Tuesday May 18, 2010

Pope Benedict in Portugal: Christians, Answer to Secularism is to Re-Evangelise World

By Hilary White

ROME, May 18, 2010 ( – Pope Benedict said in his many addresses and homilies during his recently concluded trip to Portugal that “vast effort at every level” is needed to answer the threat of secularism in Europe, of which abortion and homosexual “marriage” are among “today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good”.

To the assembled bishops in Fatima on Thursday, he forthrightly called for “a new missionary vigour,” to counter “politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life”.

“In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs,” Benedict added, “and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.”

What is needed, he said, is “a vigorous Catholic outlook … in fidelity to the magisterium…a strong prophetic dimension without allowing yourselves to be silenced.”

The theme of the entire three-day visit was the call to all Christians to become personally committed to missionary activity and the re-evangelisation of western culture. He called for Christians at every level in the Church and society, to “Bear witness to all of the joy that [Christ’s] strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries”.

He asked Christians to display courage in the face of secularist opposition and even their own complacency, saying, “Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?”

In comments on Thursday to social and pastoral care workers in Fatima, Benedict became even more explicit, praising work to preserve “the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman.” These pastoral works, he said, “help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good”.

Benedict’s call to the Christians of Portugal to defend the spiritual and philosophical roots of their culture came at the same time that Portuguese legislators were preparing to legalise same-sex “marriage”. This week Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva signed a law making Portugal the sixth country in Europe to allow “gay marriage”.

It has been announced that Pope Benedict’s call for the re-conversion of Europe and other western, traditionally Christian countries, will become the work of a new Vatican Office, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. This expression was coined by his predecessor John Paul II and an activity that has gained strength in the US.

In an address to religious education teachers in December 2000, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, said the New Evangelisation is “the path toward happiness,” and “to evangelize means to show this path-to teach the art of living”.