Pope, opening synod, says Christ is the answer to humanity's questions
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A sign in Spanish saying "Almodovar del Campo, the birthplace of St. John of Avila, congratulates its doctor," is seen before the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 7. During the Mass, Pope Benedict proclaimed the 16-century Spanish saint as the 34th doctor of the church.
Catholic News Service photo
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney arrives for the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 7.
Pope adds two saints to list of church 'doctors'
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict added a 16th-century Spanish priest and a 12th-century German abbess to the roster of doctors of the universal church.
The pope proclaimed the new doctors, St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen, at Mass Oct. 7 in St. Peter's Square, where the thousands in attendance included pilgrims waving Spanish flags, and German nuns in traditional habits.
In his homily, Pope Benedict said that St. John, "a profound expert on the sacred Scriptures," knew how to "penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity."
Noting St. Hildegard's knowledge of medicine, poetry and music, the pope called her a "woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times."
The doctors of the church, saints honored for particularly important contributions to theology and spirituality, come from both the Eastern and Western church traditions.
The 35 doctors include early church fathers such as Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and theologians such as Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and John of the Cross, but also St. Therese of Lisieux, who was honored by Blessed John Paul II in 1997, despite her lack of scholarly accomplishment.
St. Hildegard is the fourth female doctor of the church, joining Sts. Therese, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — To evangelize means to help people understand that God himself has responded to their questions, and that his response — the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ — is available to them as well, Pope Benedict said.
"Our role in the new evangelization is to cooperate with God," the pope told the more than 260 cardinals, bishops and priests who are members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. "We can only let people know what God has done."
In a 21-minute, off-the-cuff reflection during morning prayer at the synod's opening session Oct. 8, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of prayer in the church's push for a new evangelization, the meaning of evangelization, and sharing the Gospel through both proclamation and charity.
The pope examined the use of the word "evangelion," the Greek term that is the root of the English word "evangelization," and which is itself translated as "Gospel."
In the Book of Isaiah, he noted, the Hebrew equivalent of the word describes "the voice that announces a victory, that announces goodness, joy and happiness," transmitting the message that "God has not forgotten his people," and that he intervenes with power in history to save them.
In the New Testament, the pope said, "evangelion" is the good news of the incarnation of Christ, the coming of God's son into the world to save humanity.
For the people of Israel suffering under Roman rule, it was truly good news that God spoke to his people and came to live among them, the pope said. News of Jesus' birth was the answer to those who questioned whether there really was a God; whether he knew his people and the circumstances of their lives; and whether he had any power to change their situation.
People today have the same questions, the pope said: "Is God a reality or not? Why is he silent?"
When Christians evangelize, they must remember that their "faith has content," and that what they believe and seek to share with others is outlined in the creed, he said. They must use their intelligence to reflect on the tenets of their faith and use their mouths to proclaim it.
Because faith isn't an abstract notion, Christians also must live their faith and share it with the world through acts of charity and love, the pope said.
"Being tepid is the greatest danger for Christians," he said. "We pray that faith becomes like a fire in us and that it will set alight others."
The synod formally opened Oct. 7 with a Mass in St. Peter's Square.
During his homily, Pope Benedict said that the "church exists to evangelize" by sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard of Christ, strengthening the faith of those who already have been baptized and reaching out to those who "have drifted away from the church."
"At various times in history," he said, "divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in the church's evangelizing activity," as happened, for example, with the evangelization of the Americas beginning late in the 15th century.
"Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the church a new effort to announce the good news," the pope said.
The modern effort to proclaim salvation in Christ to the modern world found "a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council," which opened 50 years ago this Oct. 11.
The pope said the synod is dedicated to helping people strengthen their faith and to helping those who have drifted away "encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favor the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life."