Cardinal Pell examines global challenges to evangelization

By Matthew A. Rarey

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Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia speaks to EWTN News Oct. 25 in Rome. Credit: Alan Holdren-EWTN News.

While acknowledging the challenges facing Christian renewal in the developed world, the primate of the Church in Australia said he hopes the impact of the synod on the New Evangelization will reach the farthest corners of the globe.

“In the First World generally … we’re struggling with the problems of decline,” said Cardinal Pell, archbishop of Sydney, in an Oct. 25 interview with EWTN News. “We want to reverse that. There are plenty of problems in the ‘two-thirds world,’ but they’re often problems of growth.”

On a brilliant morning in the courtyard of Domus Australia, the year-old Australian pilgrim center he founded, Cardinal Pell shared his hopes for the synod in the context of the universal Church.

The synod reinforced for him the diversity of the Church, he said, which faces particular challenges in Europe. So he hopes the final message of the synod and the Holy Father’s document “won’t be too Eurocentric.”

Overall, however, the challenge of the New Evangelization is the same everywhere, he noted, describing it as adapting the timeless message of Christ and his Church to an ever-changing world.

The synod offers no “magic formula” for evangelization but stresses the elementals, which must be applied with regard to particular conditions, such as the “noisy new atheism in the English-speaking word,” “hostile government pressures in China” and, in Islamic countries, Muslim objections to Christian conversions.

Despite these different situations, the 262 synod fathers—all of them bishops except for 14 priests—have not lost sight of Christ, the one whom the New Evangelization is all about.

“(T)he Synod is completely Christocentric,” he beamed. “It means Christ as redeemer, Christ as moral teacher. His moral teachings are not like a final exam where you only need to do six out of ten questions. These are the central challenges, and they've always been.”

The new part of the New Evangelization means presenting Christ with fresh fervor and using all modern means available.

Though atheistic science is popular in the West, for example, “the evidence from science confirms overwhelmingly the need for an intelligent creator, but we need to get that information out.”

The cardinal urged using technology to accomplish that goal, and told a story about a young Australian convert who described himself as a “Google Catholic” because he used the internet to discover the faith.

As one of the Western world’s most prominent Church leaders, he drew attention to the challenges of renewing what used to be called Christendom.

“As our societies fray in the Western world, as we see the consequences of family disintegration and drugs and alcohol and pornography, the wounds of that society will emphasize just how central and important and life-giving Christianity is,” he said. “And to the extent that our society deteriorates, the beauty and usefulness of Christian life will become more and more important.”

This is nothing the Church has not been through before. In fact, conditions were even worse for the early Christians.

“Christianity spread in the early centuries in a society which was much wilder and rougher and dissolute than today,” he noted, and yet “it was in this jungle that Christianity spread.”

It’s the same old struggle under new conditions, he noted, hoping that the synod presents the New Evangelization to a world that has always featured a clash “between good and evil and between faith and fear.”

As the New Evangelization proceeds, Cardinal Pell underscored that Catholics must also keep in mind that there is “no Christianity without the Church, the two are linked inseparably. The Church is very imperfect – we’ve had that demonstrated vividly – but that’s our only home.”

And in that home it is necessary to honor the master, which means having liturgies that focused on worshiping God and him alone.

The Mass is not, he said, “a community celebration or a community supper.”

All of these rites must be conducted with a proper attitude of reverence, he emphasized.

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