Public Opinion Initiatives for the New Evangelization

From November 19 to 25 an international meeting was held at the Castel Romano Conference Center in Castel Gandolfo, Rome, on “Initiatives in Public Opinion for the New Evangelization.” Some sixty people took part from the various countries in which the Opus Dei Prelature carries out apostolic work in a stable way.

In the introductory session, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, remarked that the Year of Faith and the new evangelization are “a wonderful opportunity for Christians to realize more fully that we need to be leaven in society. While relying on the supernatural means, we need to continue working in this battle of love to give a more Christian and more human soul to the contemporary world, even though our means or talents might seem insufficient.”

The Prelate urged participants to carry out “a mobilization in favor of culture” and encouraged those present to study ways of encouraging young people and adults, students and professionals to become leaders in this effort. “Each of us needs to take to heart that petition of the founder of Opus Dei in The Way: ‘You can’t turn your back on your fellow-men: you have to be anxious to make them happy’ (no. 32).” In this “mobilization,” he added, “we Christian are not moved by the desire for personal success, but by an eagerness to help others to be happy.”

Other sessions stressed the social dimension of the Christian vocation, which brings with it the call to involve oneself, each according to one’s possibilities, in initiatives—personal or collective—to improve society. These efforts should be directed to fostering “a new culture, new legislation, new fashions, in keeping with the dignity of the human person and with our destiny to the glory of children of God in Jesus Christ” (Pastoral Letter of Bishop Javier Echevarría, November 28, 2002). The centrality of charity and the spiritual life was also stressed, as the driving force for all Christian action. In addition aspects of St. Josemaría’s message were highlighted that spur the faithful to feel responsible for society’s improvement: passionately loving the world, fostering one’s own freedom and that of others, etc. The message of St. Josemaria was also seen as a spur for fostering this broad horizon of evangelization among young people.

Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Vicar General of the Prelature, gave a class on some priority concerns for the new evangelization. He drew on the magisterium of Benedict XVI—who has been striving to put the centrality of God before the eyes of society—and on nos. 15-26 of the Prelate of Opus Dei’s pastoral letter dated September 29, 2012. There the Prelate speaks about the family and marriage, religious freedom, entertainment and art, legislation in matters of education and bioethics, etc. Msgr. Ocáriz stressed the importance of dedicating time and resources to study and research on the great ethical challenges raised by contemporary society.

One of the conferences considered the leadership role that educational institutions inspired by Catholicism can play in the new evangelization. As St. Josemaría insisted, these institutions have the mission to be “beacons of Christian radiation” and of positive social transformation. Specifically, reference was made to the importance of their directors governing with this perspective, both in small daily decisions and in questions of more direct social impact, and of involving all the personnel working there in this mission. In addition, the possibility that every educational center with a Catholic inspiration has of contributing positively to public debate on key ethical questions was stressed.

This international meeting included a seminar organized by the NGO Intermedia Consulting, with specific professional suggestions for those seeking to create a new public culture more in accord with human and Christian dignity.

The Intermedia professionals passed on their experience in increasing the impact on public opinion of non-profit initiatives directed towards the promotion of the common good. They reminded the audience of the importance of gathering useful data and statistical information, and gave some practical example. Various experts spoke about the use of the social network to spread positive values. Now that so many people go to the internet to seek answers to every kind of question, those seeking to have a positive impact on society’s values need to make use of its resources (blogs, networks, etc.) to spread their message.

One of the conclusions of the seminar was that in today’s global and multicultural world—so different from that of the first evangelization—the fostering of a culture that incarnates Christian values, and is thus consistent with the dignity of the human person, calls for innovative approaches. For example, it is indispensable that these initiatives know how to establish an enriching dialogue with civil entities and national and international organisms that are involved with the same questions, gaining in this way a space to offer their own contribution.

During those days the experiences of associations striving to foster the culture of life and strengthen the family were presented (often with the help of non-Catholics and even non-Christians). In addition, various participants presented other experiences in starting initiatives that spread Christian teaching in public opinion and that provide an effective help for the work of evangelization by millions of Catholics throughout the world: websites of a doctrinal and catechetical nature, publications, news agencies, courses of formation for Church communicators, sessions of media training on ethical and religious questions, etc.

Three examples of the latter were Catholic Voices (an association organized by a group of Catholics in the United Kingdom, presented in this meeting by Jack Valero), the website www.arguments.es (with free catechetical resources downloaded by millions of people, as its director, Jesús Juan Pardo explained) and various courses of specialization in religious information organized by the Associazione Iscom of Rome (www.iscom.info) with the collaboration of institutions in Rome, Lisbon, Paris, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo and other places. This last session was offered by those in charge of Iscom, Manuel Sanchez and Bruno Mastroianni.

Romana, n. 55, July-December 2012, p. 368-370.

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