VATICAN CITY - The challenges of being human and of living in
a world that does not always want to hear about faith do not
lessen the obligation to proclaim the Gospel and to call the
baptized to live their faith more fully, said Cardinal Donald
W. Wuerl of Washington.
"We already know our difficulties, the tensions, our
restlessness, our faults and our human weakness," Cardinal
Wuerl told members of the Synod of Bishops on the new
evangelization Oct. 17.
Nevertheless, God calls members of the church to proclaim
salvation in Christ to the ends of the earth and to
re-propose the Gospel "to those who are now distant from the
church," said the cardinal, who was serving as the synod's
Summarizing - in Latin - the speeches Pope Benedict XVI and
synod members gave Oct. 7-17, the Washington cardinal also
formulated more than a dozen questions participants might
want to discuss in their small groups before drafting
propositions to present to the pope.
The "two great pillars of evangelization" must be a
commitment to know and proclaim the truth of Christ and to do
so with love, he said.
In the more than 230 speeches delivered at the synod,
Cardinal Wuerl said, members agreed that the duty to proclaim
the Gospel "is not just the responsibility of clergy and
religious." Laypeople share the obligation as well, so the
church must prepare them, educate them and support them, he
The cardinal asked members to consider in their small groups
concrete ways to increase people's awareness of their
"It is the task of the individual Catholic to invite people
back to the practice of the faith," he said.
The family and the parish deserve special recognition and
special support, because they are the places where most
people first encounter the faith and where they most grow in
faith, he said.
Cardinal Wuerl asked members to consider ways the church
could devise a program of catechesis that is "basic, complete
and inspiring in the search for truth, goodness and beauty"
and suggested the small groups discuss the idea advanced by
several synod members of formally establishing the ministry
of catechist in the church.
Attacks on the family and increasing secularization around
the globe mean the church may have to re-evaluate its normal
way of proceeding, he said. The situation is even more
complicated for Catholics living in countries where they are
a tiny minority or where they face limits on their freedom to
exercise the faith.
Many of the synod speeches, he said, emphasized the treasure
and the role of the liturgy and the sacraments in attracting
people to the faith and in sharing God's grace with them.
Recognizing that evangelization is bringing people to a
relationship with Christ through his church, and not simply
signing people up as members, Cardinal Wuerl asked, "How can
the church better create spaces and moments for an encounter
with Christ, and better foster a spiritual renewal,
conversion and faith formation among all the baptized?"
Like many synod members did in their speeches, the cardinal
also emphasized the evangelizing power of the church's social
outreach to the sick and the poor, an outreach that makes the
church "the very presence of Christ in the world today."
Cardinal Wuerl encouraged the synod members to reflect on
"the family, faith formation, religious freedom, care for the
poor and the role of the laity" as they continue their work.