Growing diversity and secularism – challenges for evangelisation in Oceania

Archbishop John Dew addressed the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian Faith yesterday in Rome, speaking of the Church in Oceania and its unique challenges.

Archbishop Dew was speaking in his capacity as President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO). In responding to the Synod document Instrumentum Laboris Archbishop Dew spoke of the vibrancy of youth in the Oceania region, citing the large numbers who enthusiastically participated in World Youth Day Sydney 2008 as well as other festivals in the region, vocations to priesthood and religious life with a missionary outreach beyond Oceania.

“In these young people we see a sincere and sometimes painful search for meaning and spirituality as they bridge traditional cultural values and the excitement of possibilities in the technological age with the swipe of a smart-phone. It is sometimes difficult for them to resist the false attractions of an aggressive media and entertainment industry, said Archbishop John Dew.

As well as the vibrancy of youth Archbishop Dew described the growing vitality of Catholic life he’s witnessed through the growing ethnic diversity in New Zealand through the migration of peoples.

“The largest populations are from the Pacific Islands and the Philippines, with smaller yet very significant numbers of Catholics settling in New Zealand from the Middle East, India, Korea, China and the Sudan.

People who bring their Catholic faith and their spirituality, as well as their experiences of war, conflict, poverty and displacement that have forged their faith, said Archbishop John Dew.

“This growing vitality is however set on the challenging backdrop of an aggressive secularism which fails to acknowledge the transcendent dignity of the human person, often blocks the dialogue with society on key bioethical and social issues such as, euthanasia, abortion and the definition of marriage, he said.

“The call to new evangelisation in this environment means that we must talk about Evangelisers. The formation and ongoing formation of all involved in the evangelising mission of the Church must be our first priority, he said.

“This means a rediscovery of the gift and vocation of Baptism, meeting the Risen Jesus in the scriptures and church community gathered around the Eucharist, a renewed commitment to prayer and contemplation, biblical study and lectio divina, a generous and courageous services of the community of Church and society, upholding and promoting family life and values, he said.

“We need to reclaim the Catholic Kerygmatic tradition, to speak of the word of God boldly, in season and out of season, to reclaim the prophetic voice of the Church, to discern the signs of the times that call for the new evangelisation, and to engage in proclaiming and living a Christian response to these signs, he said.

In concluding his address Archbishop Dew called on the words of the Ecclesia in Oceania that the Church in Oceania “may have the strength to follow faithfully the way of Jesus Christ, to tell courageously the truth of Jesus Christ, to live joyfully the life of Jesus Christ.”

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