I have spent the past three days with six other New Zealanders and four hundred Australians at a “New Evangelisation” conference in Sydney.
The gathering was organised by the Australian bishops to prepare the Australasian church for the Year of Faith called by Pope Benedict to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
The conference website will give a taste of the life and focus of the gathering.
I don’t think I have ever been to a conference where the focus was so unashamedly on the centrality of personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the purpose of all human existence.
Tragically a significant number of people who have been baptised as Catholics are not aware that this is the non-negotiable heart of both Catholic life and human existence.
While Catholics still reach out to people of no faith or any faith, the specific challenge of the New Evangelisation is to re-present the content of our faith in a vibrant, attractive, creative, relevant way to people who are already Catholic in name.. It is not that the content of our faith has changed – but that tired old predictable methods of presentation are no longer effective in the twenty-first century.
The last workshop I attended this afternoon included this inspiring quotation from the opening of Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est:
is not the result
of an ethical choice
or a lofty idea,
but the encounter with an event
which gives life a new horizon
and a decisive direction.