Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, says Christians must rekindle the gift of faith against a culture of religious indifferentism.
More than a hundred delegations from 50 different countries and 1,600 participants, including bishops, priests, religious, and many lay people: these are the numbers of participants at the International Congress of Catechists, which was held in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on the theme, “The Catechist, Witness of Faith.” Aleteia spoke with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and promoter of the event, and who took the opportunity to thank our network for the work we do.
In your introduction to the conference, you said that evangelization is not an ordinary task for the Church: what did you mean?
Evangelization is the mission of the Church; it is the nature of the Church. If it were not so, we would be, as Pope Francis has often said, a more or less organized NGO that is able to do many works of solidarity, but we would not be the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus wanted His Church to bring his Gospel to all men, to every man, to every woman in the world, without heeding any boundaries, working tirelessly in an unending mission. This is why evangelization is not one of the Church’s many initiatives; rather, it is the mission and the nature of the Church. I think I can say, in an extremely drastic but honest way: if there is no evangelization, there is no Church.
What is the relationship between the new evangelization and catechesis?
This is a topic that we should study, although we have already the elements. The new evangelization brings with it the need to make people, especially Christians, understand their role at this historical time. Christians must therefore revive their faith: we must be able to speak out and proclaim Jesus Christ also with our witness of life for those living in countries of ancient Christian tradition but who live in indifference, who no longer know the fundamental contents of faith, and who, it seems, are not influenced by Jesus or the faith or the need to believe. Catechesis needs to fit within this context and in this process that the Church sees in front of her for the next few decades.
What do the different expressions of today's Church – perhaps a little tired in countries with ancient Christian traditions, or where Christians live in minority situations in other cultural contexts – have in common?
First of all, we have in common the fact that we are all baptized Christians who are eager to communicate the joy of our faith, even though we live in different cultural contexts. The difficulties of one country may be borne by another, the wealth of one is also shared with the other. I believe that this is the major form that we have to take on: in catechesis, we have a wealth of experience. There is a catechesis that is not only limited to the moment of the reception of the sacraments of communion or confirmation, but that gives so many testimonies in the world of other paths. I think, for example, of Chile and the ability to have a very strong penetration with respect to family catechesis. In other countries, we have the experience of the catechumenate, which is aimed primarily at adults to bring them back to the proclamation of faith; we also have the possibility of “ongoing” catechesis. With this advantage of experiences, I believe that the wealth of the one and the desire of others can lead us to find a possibility for a priority effort.
The Year of Faith also draws inspiration from the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What assessment can we make of this period?
The Catechism is now a permanent fact in the Church: it has been translated into more than 57 languages and the last translation, which is almost finished, is the Urdu version. In a few days, here in Italy, we will have the chance to have an app with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium on our smartphones or tablets. This is an important milestone for us because it allows us once again to use new tools and new languages to reach a wider audience.
A question that is very relevant for Aleteia: does the new media help evangelization?
Aleteia was founded to help the new evangelization. So, in addition to our gratitude, there is the hope that it will be able to continue to grow and become a catalyst for many others who share the same purpose. And then there is the hope of working together so that through these new media and a new culture at our disposal, the Word of God, as St. Paul said, can still run its course and not stop until it has found every man, every woman who has a desire to know Jesus Christ.