Adding New World Expertise to Evangelization

Colombian Prelate Considers Why He Was Chosen for Pontifical Council

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By Carmen Elena Villa

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, MAY 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Though the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is focused on revitalizing the Christian roots of the Old World, a New World archbishop with experience in the Curia has been named its secretary.

Benedict XVI appointed this week Colombian Archbishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas to help Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella at the helm of the Church's newest council.

ZENIT spoke with the 66-year-old archbishop in the capital of Uruguay, where he was participating in the ordinary assembly of the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM).

ZENIT: What do you think about this new appointment from the Holy Father?

Archbishop Ruiz: I receive this appointment from the Holy Father with humility and gratitude. Humility because it is a great responsibility, in which I will learn a lot, pray intensely, study and reflect to be able to carry out this ecclesial service in the best way. With gratitude, for the kindness of the Holy Father and his appreciation of me, as I was one of his collaborators in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for more than 11 years, and he now calls me to be secretary of this new Holy See dicastery, which is so profoundly rooted in his heart.

ZENIT: Because of your experience in the Colombian episcopate and later as vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America?

Archbishop Ruiz: My experiences first as auxiliary bishop of Bogota and then as archbishop of Villavicencio were very enriching for my pastoral life, given that in both places I had the occasion to work intensely in the elaboration of pastoral plans, framed precisely in the endeavor to undertake the call made by Pope John Paul II to the new evangelization. My experience as vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America during four years enabled me to have direct and fraternal contact with the directors of CELAM, with episcopal conferences and with many Latin American ecclesial organizations, which in one way or another are interested in carrying out this evangelizing task. I also had the occasion not only to visit the majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries, but I was able to follow close up the processes that the episcopal conferences have initiated for the "continental mission."

ZENIT: This dicastery is centered on the evangelization of Europe, according to what the Pope said. Why do you think a Colombian has been appointed its secretary?

Archbishop Ruiz: Pope Benedict XVI is very interested in the European continent, which, we know well, has been invaded by secularism that has led to forgetting and putting aside its Christian roots. The Church must turn with determination and enthusiasm to rescue the spark that still shines in those countries. It must be taken into account, moreover, that the Pope himself has said that although it is true that at present the new evangelization is directed primarily to Europe, yet Latin America is also called to experience this new evangelization, because of the problems it is facing, given the influx of new cultural currents, the weakening of Christian life in our countries and the advance of many non-Catholic religious groups who are recruiting our faithful.

Now then, when Pope John Paul II began to speak of the new evangelization he did so appealing to Latin America, a call that he did not cease to make throughout his pontificate in many circumstances -- on his trips and in his conversations during ad limina visits. In this connection the appointment of a Latin American bishop should not surprise us, given that Latin America is an enormous region of the world, where almost half the number of Catholics is found, which for almost 30 years has been reflecting and making an effort to carry out the new evangelization.

ZENIT: However, this process of secularization is also growing in Latin America.

Archbishop Ruiz: Undoubtedly Latin America is also enjoying but at the same time suffering the consequences of a globalized world. External influences, the technological advances of the media, the migratory flow and many other circumstances, do not exempt our Continent from being affected by secularization and the loss of faith. To this is added religious indifference and the advance of agnosticism.

ZENIT: How can this new evangelization be made more effective and coherent?

Archbishop Ruiz: The new evangelization must be very directed to what Blessed John Paul II said: new ardor, new methods, new expressions. It is a question of proclaiming the one everlasting Gospel, that is, the very person of Jesus Christ, with all the clarity and integrity of which Paul VI spoke to us in "Evangelii Nuntiandi." Hence, we have to find the way to know the particular culture of each nation in which the new evangelization will be carried out, to find the appropriate expressions that, without betraying the message, reach the people. The methods are of great importance, as we must find the way to reach the estranged, but with such ardor and such conviction and personal testimony, that the message of a living and close God full of love who wishes to give meaning to our existence attracts people. However, we cannot limit ourselves to simple strategies or techniques, as we must not forget that the great evangelizer is the Holy Spirit; hence we need much prayer, conviction and the joy of having found Jesus Christ personally, within this great community that is the Church.

ZENIT: Next year there will be a synod dedicated to the new evangelization. What do you expect from this important meeting?

Archbishop Ruiz: In the next synod convoked by Benedict XVI for October of 2012 we will have the opportunity to hear the delegates of the entire Church. We will have the opportunity to know the great concerns of the present-day world and of the various continents, their worries and hopes. At the same time we will be able to make known the efforts that are already being made to carry out the new evangelization. The results gleaned from there and the subsequent apostolic exhortation the Holy Father will give us, will be the road map of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

[Translation by ZENIT]