Specialist in Dogmatic Theology Promotes Pastoral of "Auto-Evangelization"

Father Antonio Aranda Lomena Set to Attend Synod on the New Evangelization

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By Nieves San Martin

NAVARRA, OCT. 4, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Among the experts appointed by Benedict XVI to attend the forthcoming Synod on the New Evangelization, to be held in Rome from October 7-28, is Father Antonio Aranda Lomena of the University of Navarre, Spain. A specialist in Dogmatic Theology, he has focused on Trinitarian Theology, Christology and Theological Anthropology. 

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT, Father Aranda explains the essence of the Synod on the New Evangelization, the reasons it has been called, and the necessity of a pastoral of "auto-evangelization" in de-Christianized areas which have become “mission territory.” 

He also points out the fundamental task of an expert in the Synod and the fruits he expects from this convocation of Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Aranda was born in Cordoba, Spain, in 1942. He has been a priest of the Holy Cross Prelature and of the Opus Dei since 1971. He has a Licentiate in Mathematics, a doctorate in Theology and is ordinary professor of Dogmatic Theology, a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Doctors, of the Executive Council of the Spanish Mariological Society, and of the Scientific Committee and Advisory Committee of the Josémaria Escriva Historical Institute. He was dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome from 1994-1998, as well as director of the reviews Scripta Theologica (1989-1993) and Annales Theologici (1995-1998).

He has numerous publications, the latest analyzing specific topics of John Paul II’s teachings, the thought of Saint Josémaria Escriva, theology at the service of the Church as a gift of truth, and a rereading of the Pauline anthropological doctrine. 

At present he is teaching the following courses at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre: "Theology of Sanctity," "Theology of the ‘Imago Dei,'" The Treatment of the Trinity in Contemporary Catholic Theology.”

ZENIT: Why is there so much talk in the Church of a "New Evangelization"? What is meant by that expression?

Father Aranda: It’s an important question, which can’t be answered briefly. Allow me to extend myself, going back to the teaching of the present Pope and his immediate predecessors.

 After twenty centuries of uninterrupted proclamation of the Gospel and of intense leadership of Christianity worldwide, the need has been posed in the Church to carry out a “New Evangelization,” whose first recipients are the citizens and societies of some Western countries of ancient Christian root. Particular Churches, effective bearers for centuries of the evangelical message worldwide, have today become a “mission area” because of the high degree of de-Christianization in which many of the baptized live. From evangelizers they have become, in a certain sense, highly deficient in evangelization and obliged in fact to promote a pastoral of “auto-evangelization.”

 As Benedict XVI wrote: “The Servant of God Paul VI observed with farsightedness that the commitment of evangelization ‘is becoming ever more necessary, because of the frequent situations of de-Christianization in our days, for a great number of persons who received Baptism, but live on the margin of the Christian life; for simple people who have a certain faith, but know little of its fundamentals; for intellectuals who feel the need to know Jesus Christ in a different light from the teaching they received in their childhood, and for many others’ (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 52). And with his thought addressed to those who have distanced themselves from the faith, he added that the evangelizing action of the Church 'must seek constantly the appropriate means and language to propose to them or to propose to them again the revelation of God in Jesus Christ' (Ibid. no. 56). Blessed John Paul II made this arduous task one of the pivots of his vast teaching, synthesizing it in the concept ‘New Evangelization,’ which he deepened systematically in numerous interventions, the task that awaits the Church today, especially in areas of ancient Christianization. A task that, although it concerns directly her way of relating to the outside world, presupposes, first of all, a constant renewal at her heart, a continuous passing, so to speak, from evangelized to evangelizer” (Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Ubicumque et semper).

As John Paul II pointed out in Christifideles laici, no. 34, and similarly in other many passages of his teaching: “Whole countries and nations, in which at one time religion and Christian life were flourishing and capable of giving origin to communities of lively and operative faith, are now subjected to a harsh trial and even every now and then are radically transformed by the continuous spread of indifferentism, secularism and atheism. (…) Only a New Evangelization can ensure the growth of a limpid and profound faith, capable of making these traditions a force of genuine liberty. Urgent certainly everywhere is to redo the Christian network of human society. However, the condition is “that the Christian bond be remade of the ecclesial communities themselves that live in these countries ornations.”

 In this connection, Benedict XVI -- taking charge of the concern of his Venerable Predecessors --, has said: “I consider it opportune to give appropriate answers so that the whole Church, allowing herself to be regenerated by the strength of the Holy Spirit, presents herself to the contemporary world as a missionary propeller able to promote a New Evangelization. This refers especially to the Churches of ancient foundation, which live quite different realities, to which different needs correspond, which expect different impulses of evangelization” (Apostolic Letter Ubicumque et semper).

In other words, the New Evangelization is necessary today not only because, after two thousand years a great part of the human family does not yet know Christ, but also because the situation in which the Church and the world find themselves poses particular challenges to religious faith and the moral truths that stem from it. As it is urgent to build everywhere the Christian bond of society, it is also urgent to renew it where necessary inviting the baptized to rediscover the content and meaning of their own identity as Christian persons and as Church.

ZENIT: You will attend the Synod as an expert. What will be your essential task as opposed to that of the Synodal Fathers and auditors?

Father Aranda: The function of the experts is to help the Special Secretary of the Synod in those tasks that, in keeping with their knowledge and training, are required of them.

ZENIT: There are those who have expressed skepticism about this type of convocation in Rome, advocating instead Continental Synods. What do you think?

 Father Aranda: In reality, I don’t know what to say about such skepticism, which seems to me unfounded. The Synod, which is a consultative organ at the service of the universal ministry of the Roman Pontiff, is called by the Pope and, logically, gathered opportunely with him in Rome. In a document of public knowledge, as are the Rules of the Synod of Bishops, indicated with precision is the typology of Synodal Assemblies (cf. Chapter III, article 4), distinguishing -- I say it succinctly -- between ordinary (or extraordinary) General Assemblies, “when the matter to be addressed, because of its nature and importance in relation to the good of the universal Church, seems to require the doctrine, the prudence and the opinion of the whole Catholic Episcopate”; or Special Assemblies, “when the subject of greatest importance refers to the good of the Church, in relation to one or more particular regions.” It’s not infrequent that, after a Special Assembly of the Synod, the Holy Father himself goes to the respective region to hand his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

ZENIT: What fruits do you expect from this convocation of Benedict XVI?

Father Aranda: I have already pointed something out in the answer to the first question, but we can add something more. One of the great challenges facing the evangelizing task of the Church today is to revive in the Christian faithful the sense of their baptismal vocation, that is, the challenge to form them well and propagate among them all the call to sanctity and to the apostolate. “Necessary today – Benedict XVI has written – is a more convinced ecclesial commitment in favor of a New Evangelization to rediscover the joy of believing and to find again the enthusiasm of communicating the faith (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, no. 7). It’s an important point, on which to focus attention, together with others of a theological and pastoral character. The convocation of the present Synod is an eloquent sign that we are in the opportune time to reflect further, in an orderly and systematic way -- counting on the help of the Holy Spirit --, on the meaning, the assumptions, the stages and the ways of proceeding in face of the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: Can you tell us something about your research activity in the wide field of theology?

Father Aranda: I’ve dedicated many years to work, primarily, in the field of Dogmatic Theology, paying attention especially to Trinitarian reflection, Christology and Theological Anthropology. In these last years, for different reasons, both of a docent character as well as of direction of research works, I have also been involved in the theology of Christian identity, as well as, in relation to it and always from the dogmatic fundamentals pointed out earlier, in some aspects of the evangelizing action of the Church.