Pope Benedict XVI convenes bishops to confront ‘tsunami’ of secularism

VATICAN CITY — Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council revolutionized life inside the Roman Catholic Church, hundreds of bishops … Continued

VATICAN CITY — Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council revolutionized life inside the Roman Catholic Church, hundreds of bishops from around the world are gathered in Rome to confront an external threat: a mounting tide of secularization.

The Synod of Bishops on “New Evangelization” brings together 262 top church leaders for a three-week summit at the Vatican, joined by lay experts and representatives of other Christian groups.

In a wide-ranging speech aimed at setting the tone for the bishops’ discussion, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl called on Christians to “overcome the syndrome of embarrassment” about their faith with a more assertive offense against the “tsunami of secular influence” that is sweeping away “marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong.”

Wuerl has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the “relator general” of the synod, with the key task of summing up the main points of the bishops’ discussions.

The synod is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which not only transformed the laity and liturgy of the church, but also reoriented the church’s engagement with the modern world.

Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has called for a “Year of Faith” to mark the anniversary. He will celebrate a solemn Mass with the few surviving council fathers on Thursday (Oct. 11).

While the council marked a moment of renewal and enthusiasm for the church, Wuerl said it was followed by decades of poor teaching and substandard worship — “aberrational liturgical practice,” he called it — that made “entire generations” of Catholics incapable of transmitting the faith to their children and to society at large, ushering in today’s secularized society.

Symptoms of this trend are a decline of faith and a shrinking number of Catholics in the Western world but also in traditional Catholic strongholds such as Latin America. Church marriages are decreasing, too, while divorce is all but mainstream.

Catholic leaders in the U.S. and Europe are also worried about a perceived rise of “aggressive” secularism, which they say wants to curtail the church’s role in the public sphere and reduce faith to a private exercise.

But in an off-the-cuff meditation in front of the gathered bishops on Monday morning, Benedict was careful to frame the debate as a positive proposal of the church’s timeless doctrine to contemporary society.

“Our role in the new evangelization is to cooperate with God,” he said. “We can only let people know what God has done.”

“New evangelization means announcing the faith to those regions that have been Christian for centuries but are now swept by the winds of secularism and religious indifference,” said professor Ilaria Morali of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

She stressed that while it is important for the church to harness modern technology to “spread the good news,” the essential part of new evangelization is “revitalizing” the church itself, letting Christians rediscover the “joy” and the “responsibility” that comes from faith.

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  • ziggyzap

    The best way that the Pope could improve the standing of his religion is to produce this God that he spouts on about. So far, nobody has seen any sign of this Skydaddy’s existence.

    Of course the Pope and all his cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests cannot prove the existence of this mythical Skydaddy.

    They are running the biggest shell game in the history of the world with their religion – selling a non-existent mythical being and the hollow and unsubstantiated promise of an afterlife in exchange for slavish adherence by gullible followers and of course MONEY – lots of MONEY.

    And it’s also a pretty cosy life, getting frocked up in fancy togs and pointy hats and spouting piles of nonsense about mythical garbage and giving the suckers some sort of hope that they will continue to exist in a paradise full of harps and angels. I guess at least the Catholics don’t promise 72 virgins for morons who blow themselves and their victims up.

    Hey, it’s a good gig – flogging something that you don’t have to substantiate and living the easy life in a tax-free environment.

    But the people – well some of them – are beginning to wake up to the snake oil salesmen and refusing to buy the product anymore.

    But let’s see the Pope invoke his mythical God to perform a few tricks for us on demand. After all, that piece of fiction called the Bible stated that this God set fire to a bush without it being consumed and wrote words of fire on a wall.

    Why haven’t we seen this in modern times? The simple answer is that it didn’t happen back in Biblical times either – some fool just made it up.

    Well Mr Pope and your cronies – your shell game is slowly coming to an end. You had better think of a better scam for the modern era.

  • jack824

    Perhaps secularization has something to do with the inspirational messages of love and of faith, hope and charity being crowded out by an anti-abortion/anti-gay message delivered by increasingly shrill Bishops who brandish Canon Law and Magisterial authority in place of moral authority. I hope the Synod will take time to address the underlying issues.

  • tony55398

    Perhaps the Church has done a poor job of reflecting Christ to the world, such as loving your neighbor as yourself. The Church is all caught up in the Mass and neglecting the faithful. Big and empty Churches with few Priests does not make a vibrant Church. The reliance on tradition has made the Church unable to minister to its people, it is also losing its moral authority by its resistance to protect children from pedophile Priests, thereby putting the Church above the law of Love. Love and not education bests reflects a God who is all Love, though the Church loves the prestige of higher education, therefore the Church is commiting the first sin , “know and you shall be like gods.