Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to be able to receive you at the conclusion of the Plenary Session, which engaged you on a subject of great importance for the life of the Church, which is the relationship between evangelization and catechesis. I am also pleased to receive the members of the International Council for Catechesis, which is now an integral part of your Dicastery.
I thank Archbishop Rino Fisichella for the initial greeting and, together with him, the whole Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which is now engaged in the preparation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. A Holy Year that I have entrusted to you so that it will appear in a more evident way that the gift of mercy is the proclamation that the Church is called to transmit in her work of evangelization in this time of great changes.
In fact, these changes are a happy reason to gather the signs of the times that the Lord offers the Church so that she will be able – as she has been able to do in the course of two thousand years – to take Jesus Christ to the men of our time. The mission is always identical, but the language with which to proclaim the Gospel calls for renewal with pastoral wisdom. This is essential be it to be understood by our contemporaries, or for the Catholic Tradition to be able to speak to the cultures of today’s world and help them to open to the perennial fecundity of Christ’s message. The times are of great challenges, which we must not be afraid to make our own. In fact, only in the measure in which we take charge of them will we be able to offer coherent answers elaborated in the light of the Gospel. This is what men expect from the Church today: that she be able to walk with them offering the company of the witness of faith, which renders one in solidarity with all, in particular with those most alone and marginalized. How many poor – also poor in the faith – await the Gospel that liberates! How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer, atheist society, await our closeness and our solidarity! The Gospel is the proclamation of the love of God that, in Jesus Christ, calls us to participate in his life. Hence, the New Evangelization is this: to be aware of the merciful love of the Father so that we also become instruments of salvation for our brothers.
This awareness, which is sowed in the heart of every Christian from the day of his Baptism, calls for growth, together with the life of grace, to bear much fruit. The great topic of catechesis is inserted here as the space within which the life of Christians matures because it experiences the mercy of God. Not an abstract idea of mercy, but a concrete experience with which we understand our weakness and the strength that comes from on high. “It is good that the daily prayer of the Church begins with these words: “Be pleased, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!” (Psalm 70:2). The help we invoke is already the first step of God’s mercy to us. He comes to save us from the condition of weakness in which we live. And his help consists in making us grasp his presence and his closeness. Touched by his compassion, day by day we can also become compassionate to all” (Misericordiae Vultus, 14).
The Holy Spirit, who is the protagonist of evangelization, is also the architect of the growth of the Church in understanding the truth of Christ. It is He who opens the heart of believers and transforms it, so that the forgiveness received can become experience of love for brothers. It is always the Spirit that opens the mind of Christ’s disciples to understand in greater depth the commitment required and the ways with which to give weight and credibility to the testimony. We are in such need of the Spirit, to open our minds and our hearts.
Therefore, the question about how we are educating to the faith is not rhetoric but essential. The answer calls for courage, creativity and determination to undertake ways that have yet to be explored. Catechesis, as component of the process of evangelization, needs to go beyond the simple scholastic sphere to educate believers, from childhood, to encounter Christ, alive and working in his Church. It is the encounter with Him that arouses the desire to know him better and then to follow him to become his disciples. Therefore, the challenge of the New Evangelization and of catechesis is staked in fact on this fundamental point: how to encounter Christ, what is the most coherent place to find Him and follow Him.
I assure you of my closeness and my support in this very urgent task for our communities. I entrust you to the Virgin Mother of Mercy; may her support and her intercession help you in this exacting task. I bless you from my heart and please, I ask you to pray for me.