As you are aware, the Pope is assisted by various departments
as pastor of the Church. Without naming all of them, the significant ones are
Faith, Worship, Saints, Clergy and Evangelization. The latter department is
headed by the Indian cardinal, Ivan Dias. As “Prefect of the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples” he works with the world’s bishops and other
competent folk in sharing the Good News. Each year all the departments meet
with the full body of members and experts to deal with the significant issues
identified by the Pope and the Cardinal. In the case of this address, one can’t help thinking of the work of the of new lay movements in the Church and some of the new religious orders doing the hard work of being in the marketplace. I for one, can’t help remember the Pope’s address to the Benedictine Oblates of St Frances of Rome where he praised them for keeping a religious life with a particular focus of being in the center of the city as a witness to Christ while helping the poor.
What follows is the Pope’s address to
the plenary session of Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Note the
On the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Congregation
for the Evangelization of Peoples, I wish to express to you, Lord Cardinal, my
cordial greeting, which I happily extend to the archbishops, bishops and all
those taking part in this assembly. I also greet the secretary, the assistant
secretary, the under-secretary and all the collaborators of this dicastery. I
add the expression of my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for the service
you render the Church in the area of the mission ad gentes [to the peoples].
The topic you are addressing in this meeting, “St. Paul
and the New Areopagi” — also in light of the Pauline Year concluded a
short while ago — assists in reliving an experience of the Apostle to the
Gentiles while in Athens. After having preached in many places, he addressed
the Areopagus and there proclaimed the Gospel using a language that today we
could describe as “inculturated” (cf. Acts 17:22-31).
That Areopagus, which at the time represented the center of
culture for the refined Athenian people, today — as my venerated predecessor
John Paul II would say — “can be taken as a symbol of the new sectors in
which the Gospel must be proclaimed” (Redemptoris Missio, 37). In fact,
the reference to that event is an urgent invitation to know how to value the
“Areopagi” of today, where the great challenges of evangelization are
You wish to analyze this topic with realism, taking into
account the many social changes that have occurred: a realism supported by the
spirit of faith, which sees history in the light of the Gospel, and with the
certainty that Paul had of the presence of the Risen Christ. Resonating and
comforting for us also are the words that Jesus addressed to him in Corinth:
“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with
you. No one will attack and harm you,” (Acts 18:9-10).
In an effective way, the Servant of God Paul VI said that it
is not just a question of preaching the Gospel, but of “affecting and as
it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind’s criteria of
judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of
inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and
the plan of salvation” (Insegnamenti XIII, , 1448).
It is necessary to look at the “new Areopagi” with
this spirit; some of these [areas], with present globalization, have become
common, whereas others continue to be specific to certain continents, as was seen
recently in the special assembly for Africa of the synod of bishops. Therefore,
the missionary activity of the Church must be directed to the vital centers of
the society of the third millennium.
Not to be underestimated is the influence of a widespread
relativistic culture, more often than not lacking in values, which enters the
sanctuary of the family, infiltrates the realm of education and other realms of
society and contaminates them, manipulating consciences, especially those of
the young. At the same time, however, despite these snares, the Church knows
that the Holy Spirit is always acting. New doors, in fact, are opened to the
Gospel, and spreading in the world is the longing for authentic spiritual and
apostolic renewal. As in other periods of change, the pastoral priority is to
show the true face of Christ, lord of history and sole redeemer of man.
This demands that every Christian community and the Church
as a whole offer a testimony of fidelity to Christ, patiently building that
unity desired by him and invoked by all his disciples. The unity of Christians
will, in fact, facilitate evangelization and confrontation with the cultural,
social and religious challenges of our time.
In this missionary enterprise we can look to the Apostle
Paul, imitate his “style” of life and his apostolic
“spirit” itself, centered totally on Christ. With this complete
adherence to the Lord, Christians will more easily be able to transmit to
future generations the heritage of faith, capable of transforming difficulties
into possibilities of evangelization.
In the recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I
wished to emphasize that the economic and social development of contemporary
society needs to renew attention to the spiritual life and “a serious
consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in
Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness,
self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. Christians long for the
entire human family to call upon God as ‘Our Father!'” (No. 79).
Lord Cardinal, while thanking you for the service that this
dicastery renders to the cause of the Gospel, I invoke upon you and upon all
those taking part in the present plenary assembly the help of God and the
protection of the Virgin Mary, star of evangelization, while I send my
heartfelt apostolic blessing to all.
From the Vatican, November 13, 2009
BENEDICTUS XVI PP