New world evangelization: Synod’s agenda includes America
When Blessed John Paul II launched the project he called the new evangelization, he made it clear that it was aimed above all at reviving the ancient faith of an increasingly faithless West: “countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing,” now menaced by a “constant spreading of religious indifference, secularism and atheism.”
Those words are commonly taken to refer to Christianity’s traditional heartland, Europe. Yet Pope Benedict XVI, who has enthusiastically embraced his predecessor’s initiative, has made it clear that the new evangelization extends to other secular Western societies, including the United States.
In a series of speeches to visiting U.S. bishops last fall and earlier this year, Pope Benedict reflected on the “spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization,” giving special emphasis to a “radical secularism” that he said has worn away America’s traditional moral consensus and threatened its religious freedom.
The world Synod of Bishops dedicated to the new evangelization, which meets at the Vatican Oct. 7-28, will include seven U.S. bishops as full members, and 10 other Americans as official experts or observers. Experts advise the bishops during the synod, and observers are allowed to address the entire assembly.
Looking ahead to that gathering, several of the U.S. participants spoke with Catholic News Service about the obstacles that the new evangelization faces in their country and some of the particular strengths that the church brings to the task.
“We seem to be approaching a tipping point in how we encounter an increasingly militant atheism and secularism in our society,” said Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, who will be attending the synod as an observer. “We have been able to avoid the downside of what has happened in Europe, but for how much longer is a continual question. This synod may be the best opportunity to answer that.” [More]