Pope Benedict XVI launched an appeal on Sunday for the victims and all those affected by Hurricane Sandy, which has already killed more than twenty people across the Caribbean last week, striking the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica with particular force. The Holy Father assured all those affected by the storm of his spiritual closeness, and promised to remember the victims in prayer. Pope Benedict asked all the faithful to pray for those affected as well, and issued a general call for concrete acts of solidarity.
The Pope’s appeal came following the Angelus prayer with the faithful who were gathered after Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the conclusion of the XIII Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization.
In his homily, the Holy Father described the New Evangelization as something that applies to the whole of the Church’s life: in the first, to the ordinary pastoral ministry that, he said, “Must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by His word and by the Bread of Eternal Life.” In this connection, Pope Benedict stressed the need for appropriate catechesis to accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. “The importance of Confession, the sacrament of God’s mercy,” said Pope Benedict, was another theme that emerged emphatically during the course of the Synod Fathers’ three weeks’ labours.
The Pope also spoke of the “essential link” between the New Evangelization and the missio ad gentes – the Church’s efforts to bring the Good News of Christ to all those who have yet to receive it. “All people have a right to know Jesus Christ and His Gospel,” said Pope Benedict, “and Christians, all Christians – priests, religious and lay faithful – have a corresponding duty to proclaim the Good News.”
The Holy Father then discussed the special solicitude of the Church for those who, though baptized, do not reflect what he called, “the demands of Baptism,” in their lives, explaining that, during the Synod, it was emphasized that such people are found in all continents, especially in the most secularized countries.
The Pope said, “[T]he Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.”
In this regard, Pope Benedict said that the Church is seeking do develop new pastoral methods alongside the perennially valid ones: to develop new language attuned to different world cultures, proposing the truth of Christ with an attitude of dialogue and friendship rooted in God who is Love.
This was a theme to which the Holy Father returned in his remarks at the Angelus prayer that followed the Mass. Speaking before the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Pope said, “The need has emerged for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in secularized societies, in the twofold certainty that, on the one hand, He, Jesus Christ, is the only true innovation that meets the expectations of people of all ages, and on the other, that His message asks to be shared in a manner that is appropriate to changing social and cultural contexts.”
After the Angelus, Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in many languages, including English:
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus grants sight to the blind man with the words: “Your faith has saved you”. As we mark the end of the Synod on the new evangelization, let us renew both our faith in Christ and our commitment to the spread of his Gospel of healing and joy. God bless you and your families!