Pope Benedict, sometimes (mis?)understood for promoting a Small Church Getting Smaller approach to distilling Catholicism to a core of orthodox(?) believers seemed to get behind a bold evangelization mindset in his homily earlier today.
Pope Benedict has sometimes been presumed to accept the idea of a smaller but more militant church, supposedly to strengthen the church’s identity. But he made it clear in Portugal that “pruning back” is not his strategic goal.
In Porto, the pope said that to reach out more effectively, the church’s traditional idea of evangelizing must change. In today’s increasingly multicultural societies, he said, the church needs to be able to mix dialogue with proclamation and witness of the faith.
While others in many places are calling for serious reform in the curia (and I would largely agree) what would help the Church more is a purging of the timid approach to Catholicism I see in too many places among the clergy and laity in parishes.
Witnessing to the faith is nothing new. At Vatican II, Ad Gentes offered principles and some concrete examples for the laity. Anybody ever hear of a parish offering a session on the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church. Do we assume that evangelization is just for missionaries in mission lands? The pope’s not on board with that.
He said the church’s missionary map is no longer geographical, however. Those awaiting the Gospel message are “not only non-Christian populations and distant lands,” but entire social and cultural areas that cut across national or continental boundaries.
It’s good to see the shepherd getting really serious about this. I don’t know that another curial department will be as effective as communicating this to bishops and getting action going in dioceses and parishes. From the Vatican’s translation of Pope Benedict’s homily text:
My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus. In effect, if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world.
Indeed. If not us, then no one.