Vatican point man targets mass exodus
The Vatican’s point man for what is called the “new evangelisation”, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, will explain it all when he addresses the three-day Proclaim 2012 conference starting in Sydney tomorrow.
“The Western world is in a big crisis. Not a financial or economic crisis — the big crisis is anthropological,” he says.
“We need to answer the main questions of people today, which are ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where am I going?’ ”
Certainly, an increasing number are not going to mass.
The most recent church statistics show only 15.3 per cent of Australia’s five million Catholics attend regularly.
While the archbishop’s broader mission appears to be old-style outreach to all, he wants these people to recognise that the parish is a community in which they need to participate.
“We need first of all to give an enthusiasm to our believers and send them to people who are baptised and said to be Christians, but have become indifferent, and don’t participate any more in the life of the community,” Archbishop Fisichella says.
“People should come back because they need to understand the value of a communitarian life. We want to fight against solitude, against loneliness.”
The phrase “new evangelisation” was coined by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
In 2010, Benedict XVI decided it was time to stop talking about it and get on with doing it, hence the creation of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, which is headed by Archbishop Fisichella. “We are living in a very peculiar moment because we underline our individual rights and we forget we are a society, and responsible for each other,” he says.
“Without understanding that you are called to be a part of a community, you close yourself in individualism.”
Missionary zeal has been in short supply.
“Unfortunately, during the years we have lost the missionary tension, the capacity to share our joy with others.”
He says that there is a lack of spiritual “literacy” among some Catholics about basic beliefs and, once this is established, there is a need to live by example.
“It’s not enough to say we are Christians, but also to live as Christians,” Archbishop Fisichella says. “Looking at us probably no one would recognise we are Christians today because our style of life is the same as non-believers. We need a true conversion in our style of life.”
Once that was done, there would be no choice but to spread the word.
“I don’t know if in a culture like Australia it will be possible, but we have to go back to knocking on the doors around the parish,” he said.