The Synod heard contributions from five different continents today. Each speaker had 10 minutes to paint a picture of the need for the new evangelisation and what was already happening.
My listening was inevitably subjective. Some of the presentations were in English and some I heard through simultaneous translation so may have missed part of what was intended – but here goes.
The picture in Europe is a sober one. Europe needs to be evangelised. There are many obstacles to the transmission of faith, rising secularism, a rising number of attacks against Christians and many cases of discrimination (note this is the whole of Europe from East to West). Nevertheless it was a bleaker picture than I recognise from Britain.
Africa was much more positive. To distinguish between the old and new evangelisation is very difficult. The challenge over the last generation has been to be truly African and truly Catholic. There are spectacular numbers of African bishops, priests, religious and catechists. The establishing of small Christian communities has been a key development. Several factors mean that faith must be deepened: the rise of globalisation; challenging elements from African culture and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
The report from America was more about central and south America than North America (curiously there was no separate report). There has been an emphasis on enabling the laity and on catechesis.
The report from Asia was clear and inspiring. Asia is a major culture for the world’s future and a young culture. There are many challenges including secularisation; family ties being eroded; anti life movements; a growing individualism and a growing number of attacks on religion (though different in different places. For Asia, religion is primarily discipleship to a person. The person of Jesus Christ is deeply attractive. To tell the story of Jesus to Asia is our challenge.
Finally Oceania – the Islands of Humanity – covering one third of the earth’s surface. The impression of a Church working well together across the whole region yet facing many challenges (including secularisation and globalisation but also serious environmental challenges). A clear recognition that we must talk about the evangelisers and see them formed if we are to have a new evangelisation.
The session was a masterclass in the challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church (and to some extent all the churches) all across the globe. There seemed to be a consensus that whilst some regions face particular challenges in the light of their context and history, others were much more shared and general because of the shared global culture which affects every part of the world. Therefore there is real merit and value in the Church considering the new evangelisation as a global movement.
For this Fraternal Delegate, it was good to be offered a panoramic view of the questions the Church faces. Each presentation was born out of the pastoral experience of the bishops present from that region. Again and again the Synod returned to the theme of the need to transmit the faith with faith, hope and joy to the contemporary world. There is a deep sense of something stirring.