Episcopal Commission on the 
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Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines


Final Message to the People of God from the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

Posted on November 8, 2012 at 8:30 PM

Final Message to the People of Godfrom the

XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops 

Brothers andsisters,

“Grace to youand peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Beforereturning to our particular Churches, we, Bishops coming from the whole worldgathered by the invitation of the Bishop of Rome Pope Benedict XVI to reflecton “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”, wishto address you all in order to sustain and direct the preaching and teaching ofthe Gospel in the diverse contexts in which the Church finds herself today togive witness.

1. Like the Samaritan woman at the well

Let us drawlight from a Gospel passage: Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (cf.John 4:5-42). There is no man or woman who, in one's life, would not findoneself like the woman of Samariabeside a well with an empty bucket, with the hope of finding the fulfillment ofthe heart's most profound desire, that which alone could give full meaning tolife. Today, many wells offer themselves to quench humanity's thirst, but wemust discern in order to avoid polluted waters. We must orient the searchproperly, so as not to fall prey to disappointment, which can be damaging.

Like Jesus atthe well of Sychar, the Church also feels obliged to sit beside today's men andwomen. She wants to render the Lord present in their lives so that they canencounter him because his Spirit alone is the water that gives true and eternallife. Only Jesus can read the depths of our heart and reveal the truth aboutourselves: “He told me everything I have done”, the woman confesses to herfellow citizens. This word of proclamation is united to the question that opensup to faith: “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” It shows that whoever receivesnew life from encountering Jesus cannot but proclaim truth and hope to others.The sinner who was converted becomes a messenger of salvation and leads thewhole city to Jesus. The people pass from welcoming her testimony to personallyexperiencing the encounter: “We no longer believe because of your word; for wehave heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of theworld”.

2. A new evangelization

Leading the menand women of our time to Jesus, to the encounter with him is a necessity thattouches all the regions of the world, those of the old and those of the recentevangelization. Everywhere indeed we feel the need to revive a faith that riskseclipse in cultural contexts that hinders its taking root in persons and itspresence in society, the clarity of its content and the coherence of itsfruits.

It is not amatter of starting again, but of entering into the long path of proclaiming theGospel with the apostolic courage of Paul who would go so far as to say “Woe tome if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Throughout history,from the first centuries of the Christian era to the present, the Gospel hasedified communities of believers in all parts of the world. Whether small orgreat, these are the fruit of the dedication of generations of witnesses toJesus – missionaries and martyrs – whom we remember with gratitude.

The changed social, cultural, economic, civil and religious scenarios call usto something new: to live our communitarian experience of faith in a renewedway and to proclaim it through an evangelization that is “new in its ardor, inits methods, in its expressions” (John Paul II, Discourse to the XIX Assemblyof CELAM, Port-au-Prince, 9 March 1983, n. 3) as John Paul II said. BenedictXVI recalled that it is an evangelization that is directed “principally atthose who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live withoutreference to the Christian life... to help these people encounter the Lord, whoalone fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favor therediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope topersonal, family and social life” (Benedict XVI, Homily for the Eucharisticcelebration for the solemn inauguration of the XIII Ordinary General Assemblyof the Synod of Bishops, Rome, 7 October 2012).

3.The personal encounter with Jesus Christ in theChurch

Before sayinganything about the forms that this new evangelization must assume, we feel theneed to tell you with profound conviction that the faith determines everythingin the relationship that we build with the person of Jesus who takes theinitiative to encounter us. The work of the new evangelization consists inpresenting once more the beauty and perennial newness of the encounter with Christto the often distracted and confused heart and mind of the men and women of ourtime, above all to ourselves. We invite you all to contemplate the face of theLord Jesus Christ, to enter the mystery of his life given for us on the cross,reconfirmed in his resurrection from the dead as the Father's gift and impartedto us through the Spirit. In the person of Jesus, the mystery of God theFather's love for the entire human family is revealed. He did not want us toremain in a false autonomy. Rather he reconciled us to himself in a renewedpact of love.

The Church isthe space offered by Christ in history where we can encounter him, because heentrusted to her his Word, the Baptism that makes us God's children, his Bodyand his Blood, the grace of forgiveness of sins above all in the sacrament ofReconciliation, the experience of communion that reflects the very mystery ofthe Holy Trinity and the strength of the Spirit that generates charity towardsall.

We must formwelcoming communities in which all outcasts find a home, concrete experiencesof communion which attract the disenchanted glance of contemporary humanitywith the ardent force of love – “See how they love one another!” (Tertullian,Apology, 39, 7). The beauty of faith must particularly shine in the actions ofthe sacred Liturgy, above all in the Sunday Eucharist. It is precisely inliturgical celebrations that the Church reveals herself as God's work and makesthe meaning of the Gospel visible in word and gesture.

It is up to ustoday to render experiences of the Church concretely accessible, to multiplythe wells where thirsting men and women are invited to encounter Jesus, tooffer oases in the deserts of life. Christian communities and, in them, everydisciple of the Lord are responsible for this: an irreplaceable testimony hasbeen entrusted to each one, so that the Gospel can enter the lives of all. Thisrequires of us holiness of life.



4. The occasions of encountering Jesus andlistening to the Scriptures

Someone willask how to do all this. We need not invent new strategies as if the Gospel werea product to be placed in the market of religions. We need to rediscover theways in which Jesus approached persons and called them, in order to put theseapproaches into practice in today's circumstances.

We recall, forexample, how Jesus engaged Peter, Andrew, James and John in the context oftheir work, how Zaccheus was able to pass from simple curiosity to the warmthof sharing a meal with the Master, how the Roman centurion asked him to heal aperson dear to him, how the man born blind invoked him as liberator from hisown marginalization, how Martha and Mary saw the hospitality of their house andof their heart rewarded by his presence. By going through the pages of theGospels as well as the apostles' missionary experiences in the early Church, wecan discover the various ways and circumstances in which persons' lives wereopened to Christ's presence.

The frequentreading of the Sacred Scriptures – illuminated by the Tradition of the Church whohands them over to us and is their authentic interpreter – is not onlynecessary for knowing the very content of the Gospel, which is the person ofJesus in the context of salvation history. Reading the Scriptures also helps usto discover opportunities to encounter Jesus, truly evangelical approachesrooted in the fundamental dimensions of human life: the family, work,friendship, various forms of poverty and the trials of life, etc.

5. Evangelizing ourselves and opening ourselves toconversion

We, however,should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us personally.In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Churchmust first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. Theinvitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.

We firmlybelieve that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Christ who alonecan make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we mustrecognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus' disciples, especially ofhis ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware– we Bishops first of all – that we could never really be equal to the Lord'scalling and mandate to proclaim his Gospel to the nations. We know that we musthumbly recognize our vulnerability to the wounds of history and we do nothesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced thatthe Lord's Spirit is capable of renewing his Church and rendering her garmentresplendent if we let him mold us. This is demonstrated by the lives of theSaints, the remembrance and narration of which is a privileged means of the newevangelization.

If this renewal were up to us, there would be serious reasons to doubt. Butconversion in the Church, just like evangelization, does not come aboutprimarily through us poor mortals, but rather through the Spirit of the Lord.Here we find our strength and our certainty that evil will never have the lastword whether in the Church or in history: “Do not let your hearts be troubledor afraid” (John 14:27), Jesus said to his disciples.

The work of thenew evangelization rests on this serene certainty. We are confident in theinspiration and strength of the Spirit, who will teach us what we are to sayand what we are to do even in the most difficult moments. It is our duty,therefore, to conquer fear through faith, discouragement through hope,indifference through love.

6. Seizing new opportunities for evangelization inthe world today

This serenecourage also affects the way we look at the world today. We are not intimidatedby the circumstances of the times in which we live. Our world is full ofcontradictions and challenges, but it remains God's creation. The world iswounded by evil, but God loves it still. It is his field in which the sowing ofthe Word can be renewed so that it would bear fruit once more.

There is noroom for pessimism in the minds and hearts of those who know that their Lordhas conquered death and that his Spirit works with might in history. We approachthis world with humility, but also with determination. This comes from thecertainty that the truth triumphs in the end. We choose to see in the world theRisen Christ´s invitation to witness to his Name. Our Church is alive and facesthe challenges that history brings with the courage of faith and the testimonyof her many daughters and sons.

We know that wemust face in this world a battle against the “principalities” and “powers”,“the evil spirits” (Ephesians 6:12). We do not ignore the problems that suchchallenges bring, but they do not frighten us. This is true above all for thephenomena of globalization which must be for us opportunities to expand thepresence of the Gospel. Despite the intense sufferings for which we welcomemigrants as brothers and sisters, migrations have been and continue to beoccasions to spread the faith and build communion in its various forms.Secularization – as well as the crisis brought about the dominance of politicsand of the State – requires the Church to rethink its presence in societywithout however renouncing it. The many and ever new forms of poverty open newopportunities for charitable service: the proclamation of the Gospel binds theChurch to be with the poor and to take on their sufferings like Jesus. Even inthe most bitter forms of atheism and agnosticism, we can recognize – althoughin contradictory forms – not a void but a longing, an expectation that awaitsan adequate response.

In the face ofthe questions that prevailing cultures pose to faith and to the Church, werenew our trust in the Lord, certain that even in these contexts the Gospel isthe bearer of light and capable of healing every human weakness. It is not wewho are to conduct the work of evangelization, but God, as the Pope reminded us:“The first word, the true initiative, the true activity comes from God and onlyby inserting ourselves in to the divine initiative, only by begging this divineinitiative, will we too be able to become – with him and in him – evangelizers”(Benedict XVI, Meditation during the first general Congregation of the XIIIGeneral Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, 8 October 2012).

7. Evangelization, the family and consecrated life

Ever since thefirst evangelization, the transmission of the faith from one generation to thenext found a natural home in the family where women play a very special rolewithout diminishing the figure and responsibility of the father. In the contextof the care that every family provides for the growth of its little ones, infantsand children are introduced to the signs of faith, the communication of firsttruths, education in prayer, and the witness of the fruits of love. Despite thediversity of their geographical, cultural and social situations, all theBishops of the Synod reconfirmed this essential role of the family in thetransmission of the faith. A new evangelization is unthinkable withoutacknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families andto sustain them in their task of education.

We do notignore the fact that today the family, established in the marriage of a man andof a woman which makes them “one flesh” (Matthew 19:6) open to life, isassaulted by crises everywhere. It is surrounded by models of life thatpenalize it and neglected by the politics of society of which it is also thefundamental cell. It is not always respected in its rhythms and sustained inits tasks by ecclesial communities. It is precisely this, however, that impelsus to say that we must particularly take care of the family and its mission insociety and in the Church, developing specific paths of accompaniment beforeand after matrimony. We also want to express our gratitude to the manyChristian couples and families who, through their witness, show the world an experienceof communion and of service which is the seed of a more loving and peacefulsociety.

Our thoughtsalso went to the many families and couples living together which do not reflectthat image of unity and of lifelong love that the Lord entrusted to us. Thereare couples who live together without the sacramental bond of matrimony. Moreand more families in irregular situations are established after the failure ofprevious marriages. These are painful situations that affect the education ofsons and daughters in the faith. To all of them we want to say that God's lovedoes not abandon anyone, that the Church loves them, too, that the Church is ahouse that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if theycannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our Catholiccommunities welcome all who live in such situations and support those who arein the path of conversion and reconciliation.

Family life isthe first place in which the Gospel encounters the ordinary life and demonstratesits capacity to transform the fundamental conditions of existence in thehorizon of love. But not less important for the witness of the Church is toshow how this temporal existence has a fulfillment that goes beyond humanhistory and attains to eternal communion with God. Jesus does not introducehimself to the Samaritan woman simply as the one who gives life, but as the onewho gives “eternal life” (John 4:14). God's gift, which faith renders present,is not simply the promise of better conditions in this world. It is theproclamation that our life's ultimate meaning is beyond this world, in thatfull communion with God that we await at the end of time.

Of thissupernatural horizon of the meaning of human existence, there are particularwitnesses in the Church and in the world whom the Lord has called toconsecrated life. Precisely because it is totally consecrated to him in theexercise of poverty, chastity and obedience, consecrated life is the sign of afuture world that relativizes everything that is good in this world. May thegratitude of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops reach these our brothers andsisters for their fidelity to the Lord's calling and for the contribution thatthey have given and give to the Church's mission. We exhort them to hope insituations that are difficult even for them in these times of change. We invitethem to establish themselves as witnesses and promoters of new evangelizationin the various fields to which the charism of each of their institutes assignsthem.

8. The ecclesial community and the many agents ofevangelization

No one personor group in the Church has exclusive right to the work of evangelization. It isthe work of ecclesial communities as such, where one has access to all themeans for encountering Jesus: the Word, the sacraments, fraternal communion,charitable service, mission.

In thisperspective, the role of the parish emerges above all as the presence of theChurch where men and women live, “the village fountain”, as John XXIII loved tocall it, from which all can drink, finding in it the freshness of the Gospel.It cannot be abandoned, even though changes can require of it either to be madeup of small Christian communities or to forge bonds of collaboration withinlarger pastoral contexts. We exhort our parishes to join the new forms ofmission required by the new evangelization to the traditional pastoral care ofGod's people. These must also permeate the various important expressions ofpopular piety.

In the parish, the ministry of the priest – father and pastor of his people –remains crucial. To all priests, the Bishops of this Synodal Assembly expressthanks and fraternal closeness for their difficult task. We invite them tostrengthen the bonds of the diocesan presbyterium, to deepen their spirituallife, and to an ongoing formation that enables them to face the changes.

Alongside thepriests, the presence of deacons is to be sustained, as well as the pastoralaction of catechists and of many other ministers and animators in the fields ofproclamation, catechesis, liturgical life, charitable service. The variousforms of participation and co-responsibility of the faithful must also bepromoted. We cannot thank enough our lay men and women for their dedication inour communities' manifold services. We ask all of them, too, to place theirpresence and their service in the Church in the perspective of the newevangelization, taking care of their own human and Christian formation, theirunderstanding of the faith and their sensitivity to contemporary culturalphenomena.

With regard tothe laity, a special word goes to the various forms of old and newassociations, together with the ecclesial movements and the new communities:All are an expression of the richness of the gifts that the Spirit bestows onthe Church. We also thank these forms of life and of commitment in the Church,exhorting them to be faithful to their proper charism and to earnest ecclesialcommunion especially in the concrete context of the particular Churches.

Witnessing tothe Gospel is not the privilege of one or of a few. We recognize with joy thepresence of many men and women who with their lives become a sign of the Gospelin the midst of the world. We also recognize them in many of our Christianbrothers and sisters with whom unity unfortunately is not yet full, but arenevertheless marked by the Lord's Baptism and proclaim it. In these days it wasa moving experience for us to listen to the voices of many authorities ofChurches and ecclesial communities who gave witness to their thirst for Christand their dedication to the proclamation of the Gospel. They, too, areconvinced that the world needs a new evangelization. We are grateful to theLord for this unity in the necessity of the mission.

9. That the youth may encounter Christ

The youth areparticularly dear to us, because they, who are a significant part of humanityand the Church today, are also their future. With regard to them, the Bishopsare far from being pessimistic. Concerned, yes; but not pessimistic. We areconcerned because the most aggressive attacks of our times happen to convergeprecisely on them. We are not, however, pessimistic, above all because whatmoves in the depths of history is Christ's love, but also because we sense inour youth deep aspirations for authenticity, truth, freedom, generosity, towhich we are convinced that the adequate response is Christ.

We want to support them in their search and we encourage our communities tolisten to, dialogue with and respond boldly and without reservation to thedifficult condition of the youth. We want our communities to harness, not tosuppress, the power of their enthusiasm; to struggle for them against thefallacies and selfish ventures of worldly powers which, to their own advantage,dissipate the energies and waste the passion of the young, taking from themevery grateful memory of the past and every profound vision of the future.

The world ofthe young is a demanding but also particularly promising field of the NewEvangelization. This is demonstrated by many experiences, from those that drawmany of them like the World Youth Days, to the most hidden – but nonethelesspowerful – like the different experiences of spirituality, service and mission.Young people's active role in evangelizing first and foremost their world is tobe recognized.

10. The Gospel in dialogue with human culture andexperience and with religions

The NewEvangelization is centered on Christ and on care for the human person in orderto give life to a real encounter with him. However, its horizons are as wide asthe world and beyond any human experience. This means that it carefullycultivates the dialogue with cultures, confident that it can find in each ofthem the “seeds of the Word” about which the ancient Fathers spoke. In particular,the new evangelization needs a renewed alliance between faith and reason. Weare {softlineconvinced that faith has the capacity to welcome the fruits ofsound thinking open to transcendence and the strength to heal the limits andcontradictions into which reason can fall. Faith does not close its eyes, noteven before the excruciating questions arising from evil's presence in life andin history, in order to draw the light of hope from Christ's Paschal Mystery.

The encounterbetween faith and reason also nourishes the Christian community's commitment inthe field of education and culture. The institutions of formation and ofresearch – schools and universities – occupy a special place in this. Whereverhuman intelligence is developed and educated, the Church is pleased to bringher experience and contribution to the integral formation of the person. Inthis context particular care is to be reserved for catholic schools and forcatholic universities, in which the openness to transcendence that belongs to everyauthentic cultural and educational course, must be fulfilled in paths ofencounter with the event of Jesus Christ and of his Church. May the gratitudeof the Bishops reach all who, in sometimes difficult conditions, are involvedin this.

Evangelization requires that we pay much attention to the world of socialcommunication, especially the new media, in which many lives, questions andexpectations converge. It is the place where consciences are often formed,where people spend their time and live their lives. It is a new opportunity fortouching the human heart.

A particularfield of the encounter between faith and reason today is the dialogue withscientific knowledge. This is not at all far from faith, since it manifests thespiritual principle that God placed in his creatures. It allows us to see therational structures on which creation is founded. When science and technologydo not presume to imprison humanity and the world in a barren materialism, theybecome an invaluable ally in making life more humane. Our thanks also go tothose who are involved in this sensitive field of knowledge.

We also want to thank men and women involved in another expression of the humangenius, art in its various forms, from the most ancient to the most recent. Werecognize in works of art a particularly meaningful way of expressingspirituality inasmuch as they strive to embody humanity's attraction to beauty.We are grateful when artists through their beautiful creations bring out thebeauty of God's face and that of his creatures. The way of beauty is aparticularly effective path of the new evangelization.

In addition toworks of art, all of human activity draws our attention as an opportunity inwhich we cooperate in divine creation through work. We want to remind the worldof economy and of labor of some matters arising from the Gospel: to redeem workfrom the conditions that often make it an unbearable burden and an uncertainfuture threatened by youth unemployment, to place the human person at thecenter of economic development, to think of this development as an occasion forhumanity to grow in justice and unity. Humanity transforms the world throughwork. Nevertheless we are called to safeguard the integrity of creation out ofa sense of responsibility towards future generations.

The Gospel also illuminates the suffering brought about by disease. Christiansmust help the sick feel that the Church is near to persons with illness or withdisabilities. Christians are to thank all who take care of them professionallyand humanely.

A field inwhich the light of the Gospel can and must shine in order to illuminatehumanity's footsteps is politics. Politics requires a commitment of selflessand sincere care for the common good by fully respecting the dignity of thehuman person from conception to natural end, honoring the family founded by themarriage of a man and a woman, and protecting academic freedom; by removing thecauses of injustice, inequality, discrimination, violence, racism, hunger andwar. Christians are asked to give a clear witness to the precept of charity inthe exercise of politics.

Finally, theChurch considers the followers of religions as her natural partners indialogue. One is evangelized because one is convinced of the truth of Christ,not because one is against another. The Gospel of Jesus is peace and joy, andhis disciples are happy to recognize whatever is true and good that humanity'sreligious spirit has been able to glimpse in the world created by God and thatit has expressed in the various religions.

The dialogue among believers of various religions intends to be a contributionto peace. It rejects every fundamentalism and denounces every violence that isbrought upon believers as serious violations of human rights. The Churches ofthe whole world are united in prayer and in fraternity to the sufferingbrothers and sisters and ask those who are responsible for the destinies ofpeoples to safeguard everyone's right to freely choose, profess and witness toone's faith.

11. Remembering the Second VaticanCouncil and referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the Year ofFaith

In the pathopened by the New Evangelization, we might also feel as if we were in a desert,in the midst of dangers and lacking points of reference. The Holy Father BenedictXVI, in his homily for the Mass opening the Year of Faith, spoke of a“spiritual 'desertification'” that has advanced in the last decades. But healso encouraged us by affirming that “it is in starting from the experience ofthis desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing,its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover thevalue of what is essential for living” (Homily for the Eucharistic celebrationfor the opening of the Year of Faith, Rome,11 October 2012). In the desert, like the Samaritan woman, we seek water and awell from which to drink: blessed is the one who encounters Christ there!

We thank theHoly Father for the gift of the Year of Faith, a precious gateway into the pathof the new evangelization. We thank him also for having linked this Year to thegrateful remembrance of the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty yearsago. Its fundamental magisterium for our time shines in the Catechism of theCatholic Church, which is proposed once more as a sure reference of faithtwenty years after its publication. These are important anniversaries, whichallow us to reaffirm our close adherence to the Council's teaching and our firmcommitment to carry on its implementation.

12. Contemplating the mystery and being at the sideof the poor

In thisperspective we wish to indicate to all the faithful two expressions of the lifeof faith which seem particularly important to us for witnessing to it in theNew Evangelization. 

The first is constituted by the gift and experience of contemplation. Atestimony that the world would consider credible can arise only from an adoringgaze at the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, only from the deepsilence that receives the unique saving Word like a womb. Only this prayerfulsilence can prevent the word of salvation from being lost in the many noisesthat overrun the world.

We now addressa word of gratitude to all men and women who dedicate their lives to prayer andcontemplation in monasteries and hermitages. Moments of contemplation mustinterweave with people's ordinary lives: spaces in the soul, but also physicalones, that remind us of God; interior sanctuaries and temples of stone that,like crossroads, keep us from losing ourselves in a flood of experiences;opportunities in which all could feel accepted, even those who barely know whatand whom to seek.

The othersymbol of authenticity of the new evangelization has the face of the poor.Placing ourselves side by side with those who are wounded by life is not only asocial exercise, but above all a spiritual act because it is Christ's face thatshines in the face of the poor: “Whatever you did for one of these leastbrothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

We mustrecognize the privileged place of the poor in our communities, a place thatdoes not exclude anyone, but wants to reflect how Jesus bound himself to them.The presence of the poor in our communities is mysteriously powerful: itchanges persons more than a discourse does, it teaches fidelity, it makes usunderstand the fragility of life, it asks for prayer: in short, it brings us toChrist.

The gesture ofcharity, on the other hand, must also be accompanied by commitment to justice,with an appeal that concerns all, poor and rich. Hence, the social doctrine ofthe Church is integral to the pathways of the new evangelization, as well asthe formation of Christians to dedicate themselves to serve the human communityin social and political life.

13. To the Churches in the various regions of theworld

The vision ofthe Bishops gathered in the synodal assembly embraces all the ecclesialcommunities spread throughout the world. Their vision seeks to becomprehensive, because the call to encounter Christ is one, while keepingdiversity in mind.

The Bishopsgathered in the Synod gave special consideration, full of fraternal affectionand gratitude, to you Christians of the Catholic Oriental Churches, those whoare heirs of the first wave of evangelization – an experience preserved with loveand faithfulness – and those present in Eastern Europe.Today the Gospel comes to you again in a new evangelization through liturgicallife, catechesis, daily family prayer, fasting, solidarity among families, theparticipation of the laity in the life of communities and in dialogue withsociety. In many places your Churches are amidst trials and tribulation throughwhich they witness to their participation in the sufferings of Christ. Some ofthe faithful are forced to emigrate. Keeping alive their oneness with theircommunity of origin, they can contribute to the pastoral care and to the workof evangelization in the countries that have welcomed them. May the Lordcontinue to bless your faithfulness. May your future be marked by the sereneconfession and practice of your faith in peace and religious liberty.

We look to youChristians, men and women, who live in the countries of Africaand we express our gratitude for your witness to the Gospel often in difficultcircumstances. We exhort you to revive the evangelization that you received inrecent times, to build the Church as the family of God, to strengthen theidentity of the family, to sustain the commitment of priests and catechistsespecially in the small Christian communities. We affirm the need to developthe encounter between the Gospel and old and new cultures. Great expectationand a strong appeal is addressed to the world of politics and to thegovernments of the various countries of Africa, so that, in collaboration withall people of good will, basic human rights may be promoted and the continentfreed from violence and conflicts which still afflict it.

The Bishops ofthe synodal Assembly invite you, Christians of North America, to respond withjoy to the call to a new evangelization, while they look with gratitude at howyour young Christian communities have borne generous fruits of faith, charityand mission. You need to recognize the many expressions of the present culturein the countries of your world which are today far from the Gospel. Conversionis necessary, from which is born a commitment that does not bring you out ofyour cultures, but leaves you in their midst to offer to all the light of faithand the power of life. As you welcome in your generous lands new populations ofimmigrants and refugees, may you be willing to open the doors of your homes tothe faith. Faithful to the commitments taken at the synodal Assembly for America, be united with Latin America in the ongoing evangelization of the continent you share.

The synodal assembly addressed the same sentiment of gratitude to the Church inLatin America and the Caribbean. Particularlystriking throughout the ages is the development in your countries of forms ofpopular piety still fixed in the hearts of many people, of charitable serviceand of dialogue with cultures. Now, in the face of many present challenges,first of all poverty and violence, the Church in Latin America and in theCaribbean is encouraged to live in an ongoing state of mission, announcing theGospel with hope and joy, forming communities of true missionary disciples ofJesus Christ, showing in the commitment of its sons and daughters how theGospel could be the source of a new, just and fraternal society. Religiouspluralism also tests your Churches and requires a renewed proclamation of theGospel.To you, Christians of Asia, we also offer a word of encouragement and ofexhortation. As a small minority in the continent which houses almost twothirds of the world's population, your presence is a fruitful seed entrusted tothe power of the Spirit, which grows in dialogue with the diverse cultures,with the ancient religions and with the countless poor. Although often outcastby society and in many places also persecuted, the Church of Asia, with itsfirm faith, is a valuable presence of Christ's Gospel which proclaims justice,life and harmony. Christians of Asia, feel the fraternal closeness ofChristians of other countries of the world which cannot forget that in yourcontinent – in the Holy Land – Jesus was born,lived, died and rose from the dead.

The Bishopsaddress a word of gratitude and hope to the Churches of the European continent,in part marked today by a strong – sometimes even aggressive – secularization,and in part still wounded by many decades of regimes with ideologies hostile toGod and to humanity. We look with gratitude towards the past, but also to thepresent, in which the Gospel has created in Europe particular expressions andexperiences of faith – often overflowing with holiness – that have beendecisive for the evangelization of the whole world: rich theological thought,various charismatic expressions, various forms of charitable service for thepoor, profound contemplative experiences, the creation of a humanistic culturewhich has contributed to defining the dignity of the person and shaping thecommon good. May the present difficulties not pull you down, dear Christians ofEurope: may you consider them instead as a challenge to be overcome and anoccasion for a more joyful and vivid proclamation of Christ and of his Gospelof life.

Finally, thebishops of the synodal assembly greet the people of Oceaniawho live under the protection of the Southern Cross, they thank them for theirwitness to the Gospel of Jesus. Our prayer for you is that you might feel aprofound thirst for new life, like the Samaritan Woman at the well, and thatyou might be able to hear the word of Jesus which says: “If you knew the giftof God” (John 4:10). May you more strongly feel the commitment to preach theGospel and to make Jesus known in the world of today. We exhort you toencounter him in your daily life, to listen to him and to discover, throughprayer and meditation, the grace to be able to say: “We know that this is trulythe Savior of the World” (John 4:42).

14. The star of Mary illumines the desert

Arriving at theend of this experience of communion among Bishops of the entire world and ofcollaboration with the ministry of the Successor of Peter, we hear echoing inus the actual command of Jesus to his apostles: “Go and make disciples of allnations [...] and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”(Matthew 28:19,20). The mission of the Church is not addressed to onegeographic area only, but goes to the very hidden depths of the hearts of our contemporariesto draw them back to an encounter with Jesus, the Living One who makes himselfpresent in our communities.

This presencefills our hearts with joy. Grateful for the gifts received from him in thesedays, we raise to him the hymn of praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness ofthe Lord [...] The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46,49). Wemake Mary’s words our own: the Lord has indeed done great things for his Churchthroughout the ages in various parts of the world and we magnify him, certainthat he will not fail to look on our poverty in order to show the strength ofhis arm in our days and to sustain us in the path of the new evangelization.

The figure ofMary guides us on our way. Our journey, as Pope Benedict XVI told us, can seemlike a path across the desert; we know that we must take it, bringing with uswhat is essential: the gift of the Spiritthe company of Jesus, the truth of hisword, the eucharistic bread which nourishes us, the fellowship of ecclesialcommunion, the impetus of charity. It is the water of the well that makes thedesert bloom. As stars shine more brightly at night in the desert, so the lightof Mary, the Star of the new evangelization, brightly shines in heaven on ourway. To her we confidently entrust ourselves.









VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2012 (Zenit.org)


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