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ADLIMINA-EVANGELIZE Dec-9-2011 (780 words) With photos posted Dec. 6. xxi
New Jersey, Pennsylvania 'ad limina' talks look at new evangelization
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The "new evangelization" includes renewing diocesan structures, helping Catholics publicly live the moral dimension of their faith and defending their right to do so, U.S. bishops said.
During their "ad limina" visits to Rome in early December, the bishops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania spoke to Vatican officials about energizing the faith of Catholics, re-proposing the faith to people who have drifted away and proclaiming the Gospel in new ways, several said.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service Dec. 7 that it was his fifth "ad limina" visit, but his first as archbishop of Philadelphia.
Pope Benedict XVI met privately for about 25 minutes with the archbishop and his four auxiliary bishops, each of whom was participating in his first "ad limina," the archbishop said.
"The Holy Father is well aware of the situation in Philadelphia and very caring and supportive of our people, our priests and the bishops who serve there," he said. "We've had some critical things happen in Philadelphia. We've had two grand jury reports that have raised concerns about the church's response to sexual abuse of minors in southeastern Pennsylvania.
"One of our former vicars for clergy is going to be on trial this spring" on charges of child endangerment after being accused of not removing abusive priests, "so we have a unique situation regarding sexual child abuse ... and the Holy Father is well aware of that," Archbishop Chaput said.
He said the pope also knows that the Philadelphia archdiocese, like other dioceses in the Northeast, is facing a situation where older churches in city centers are virtually empty on Sundays, while suburban parishes are growing.
In those cases, he said, part of the church's new evangelization effort must be "reordering the structures there, as well as a re-presentation of the Gospel" to people today.
At the same time, the archbishop said, new evangelization includes interaction with our neighbors and fellow citizens "because we are supposed to be light for the world around us and salt for the blandness of society."
Archbishop Chaput said that for years, Pope Benedict has been encouraging bishops to help their faithful "be Catholics publicly and not just privately. Our faith is always personal, but it's never supposed to be a private thing. It's always supposed to influence our politics, and politics means our interaction with the 'polis,' with the city, with our fellow citizens."
During the "ad limina," bishops visit the Vatican congregations and councils, discussing issues of common concern. "The issues we talk about are the issues Catholics talk about around the coffee table," Archbishop Chaput said.
For instance, at the Pontifical Council for the Family, they talked about divorce, the changing definition of marriage in the United States and "what we can do to help families be strong in the midst of a world that is very secular," he said.
"They are very anxious to learn our experience; more anxious to learn our experience probably, than to give us advice, which I think the bishops have found very, very helpful," he said.
It's clear "they think that what happens in America has a huge impact on the church everywhere, so they are anxious to find out what we think and to know what we're doing because they think that's going to spill over into the rest of the world," Archbishop Chaput said.
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark told Vatican Radio Dec. 7 the bishops of the United States "think that society itself, as well as certain governments, both national and state, are making a mistake in the way they understand religious freedom. In fact, there seems to be an attack on it."
The U.S. bishops have cited threats to religious freedom found in laws that would require church organizations to violate church teaching, for instance by requiring they cover contraception in their health insurance policies or allow gay couples to adopt children from Catholic agencies.
"I think an underlying mistake is the thought that religion and religious practice are a private matter and they really should not cross over and affect one's voting or one's personal opinion about public matters," Archbishop Myers said. "That is a fundamental error: One cannot divide oneself into half -- half devoted to matters of the faith and half devoted to public affairs and public discussion."
The archbishop told Vatican Radio that the bishops are well aware that words alone will never convince opponents that religion is not a danger to society and freedom.
"We have to live what we believe. We have to be credible in our faith and then teach from that point of view, so that our lives become our teaching," he said.
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