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  • John Thavis

New pope offers a lesson for ‘new evangelization’

Reading Pope Francis’ recent homilies and talks, I find myself wondering whether the Vatican’s “new evangelization” project might benefit from his simple, direct approach to questions of faith.

The new pope has an invitational way of presenting Christianity, illustrated well in his homily at the Easter vigil, when he spoke about Christ’s victory over death and sin, “over everything that crushes life and makes it less human.”

Like the women who found Christ’s empty tomb, he said, modern men and women should be willing to be surprised by God.

“How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is,” the pope said.

“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

In Vatican-speak, the “new evangelization” program involves a “renewed first proclamation of the Gospel,” and is designed in part to re-educate Catholics in the faith. In that sense, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which runs more than 800 pages, has been described as a “summary” of what Catholics want to communicate to others.

This approach has always struck me as Magisterium-heavy. I think most people respond better to spiritual promptings than encyclopedic arguments for faith, and the new pope seems to be tapping into that.

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