization and the bishops' vital role in this. The Holy Father seems to feel very strongly that the bishops are the key to the "new evangelization", as Pope Benedict XVI calls it. I have copied an article below from Catholic Online about this talk. The article was written by Deacon Keith Fournier. He includes his own comments before giving us the transcript of the Holy Father's talk.
In his comments, Deacon Fournier emphasizes the role of the laity in the "new evangelization." However, that is not what the Holy Father emphasized in this particular talk. Yes, Pope Benedict definitely believes that the laity needs to be involved in evangelization, as he says, "Each believer, in and with the ecclesial community should feel responsible for announcing and witnessing to the Gospel." Yes, every person has his or her part in preaching the Gospel, but not every one has the same role. Cloistered nuns have a far different role than a priest in a city parish. A wife and mother of five children has a much different responsibility than a single man working in a large corporation. And the bishops and priests have a much different role than the laity. That does not make one lesser or greater than the other, but it does change how they "preach."
Pope Benedict puts the primary responsibility of preaching the Gospel on the shoulders of the bishops. "Jesus Christ has entrusted the mission of proclaiming the Gospel primarily to the body of pastors who need to work together and with the Successor of Peter, so that it reaches all people." Pope Benedict XVI is telling us here that it is vital for the bishops to do their part in teaching and supporting the Body of Christ. It is the bishops' responsibility to make sure the laity is well catechized. How can we expect the laity to be involved in evangelization when they don't practice the teachings of the Church or even know the teachings of the Church? Without pointing fingers, it is quite obvious from the state of the Church that too many of the bishops have fallen down on the job.
Pope Benedict to Bishops: Evangelization Not the Work of 'Specialists' but the Whole Catholic Church
By Deacon Keith Fournier
September 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The New Evangelization challenges each one of us to take this call to heart and live differently as a result. This mission will require an authentic renewal of the whole Catholic Church so that she can undertake this new missionary outreach. [I think the important word here is "renewal." The Church as a whole has lost her way and needs to find her identity again] The consistent teaching at the Council and since has been that the Church is by nature missionary and that every baptized Christian is to participate in that mission. This Pope wants to make sure that we hear this message and respond!
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Thursday, September 20, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI addressed Bishops from five continents who have been appointed during this past year. They were in attendance at a conference organized by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. His theme; the major theme of his pontificate, the Church exists to evangelize!
The Pope recently challenged all the Lay Faithful to take their critical role in the life of the Church, alongside of the Clergy, and to fully participate in her mission to the world. He chose an address he delivered to the 6th Assembly of the International Catholic Action Forum on August 10, 2012 to call for "ecclesial and social co-responsibility". His address to the New Bishops this week continues this challenging message to the whole Church that we are all involved in the work of evangelizing and missionary activity. [This message seems to me to be more directed to the bishops and their vital role in preaching the Gospel, most especially to the different segments of the church.]
In October of 2012 a Bishops Synod on the "New Evangelization" will be held in Rome and the participating Council Fathers were announced this week. At that Synod, the Pope will inaugurate a "Year of Faith" for the Catholic Church throughout the world. It will also mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. Since the Second Vatican Council we have been constantly reminded that the Church is by nature missionary and that every baptized Christian participates in her mission. [I think this is a great message, but unfortunately, it's not the message I got from Vatician II The post Vatican II message seemed to be that people are fine where they are and can reach God from whatever church they are in.] This New Evangelization challenges each one of us to take this call to heart and live differently as a result. This mission will require an authentic renewal of the whole Catholic Church so that she can undertake this new missionary outreach. [How is the laity suppose to do "missionary outreach" when so many either don't know or don't even believe what the Church teaches?] The consistent teaching at the Council and since has been that the Church is by nature missionary and that every baptized Christian is to participate in that mission. This Pope wants to make sure that we hear this message and respond! [This annoys me. It's like the Church didn't even exist before Vatican II, and anything worth knowing is only what has come since that time.]
In other words, our task, you and me, no matter what our state in life, is to be Christian missionaries - in every nation and to every culture. We are to be ready to share the Good news of who Jesus Christ is - and then lead people to Him through membership in the Church which is His Body. This mission is what lies at the heart of what it means to be a Christian - we carry forward in time the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.
What is clear to anyone following this Pope is that he is very, very serious about this mission of the Church to evangelize the Nations. He is also keenly aware of the desperate need within the Catholic Church for the faithful to be re-evangelized - and properly catechized - if they are going to bear fruit in this vital work of this New Missionary Age. [Bingo! Deacon Fournier finally says it here. The "New Evangelization" needs to start first and foremost within the Church since a majority of the laity barely knows what the Church teaches.] He is a man on a mission.
Throughout the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II he spoke of the need for such a re-evangelization of the faithful and coined the phrase "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI has made this New Evangelization a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization tasked with evangelizing countries where the Gospel was announced centuries ago, but where its presence in peoples' daily life seems to be all but lost. [Why does the Gospel's presence seem to be lost in people's lives? What happened to all that great teaching from Vatican II?]
All of the faithful, men, and women, lay, clergy and religious, in every state and station in life - ALL of the faithful - are members of the Body of Christ and as such called to His mission. As Pope Benedict recently reminded us, we are "Co-Responsible" for the Church. We all need to view ourselves as missionaries. This work of evangelization is not reserved for a group of "professionals", evangelization is the mission of all the Christian faithful.
Below is a Vatican Radio Translation of the Holy Fathers Message to the Bishops*****
Your pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter [interesting name that the Holy Father uses for the Vatican] for these days of reflection on the Episcopal ministry, takes on particular importance this year. It is the eve of the Year of Faith, of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith." These events, to which the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church must be added, are an opportunity to strengthen the faith of which, my dear Brothers, you are teachers and heralds (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25).
I greet you, one by one, and I express my deep gratitude to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the words he addressed to me, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. This gathering together in Rome at the beginning of your Episcopal service, is a propitious occasion for you to concretely experience communication and communion among each other, and, in meeting with the Successor of Peter, nourish your sense of responsibility for the entire Church.
As members of the Episcopal college, in fact, you should always have a special solicitude for the universal Church, firstly by promoting and defending the unity of the faith. Jesus Christ has entrusted the mission of proclaiming the Gospel primarily to the body of pastors who need to work together and with the Successor of Peter (cf. ibid., 23), so that it reaches all people. [Although all are involved to one degree or another in spreading the Gospel, the Holy Father reminds us that it starts with the bishops and priests, and they will be held most accountable.] This is particularly urgent in our time, who calls on you to boldly invite the people from every walk of life to an encounter with Christ and to render more solid the faith (cf. Christus Dominus, 12).
Your primary concern must be to promote and support "a more determined commitment of the Church in favor of the new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy in believing and find the enthusiasm to communicate the faith" (Apostolic Letter. Porta fidei, 7). [Is Pope Benedict telling the Bishops that they have lost something along the way since Vatican II, and now they must "rediscover" it?] Here too you are called to encourage and foster communion and collaboration between all the realities of your dioceses. Evangelization, in fact, is not the work of some specialists, but of the entire People of God, under the guidance of the Pastors. [And there's the rub - have the Bishops been giving guidance to the Church?] Each believer, in and with the ecclesial community should feel responsible for announcing and witnessing to the Gospel. Blessed John XXIII, opening the great assembly of Vatican II envisaged "a leap forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciences," and for this reason - he added - "it is necessary that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, be both deepened and presented in a way that meets the needs of our time "(Address at the Opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, October 11, 1962).
We could say that the new evangelization began precisely with the Council, which Blessed John XXIII saw as a new Pentecost that would see the Church flourish through its inner wealth and maternally extend to all fields of human activity (cf. Address The closing session of the Council, December 8, 1962). [We're still waiting, 50 years later, for the "New Pentecost". Instead, the Church has become far more impotent in the world in spreading the message of the Gospel.] The effects of the new Pentecost, despite the difficulties of the times, spread to reach the life of the Church in all its forms: from the institutional to the spiritual, from the participation of the lay faithful in the Church to the charismatic flowering and holiness. In this regard, we cannot but think of both Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, as well as the many figures of bishops, priests, religious and lay people who have rendered the face of the Church beautiful in our time. [I'm sorry, Your Holiness, but I don't see the face of the Church as beautiful in our time. Not when most Catholics don't even attend weekly Mass and openly disobey major Church dogma.] This legacy was also entrusted to your pastoral care. Draw from this wealth of doctrine, of spirituality and of holiness to form the faith of your people, so that their testimony is more credible. [Does this mean that we actually need to go back before Vatican II to learn how to spread the message? What an innovative idea! And it seems the Holy Father is telling these bishops that it is their responsibility that the laity is well catechized.] At the same time, your Episcopal service demands you "give reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15) to those who are in search of faith or the ultimate meaning of life, " in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine,"(Gaudium et Spes, 22).
I encourage you, therefore, to make an effort so that everyone, according to their age and living conditions, are presented with the essential contents of the faith, in a systematic and organic manner, to respond to questions posed by our globalized and technological world. The words of the Servant of God Paul VI are still timely, who said:
"We need to evangelize man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots),... always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God "(ibid., n. Evangelii nuntiandi, 20).For this purpose it is essential to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sure norm for teaching the faith and communion in the creed. The reality in which we live demands that the Christian should have a solid formation! The Faith needs credible witnesses, who trust in the Lord and trust Him to be "living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world" (Apostolic Letter. Porta Fidei, 15). The Bishop, the first witness of faith, accompanies the journey of believers offering the example of a life lived in trusting in God . He, therefore, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, must live in the presence of the Lord, as a man of God. In fact, one cannot be in the service of men, unless being first a servant of God. [The Bishops cannot be about pleasing men, they must be all about serving God.] Your personal commitment to holiness requires that each day you assimilate the Word of God in prayer and nourish yourselves in the Eucharist, to draw from this dual table the lifeblood of your ministry. Charity spurs you to be close to your priests, with a fatherly love that knows how to support, encourage and forgive; they are your first and most precious collaborators in bringing God to men and men to God.
In the same way, the love of the Good Shepherd will make you attentive to the poor and the suffering, to support and console them, as well as to guide those who have lost the meaning of life. Be especially close to the families: parents, helping them to be the primary educators of the faith of their children, the children and young people so that they can build their lives on the solid rock of friendship with Christ. Take special care of seminarians, concerned that they are formed humanly, spiritually, theologically and pastorally, so that the community can have joyful and mature pastors and reliable guides in the faith.
Yes, all members of the Body of Christ have a responsibility to spread the Gospel. However, our Holy Father tells the Bishops the responsibility is first and foremost on their shoulders. The crosier they carry has tremendous meaning. The Bishops are the shepherds of the flock. We need to pray that the Bishops will take this seriously as millions of souls are dependent on them.