4. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
I’d like to take this section in pieces, and look carefully at the text we are given. The Immaculate Conception is not the only anchor of the jubilee, but also the link to the end of Vatican II.
Note the importance given to “keep(ing) this event alive.” Some Catholics speak of history, and an event long past. But I think the Holy Father’s instinct is correct here. I think the council goes beyond either a mere “spirit” or a dismissal as “merely” a pastoral gathering.
Clearly, the world has entered a new age. And the Church of an older age may well be singularly ill-equipped to deal with the new reality with old wineskins. I welcome this kind of language–keeping us moving forward. We look not to the idealized view of either the 50’s or the 70’s, but to a life in a new century.
Consider the phrase, “a new phase of the same evangelization.” What do you make of it? Some protest Delores Dufner’s “new” Church. Does the adjective “new” deserve skepticism and scrutiny? In a way, Pope Francis is right: evangelization isn’t new as much as the methods and enthusiasm we bring to it must be new.
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