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The newness that springs up in the wilderness

Half a century has passed since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. The largest gathering of bishops ever to be held in history opened on 11 October 1962 and marked a milestone in the uninterrupted development of the Catholic tradition, by its nature open to the future. The Church's desire for renewal was therefore apparent and generally understood, just as in Catholicism across the world this desire has been consistent overall in the decades that have passed since then. This is so despite the contradictions, shortcomings and limitations inevitable in every human situation and despite the tenacious stereotypes that sought and constantly seek to spread views contrary to them but fail to respect reality.

To support this ever necessary renewal ( Ecclesia semper reformanda ). Benedict XVI — who took part in the Council and made his contribution to it as as a young theologian — assigned the crucial theme of the New Evangelization to the Synod of Bishops, a tangible and expanding expression of episcopal collegiality. At the same time the Pope wanted a Year of Faith, as did Paul VI — who guided Vatican ii and brought it to conclusion — a few months before the conclusion of the Council. The need to witness to and proclaim the Gospel, the significance of faith for the life of every human: hence it is for the essential that the Pope continues to appeal, with the intention of course, of addressing not only the Catholic faithful.

We might wonder how and to what extent this appeal will succeed in reaching today's women and men in the confusion of a global world that all too often seems at the mercy of an unprecedented flow of information. Is this not inevitably doomed to impose partial images and distorted news? Of course, those who transmit this message have great responsibility: “it is necessary to be both ancient and modern, to speak in accordance with tradition but also in conformity with our own sensibility. What is the use of saying what is true if the people of our time do not understand us?”, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Paul VI, asked himself in 1950.

However deafness, insensitivity and the stubborn wish not to understand exist in spite of the visible effort for “that updating”, intuited and embodied by John XXIII and pursued by his Successors and which, moreover, is no more than the desire for fidelity to the Gospel and to the changing needs of its proclamation. Thus the media prefer to focus on the shadows and on the infidelities — which are certainly not absent but are being courageously confronted and never so courageously as in this pontificate — but almost without noticing the newness that the Prophet Isaiah glimpsed in the wilderness and that “precisely now springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

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Sept. 17, 2019

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