VI National Congress of the Apostolic Movement

  Tuesday, February 28, 2012



Mgsr. Vincenzo Bertolone

Archbishop of Catanzaro-Squillace


It is written in the Book of Sirach: “When one has finished, then he starts” (Sir 18:6). And just like that: concluding these reflections, full of provocations on several fronts from faith to culture, provides an opportunity to begin to reflect on what we have heard.

I express my compliments to Mrs. Concetta Marraffa, to the organizers and to all who participated in this VI meaningful congress of the Apostolic Movement:  on “The new evangelization and the laity.” But my thanks go to Monsignor Miguel Delgado Galindo, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity for the brilliant lectio.

“Like Christ during the time of his preaching, like the Twelve on the morning of Pentecost, the Church too sees before her an immense multitude of people who need the Gospel because God “wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth'”(Evangelii nuntiandi, 57). With these words, the Servant of God Paul VI reminded the Church of his time, the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel. He did it in a very particular juncture in world history, marked in many ways by fears and uncertainties and a progressive expansion of the horizons of progress and communication, for which the world situation could appear in its full extent and complexity, in all its resources, but also in all its new problems. Before this world in rapid and constant change, before the “novelty” of “this immense multitude of people,” Pope Montini sensed the need to find new ways to bring Christ to men: “The Church’s evangelizing action […] must seek constantly the adequate means and language for presenting, or representing them God’s revelation and the faith in Jesus Christ “(EN, 56).

It was John Paul II one that spoke of “new evangelization.” He did it for the first time June 9, 1979, in Nowa Huta: “This marks a new evangelization” [1] and in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, taking up the theme, stated: “Church in Europe, the “new evangelization” is the task that awaits you! Rediscover the enthusiasm of the proclamation”[2]. And to regain the enthusiasm of his predecessor, Benedict XVI and wanting to respond to this need internal exigency to Catholicism itself, has not hesitated to establish a Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which has as its purpose both to stimulate reflection on themes of the new evangelization, and to identify and promote ways and means to achieve it. To complete the picture of the references of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI, in this regard, it is useful to recall the proclamation of the year of the faith and the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next October which will have as a theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith.”

The adjective “new”, may perhaps give rise to an attitude of wonder, if not of rejection. Why “new”? What have we done so far, if not preaching the Gospel? What needs to be changed in the fixed heritage of Revelation?

With the expression “new evangelization” one does not want to pass judgments on people or the previous methods, but rather to give an urgent and appropriate answer to the current situations many Churches of ancient Christianity finds themselves in, where the faith seems weakened to the point of losing its driving force.

In the cone of light projected by the Second Vatican Council on the ecclesiological reflection, the vocation and ministry of the laity were given sufficient reconsideration, by virtue of which their work in the new evangelization appears absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. Become part of the mystical body of Christ through Baptism the lay faithful is in fact made ​​”jointly responsible, together with the ordained ministers and religious men and women, of the mission of the Church” (CL, 15). This co-responsibility calls each member of God’s people to make his own contribution according to the gifts received, to the inherent capabilities and possibilities of his state. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium defined as proper and peculiar to the laity the “secular character”. The specific of the lay mission consists, then, in “seeking the Kingdom of God by treating temporal things and directing them according to God.” They, in fact, “live in the world, that is involved in all the different duties and works of the world and in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, of which their existence is as interwoven. There, they are called by God to contribute, as from within like leaven, to the sanctification of the world, practicing their office under the guidance of the spirit of the Gospel, and in this way to manifest Christ to others, especially with the witness of their very lives and with the brightness of their faith, hope and charity “(LG, 31).

It is urgent to re-establish on a missionary basis our pastoral, putting God at the center of life and history, because God is not denied, or only denied, he is unknown. We must involve Lay people of good will, preparation and attitude, aware of having to share with them the Church’s mission in the world [3].

The ecclesial movements and new communities are asked to reconsider in this perspective their vocation and mission, giving rise to a serious reflection on their very identity.

It is important to emphasize how the New Testament year of the role of the lay to the newness of Christianity. The lay person is that Homo Christianus cut their identity in Revelation. From here emerges a wealth of terms that describe the lay identity: at intra-ecclesial disciples (cf. Acts 6, 1, 16, 1); believers (cf. Acts 2, 44, 4, 32, 21, 20 ) brethren (cf. Acts 11: 1, 14, 2), saints (cf. Eph 1:1; Col 1, 1); outside language games of communities, Christians (cf. Acts 11: 26) or Christians (cf. Acts 24.5). The provisional conclusion, therefore, is that “the layman is above the typical Christian or Christian. This identity, however, is the Christian life “common” to all the baptized “. [4]

This is even more important if it is read in light of the ecclesiology of the category of people-of-God, that is, of a people that finds its identity in the event of a call to follow the United [5].

Here is why the apostolic exhortation of Blessed John Paul II Christifideles laity (cf. 36-40) indicates a close link between the identity of the lay person and the processes of evangelization. “Announcing the Gospel (…) the lay faithful participate in the mission of serving persons and society” practicing “charity: soul and sustenance of solidarity.”

In other words, Christians from the beginning had become bearers of a paradoxical experience. The document of the CEI, Communicating the Gospel in a changing world, reminds to us, when at no. 35 calling into question the Letter to Diognetus, shows how Christians are like other men, yet able to change with their testimony and identity historical, religious and cultural processes. Now, precisely the reflection on the identity of the laity stakes the question of the relationship Church and world [6], due to the fact that, as the New Testament witnesses, the conscience of the Christian novelty by the early church is born and assumes dimension in the process of evangelization.

All this restarts one of the most important instances also emerged from the Congress of Verona: the urgency of the formation of the laity to promote an adult figure of faith, because today the lay person must participate in the choral character of the testimony and speak the many “languages” of the testimony.  Being witnesses is not an isolated act, but is given only in ecclesial communion. The NT does not know some isolated prophets, but rather pioneers who act as pacesetters and drag behind them the believing community. One does not give testimony separated from the network of relationships of ecclesial communion. There looms on our horizon a time where the Church either will be the community of the many charismas, services and missions, or she will simply not exist. In this new pastoral context the lay person must be careful about the danger of ecclesiastical bureaucracy and, on the contrary, must enhance the living current of the overall pastoral, of the reading the new signs of the life of the Church, of the animation of prophetic projects, even if partial, of the capacity to inhabit the languages of culture, socialization, citizenship, especially among the young generations.

There, where there is a person, there is need of Christ, his love, his presence that animates with an increasingly new sense of continuity the human days. There is need of his live and irreplaceable presence that, in the Holy Spirit, every Christian is called to be. And there is need of that proclamation and remembrance of his word, that you, dear friends, you owe to all the baptized, and that in a very special way, you are committed to ensure making yours the spirituality and mission of the Apostolic Movement. I urge you warmly to continue with vigour and enthusiasm the journey undertaken by you. Before your eyes there is the immense ground of the ecclesial mission: bringing the living Christ to every creature, to the extreme ends of the earth. The boundless spaces of the human heart will open up for you. To your relatives, friends, colleagues, to the people you meet; to those who in some measure will be your companions on the journey of life, you are called to offer the radiant testimony of a life transformed by the personal meeting with Christ, by the concrete and life-giving experience of his truth and his grace. New, because it is renewed in the forms, modes, methods, in the look at the complexities of a reality in rapid and constant change; let your work of evangelization always start from Him, the Lord and Saviour of men, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13: 8).

In this process of more or less evident de-Christianization we wonder what chance has the proclamation of the Gospel towards the resignation of the common sense and the inevitability of things. Surely the one of offering a new, different look than the horizon of God that revolutionizes the safety of a quiet verification of things already seen. For this reason, the new evangelization cannot be an optional action, but a choice by now cannot be postponed because it calls man to turn from life as a problem to the Mystery as a horizon of meaning, inviting him to not stop at the surface, but to deepen the historical and existential data whose meaning is not to be measured according to only rationalistic parameters.

So, dear lay faithful the invitation of Christ, “Go you also into my vineyard” (Mt 20, 3-4) go is to be understood as a clear reminder to take the personal share of responsibility in the life and mission of the Church, namely in the life and mission of every Christian community: dioceses and parishes, associations and ecclesial movements, “according to the truth in charity” (Eph 4:15).

Echoing the voice of the Lord, I ask the laity of our Church, (that had the grace of receiving the gospel in the first hour of the Christian era), the Apostolic Movement “to work in the vineyard,” as industrious, missionaries, becoming protagonists the “new evangelization”, “witnessing risen Jesus, hope of the World.”