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Confronting a new paganism

· Reflections on ‘Ubicumque et Semper’ ·

With the Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper Pope Benedict XVI has established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, motivated by the undeniable and complex missionary urgency in which the Church finds herself today and the current particular circumstances that must be faced. And so, once again our beloved Pope sends, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, to fulfil joyfully the mandate of the Risen Lord, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).

From the very beginning of his Pontificate Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the missionary urgency. As early as 2005 he said to the German Bishops: “Dear Brothers, as you yourselves said… ‘we have become a mission land’. This is true for large parts of Germany. I therefore believe that throughout Europe… we should give serious thought to how we can achieve a true evangelization in this day and age, not only a new evangelization, but often a true and proper first evangelization. People do not know God, they do not know Christ. There is a new form of paganism and it is not enough for us to strive to preserve the existing flock, although this is very important”.

On many other occasions Pope Benedict XVI has returned to the topic of the missionary urgency. In Brazil, inaugurating the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ Conferences in 2007, the Pope said: “Faith in God has animated the life and culture of these nations for more than five centuries.… At present, this same faith has some serious challenges to address, because the harmonious development of society and the Catholic identity of these peoples are at stake”. At its conclusion the Conference decided to begin a permanent continental mission. Indeed, in Latin America and particularly in Brazil, the alarming growth of the Pentecostal sects and de-Christianisation, a consequence of the post-modern secularized, relativistic and laicized culture, are causing a considerable decline in the numbers of those who call themselves Catholic. On the Latin American continent, Catholics today risk being reduced to less than half of the population.

In his Motu Proprio Pope Benedict XVI indicates where the new evangelization is most urgent, that is, particularly “in the Churches of ancient origin”, such as Europe, and in others where “many vital traditions of piety and popular forms of Christian religion are still conserved; but today this moral and spiritual patrimony runs the risk of being dispersed under the impact of a multiplicity of processes, including secularization and the spread of sects”. “Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith”, the Pope states.

First and foremost it is a question of reaching out to Catholics who are alienated, those whom we, the Church, have baptized and whom we promised at that time to evangelize, but whose evangelization, for adverse reasons or by omission, we unfortunately have not succeeded in completing or continuously renewing.

The challenge is to bring them or to bring them anew the first proclamation of the Risen Lord and his Kingdom in order to lead them to a strong, personal and communal encounter with the living Christ and thus to offer them the opportunity to adhere profoundly and personally to the Lord. The post-modern man and woman too can be touched anew by a personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ. The first people who should receive the new evangelization, however, are all the poor of the cities and countryside.

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