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Starting off on the right foot

· The first week of the Synod ·

At the end of the first week of the Synod practical pastoral proposals have already emerged. However, in expectation of the conclusions what counts most is the predominant frame of mind of the Synod Fathers and of the other participants. Measured but clear words confirm that the Synod has got off on the right foot for a task the Holy Father has entrusted that is far from simple. He understands the new evangelization as addressed mainly to baptized people who have drifted away from the Church and who no longer refer to Christian practices in their life; in other words it means launching a project for revitalizing faith in countries of ancient Christianity, but without giving up the proclamation of the Gospel to those who do not know Christ. In this endeavour the Church is not so much called to act as rather to know what God has done, and therefore, first of all, to pray to him. Indeed prayer is the indispensable condition for inaugurating a new Pentecost –  in this way, almost in a direct line – and for understanding where God wants to lead his Church.

To the Synod Fathers gathered at the solemn opening concelebration Benedict XVI said first of all that the only approach for succeeding in their work was to fix their gaze on the Lord Jesus. And he repeated with disarming clarity that the Crucified One, as a sign of love and peace, an appeal to conversion and reconciliation, is par excellence the badge of those who proclaim the Gospel.

So far the Synod seems to have responded well to this dynamic set in motion by the Pope.

In the many interventions there is no trace of triumphalism, but a widespread perception exists of the limitations in every area of pastoral action, of the Church's cultural and social involvement, understood as communion, a People of God made up of clerics and lay people. The primary responsibility in the weakening of faith in countries of ancient Christianity is due first of all to the fragmented responsibility of Christians themselves, enfeebled in witness because they are less informed and less convinced in the proclamation.

A great many of the talks recorded in the first week of the Synod put an emphasis on the urgent need to recognize that Jesus Christ has first place in the ordinary life of Christian communities. And, at the same time they expressed a deep sense of regret, for the omissions and for the individual and collective sins that have contributed to levelling out the Christian faith.

In the style of the Second Vatican Council, the interventions fit the work of the Synod into the journey of our contemporaries without nostalgia for the past and thereby succeed in bringing back God's light and in rediscovering –  to say so with one of the Synod Fathers – the driving force of the Gospel that seems to have become enfeebled in the eyes of people today.

Some of the images used in the Synod Hall to to paint a modern and effective picture of the new evangelization are evocative: faith portrayed as a lifestyle that attracts others; changing the mentality that sees faith belonging to a militant and violent sociological faction; starting afresh from Jerusalem, where the first Christian community was anchored to Christ, having a cause for which it was prepared to face every possible sacrifice and even to make the gift of life itself.

In other words this implies asking ourselves: how many Christians today would likewise be prepared to die for Jesus Christ? It is a question that echoes the fundamental questions Paul VI put to the Church gathered at the Council. “Church what do you have to say for yourself? What do you say of Christ? To give meaning to evangelization these questions are still relevant.

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Nov. 12, 2019

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