This Fall’s Synod on the new evangelization is the latest in a long line of gatherings of bishops, of which the 1974 meet was just the third of the post-conciliar era.
In the face of “uncertainty and confusion,” Pope Paul is hoping for an infusion of “love, zeal, and joy” (EN 1) as the task of evangelization in the modern world is renewed:
2. This is precisely what we wish to do here, at the end of this Holy Year during which the Church, “striving to proclaim the Gospel to all people,”[Cf. Ad Gentes 1] has had the single aim of fulfilling her duty of being the messenger of the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Good News proclaimed through two fundamental commands: “Put on the new self”[ Cf. Eph 4:24, 2:15; Col 3:10; Gal 3:27; Rom 13:114; 2 Cor 5:17] and “Be reconciled to God.”[ 2 Cor 5:20]
We wish to do so on this tenth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the objectives of which are definitively summed up in this single one: to make the Church of the twentieth century ever better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people of the twentieth century.
A reminder this is about reform and renewal of the people who bring the message. That seems an important distinction, perhaps lost somewhat as the Church has lurched in some quarters to a celebrity culture. I suspect the pope and bishops of the 1970’s were considering less the possibility of specialists in the episcopacy, but rather a broad enlivening across the board. That begs the question: is the pope the ideal person to write a synod summary? Was Paul VI the right man to do it for 1974-75?
We wish to do so one year after the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which as is well known, was devoted to evangelization; and we do so all the more willingly because it has been asked of us by the Synod Fathers themselves. In fact, at the end of that memorable Assembly, the Fathers decided to remit to the Pastor of the universal Church, with great trust and simplicity, the fruits of all their labors, stating that they awaited from him a fresh forward impulse, capable of creating within a Church still more firmly rooted in the undying power and strength of Pentecost a new period of evangelization.[ Cf. Paul VI, Address for the closing of the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (26 October 1974): AAS 66 (19740, PP. 634-635, 637]
So Paul VI tells us why it’s his pen. In the weeks ahead, we’ll see how well that charge was executed.