Cardinal's address at CASE Launch (The Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation)
posted on 21 April 2004
'I am conscious today that we gather to launch a new agency of the Bishops' Conference - the agency for Evangelisation. Mgr Keith Baltrop, its new director, and all who work with him are aware that there is really only one agent for Evangelisation - the Holy Spirit. So, firstly, today I want to ask the blessing of God's Spirit on this new agency, for without God our work would be in vain.
I am sure that many of you are aware that I have been meeting on a monthly basis with Young People from throughout my diocese. I have been struck by many things in the time that we have spent together but, in particular, today I am conscious of two things that I have learnt from those meetings. Firstly I have seen in those gatherings that young people today are searching and questioning. They are particularly searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. Many of them recognize their own inner poverty despite, in many cases, intellectual and professional success. They often speak of their need for God. Secondly, I have become more and more conscious that there is for many young people a renewed interest and fascination with the person of Jesus Christ. Despite the controversy, I sense that the film The Passion of the Christ touched a sensitive nerve in our society and certainly mirrors an interest in the person and work of Jesus for many today. In some ways this is surprising because this fascination with the person of Jesus is coupled with a significant ignorance about him.
I believe those two things - the search for meaning which has its ultimate goal in God, and the need for a clearer understanding and love for the person of Jesus Christ - is what I think CASE is all about. I note that this initiative is timely and follows the intuition and inspiration of John Paul II for a 'new evangelization'. In Redemptoris Missio he reminds us: 'No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church, can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.' And in another place he says, 'I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes'.
Whilst the message and meaning of the Gospel are timeless, the form our evangelization takes ad gentes - to the non-believer - must be influenced by the culture of the age and by our local situation. The year 2004 is not the same as 1957, the year when I was ordained. Europe is not Africa; Esher is not Toxteth. The other day I received an email from a young man in a small town in China. He was preparing for baptism and he asked me to pray for him. I am delighted that the internet and the newer forms of multi-media are part of the resources that CASE will offer to our priests, catechists and not least our Bishops. It is often said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but I do believe it is vital for all of us to engage in whatever ways are open to us to assist in the spread of the Gospel by using contemporary ways and means.
For a minority of people in our society and culture the Church offers a safe haven in the midst of the many choices on offer and the high speed of contemporary change. But for the majority she is regarded as out of touch and irrelevant. The challenge for us is to hold on to the people we have, especially the young, whilst reaching out to others where they are and encouraging them to seriously consider or reconsider the claims of Jesus Christ. Many years ago I remember reading and being inspired by that great document of Paul VI, Evangelisation in the Modern World. In it he says:
'There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed.' (Evangelii Nuntiandi. 22)
So often, it is not Christ that people have rejected; it is usually the Church. You and I know that Christ and his Church are inseparable and that the heart of our life of faith is the Eucharist. We need new ways of reaching people without compromising our ecclesiology. We do not need radical changes to our basic structures, but we need more flexibility combined with imaginative and creative thinking. Our witness to Jesus Christ needs to be new in its fervour, new in its methods, and new in its expression.
This is why I and my fellow Bishops welcome CASE - the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation - and why it is so needed by the Church in our countries. I want to thank Mgr Keith and those who work with him for fronting this initiative, and may God bestow His blessing on all that we do together.
I am aware that today is the feast of St Anselm. He was a renowned teacher and communicator of the mystery of God made known in Jesus Christ to the people of the Middle Ages. I would like to end these few words with a prayer attributed to him:
Grant Lord God
that we (and all peoples) may cleave to you without parting,
worship you without wearying,
serve you without failing,
faithfully seek you,
happily find you,
for ever possess you;
the one only God
blessed for all eternity.
Through Christ our Lord.