Evangelization synod aims to reverse ‘tsunami of secularism’ 

VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN NEWS) — The 2012 Synod of Bishops on evangelization began its second day with a call for the Catholic Church to roll back the “tsunami of secularism” that has swept over modern society in recent decades.

“It is almost as if this tsunami, this wave has washed across everything we lived by and simply took most of it away,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. told CNA on Oct 8.

“We have experienced, I believe, in recent decades such a movement of secular hegemony,” he said, “that doesn’t see a role for faith, for the belief that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, that there is a moral order that is objective and that we cannot change.”

Under the title of general relator, the 71-year-old cardinal is charged by Pope Benedict XVI with guiding the discussions of the 262 participants as they attempt to map out a plan for bringing the Gospel to the modern world.

Pope Benedict XVI formally opened the synod the previous day with a “universal call to holiness” aimed at all Christians worldwide.

“Holiness,” the pope said, “is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.”

The pope explained that the particular focus of “new” evangelization are those people “who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.”

“The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone fills existence with deep meaning and peace,” he said. He added that a rediscovery of the Christian faith can be a “source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life” for the re-evangelized.

“In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he told the 262 Synod Fathers. He identified the crucifix as “the supremely distinctive sign of Him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation.”

“My dear brother bishops,” he said, “starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.”

The pope also reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading, in which Jesus proclaimed the indissolubility of marriage. “Unfortunately,” he said, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis.”

He urged the synod to make marriage “not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization,” suggesting that there is “a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage.”

Part of Cardinal Wuerl’s job was to undertake 12 months of preparation for the Oct. 7-28 synod. The process helped reinforce his view that the Church has to give particular help to the “two generations of people who were under-catechized.”

“One of the problems we faced in the Church in the United States following the Council was a whole period, two decades, the 70s and 80s particularly, when there was a lot of experimentation with catechetical material,” he said, some of which failed to provide “the foundational understanding of something even as simple as the Creed.”

He believes a significant turning point was the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1992.  The synod falls on its 30th anniversary.

Cardinal Wuerl thinks an upturn in orthodox catechesis has resulted in the new evangelization resonating with a new generation.

“One of the encouraging elements that we are finding in the preparation of this synod, and certainly in my own experience as a bishop, is that there is a whole generation of youngsters who are at high school, colleges and universities who are looking for answers, answers that are found in the Gospel,” he said.  

Cardinal Wuerl wants the Synod Fathers to share their experiences of “what is working” in their own territories, which he believes will lead to “a fresh confidence in the truth of the faith.”