Family, community, are key to overcoming secularism, says Pope Francis

22 Mar 2024

By Contributor

By Justin McLellan

Pope Francis poses for a photo with members of the Dicastery for Evangelization’s section for new evangelization during their plenary assembly at the Vatican March 15, 2024. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

Faced with decades of rising secularism, the Catholic Church must invest in families and in strengthening other forms of community to transmit the faith, Pope Francis has said.

“The big issue before us is to understand how to overcome the rupture that has been established in the transmission of faith,” the pope told members of the Dicastery for Evangelization’s section for new evangelisation on 15 March.

“To that end there is an urgent need to recover an effective relationship with families and formation centers.”

Developing faith in Christ “requires a meaningful experience lived in the family and in the Christian community as a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ in order to be transmitted,” he wrote in his message to members of the dicastery during their plenary assembly.

“Without this real and existential encounter, one will always be subject to the temptation to make faith a theory and not a testimony of life.”

As he has done at several meetings in past weeks, the Holy Father had an aide, Msgr Filippo Ciamanelli, read his speech to the group.

Pope Francis meets with members of the Dicastery for Evangelization’s section for new evangelization during their plenary assembly at the Vatican March 15, 2024. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

In his message, Pope Francis wrote that the secularism of recent decades “has created enormous difficulties” for the church, “from the loss of a sense of belonging to the Christian community to the indifference regarding the faith and its contents.”

As a result, he wrote, it is time for the church to “understand what effective response we are called to give to young generations so that they may recover the meaning of life.”

He noted that lure of personal autonomy, “promoted as one of the pretences of secularism, cannot be thought of as independence from God, because it is God himself who grants the personal freedom to act.”

And while technological advances offer many ways for humanity to progress, including through developments in medicine and methods of protecting the environment, they also can create a “problematic” vision of humanity that fails to satisfy “the need for truth that dwells in every person,” he wrote.

Pope Francis urged members of the dicastery to develop a “spirituality of mercy” as the foundation of their work in evangelisation. People are more receptive to evangelization when done with a “style of mercy,” he wrote. By communicating mercy, he added, “the heart opens more readily to conversion.”

Pope Francis shakes hands with a member of the Dicastery for Evangelization’s section for new evangelization during their plenary assembly at the Vatican March 15, 2024. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

The Holy Father thanked the dicastery for its work in developing resources for catechists, referencing the latest “Directory for Catechesis” published by the dicastery in 2020, and praised the support they have given to those who serve as catechists.

“I hope that bishops will know how to nurture and accompany vocations to this ministry especially among young people,” he wrote, “so that the gap between generations and may be reduced and the transmission of the faith may not appear to be a task entrusted only to older people.”

Pope Francis also discussed plans for the Holy Year 2025, which he has asked the dicastery to organise.

The theme for the holy year is “Pilgrims of Hope.”

“This theological virtue has been seen poetically as the ‘little sister’ of the other two, faith and charity, but without it these two do not move forward, they do not express the best of themselves,” he wrote. “The holy people of God has such a great need” for hope.