Catholic News Service photoArchbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York leave a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 9.
Catholic News Service photo
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York leave a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 9.
VATICAN CITY — A Philippine archbishop told the Synod of Bishops that it is possible to preach the Gospel to the poor, but only as long as the preacher shares their poverty.

"The Gospel can be preached to empty stomachs, but only if the stomach of the preacher is as empty as his parishioners' (stomachs)," Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan told the Synod of Bishops Oct. 9.

The archbishop was one of several synod members who emphasized the importance of humility and solidarity with the poor as the Catholic Church attempts to strengthen the faith of its members and encourage lapsed Catholics to return.

Archbishop Villegas' speech to the synod was met with applause, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred in the synod hall.

"The new evangelization calls for new humility," Archbishop Villegas told the synod. "The Gospel cannot thrive in pride."

Following Christ means imitating him with "a deep sense of awe and reverence for humanity," he said. "Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers."

A fellow Filipino, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, also emphasized the importance of imitating Jesus' humility, which he said was seen most clearly in Jesus' willingness to become human, to suffer and to die for humanity.

Jesus' humility allowed him to demonstrate real love and concern for all people, particularly "those neglected and despised by the world," and the church must do the same, Archbishop Tagle said.

Being humble also means recognizing when the church does not have all the answers, and therefore being willing to remain silent, he said, adding that "a church at home with silence will make the voiceless believe they are not alone."

Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, told the synod that the greatest obstacle a priest or theologian faces in becoming an effective evangelizer "is without a doubt pride, along with its natural ally, selfishness. The obsession with becoming great, original (and) important reduces more than a few to being 'pastors who shepherd themselves and not their flocks,'" as St. Augustine once said.

Each member of the church, he said, must make a serious examination of conscience and, "at the foot of the cross, learn humility and authentic love."

The cardinal told synod members they must be very serious in looking at the state of Catholic education. There are more Catholic schools and universities than ever, but that growth seems to be accompanied by "a growing crisis of faith," he said.

One key to resolving the problem, the cardinal said, is to ensure that priests and theologians understand that years of study and brilliant academic achievements won't attract anyone to Christ if those evangelizing don't actually know the Lord and teach what the church teaches.

Salvadoran Bishop Jose Rauda Gutierrez of San Vicente told the synod that bishops and priests are often an obstacle to evangelization.

"The loss of pastoral enthusiasm, the diminution of a missionary drive, liturgical celebrations lacking a deep spiritual experience, and the lack of joy and of hope are so strong that they impact the very life of our Christian communities," he said.

The new evangelization, he said, must be "like a medicine to give joy and life" in the place of fear.

Bishop John Corriveau of Nelson, British Columbia, told the synod that building community and promoting a sense of communion, particularly in the face of increasing individualism, is an important part of the new evangelization.

The "spirituality of communion" is modeled on the relationship of love found among the members of the Trinity, a creative love revealed to humanity with the incarnation of Christ.

"The call to communion is more than a slogan. It is a conversion of heart," he said.

German Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the synod that effective evangelization first requires that the church "overcome certain intra-ecclesial debates" between so-called conservatives and so-called progressives; instead, he said, church members must focus on sharing the Gospel with others and doing so in unity with the church and in harmony with its teaching.