The Pope offered this warning in a message dated Friday and released today, directed to Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. That dicastery is having its plenary assembly through Wednesday. The theme is "St. Paul and the New Areopagi."
"The topic you are addressing in this meeting [...] assists in reliving an experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles while in Athens," the Holy Father observed. "After having preached in many places, [Paul] addressed the Areopagus and there proclaimed the Gospel using a language that today we could describe as 'inculturated.'
"That Areopagus, which at the time represented the center of culture for the refined Athenian people, today -- as my venerated predecessor John Paul II would say -- 'can be taken as a symbol of the new sectors in which the Gospel must be proclaimed.'
"In fact, the reference to that event is an urgent invitation to know how to value the 'Areopagi' of today, where the great challenges of evangelization are addressed."
The Pontiff reflected that under the influence of globalization, some areas of evangelization are common to various continents; others are specific to one.
"Therefore," he encouraged, "the missionary activity of the Church must be directed to the vital centers of the society of the third millennium."
Holy Spirit at work
In this context, he said relativism is "not to be underestimated."
The relativistic culture "enters the sanctuary of the family, infiltrates the realm of education and other realms of society and contaminates them, manipulating consciences, especially those of the young," he said.
"At the same time, however, despite these snares, the Church knows that the Holy Spirit is always acting," the Pope affirmed. "New doors, in fact, are opened to the Gospel, and spreading in the world is the longing for authentic spiritual and apostolic renewal. As in other periods of change, the pastoral priority is to show the true face of Christ, lord of history and sole redeemer of man."
The Bishop of Rome said that in this "missionary enterprise," the Apostle Paul is a worthy model.
"With this complete adherence to the Lord," he said, "Christians will more easily be able to transmit to future generations the heritage of faith, capable of transforming difficulties into possibilities of evangelization."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27569?l=english