Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Ubicumque et semper is a legal document establishing the first new Pontifical Council for about a quarter of a century. The new Council will oversee, in what at the moment seems a fairly undefined way, the New Evangelisation. Now, as “new” implies the Council’s work is directed primarily at the West, the former “Christendom”, or as the Holy Father says “the Churches of ancient foundation”. I hope that the fact that the motu proprio has appeared on its promulgation on in Latin and Italian (though, of course, Latin is our universal language!) does not indicate anything about the future work of this Council, for certainly its work and influence could prove increasingly important in the future. I have two other concerns, or I should say, two hopes which have on their opposite sides a concern.
In the first place, I hope that the Council will encourage the wide diffusion of the Catechism as a tool for evangelisation as set out in the motu proprio (Art 3, 5 °), but equally that it will not mean that the use of the Catechism is circumscribed to interpretations or limitations. In other words, that it will assist those who seek to live and believe the teaching of the Catechism, to assimilate it spiritually, and so pass it on as a complete reality of faith, rather than seek a “pure” interpretation or one which is considered “appropriate” by this or that agency of any particular Bishop’s Conference. I have strong hopes in this regard as I know that our own Bishop’s have entrusted at least part of this work to the wonderful Clare Ward (who I count as a friend) at CASE. Once, during some training, she showed us a set of slides which included images of (if I remember) things like the Youth 2000 festivals, an altar and monstrance traditionally arranged for adoration, a meeting of the Faith summer school, an image of an Extraordinary Rite mass and several others. The point was well made that all of this could form part of the New Evangelisation. No restrictive single-mindedness here, but instead an acknowledgement that great diversity within the Church’s life can draw a diverse people to her and into an encounter with the One who unites all people under the banner of the Cross.
Secondly, I am very pleased the Council is to be charged with “identifying and promoting means to achieve” the New Evangelisation. I cannot speak for other dioceses but I believe we have been very lucky here in Wrexham, despite other difficulties which could easily be identified, to have in the person of Bishop Regan a successor to the Apostles who has been happy to give his backing to various initiatives to promote the New Evangelisation. His personal support given to the “Seeker’s Centre” at Pantasaph was a great spiritual benefit to me during my involvement with that team a couple of years ago, and he has taken an ongoing interest in their work (turning out, for example, a couple of weeks ago Friday to support the launch of their new book – a “how to” guide to evangelisation, just the sort of thing this new Council might assist via appropriate national structures). The flip side of this, of course, is the hope that such initiatives as there are will indeed find that the new Council gives them room to grow, and does not diminish those imperatives of the Spirit which do not always fit into the institutions which are necessary for the Church, as she moves through history and through the world, to carry out the work of her Saviour. Nevertheless, we can see also in history that it is often Catholic Rome which gives space to such movements in contrast to the local Churches. So, that should give us room for hope!