by JOHN SHAW
The Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand visited Auckland on Sunday, October 11 as the distinguished guest speaker at the annual meeting of the parish of St Michael, Remuera.
In his address, Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa dealt with four topics suggested by the St Michael’s Pastoral Council as being of particular interest to parishioners: the state of the Church in the world, the attrition of youth from the faith, the role of the laity, and the vision of Pope Francis.
The state of the Church in the world
The archbishop pointed to four main challenges facing the Church. The first of these is that the Church is not like any other non-governmental organisation. “We must enlighten ourselves and all the people of God on the mystery that the Church represents.” The Church has the task of transforming all cultures in the light of the Gospel.
The second challenge stems from a confusion about the notion of Church as an organisation where only private intentions and personal intuitions count. In this view “sacraments are no longer considered as a force of the Holy Spirit that operates the salvation in us and in the Church”.
There is a pastoral challenge: “It is not enough to know the doctrine of the Church or to be involved in charity. It is also necessary to undergo an ongoing formation in the matters of our Catholic faith.”
Finally, the Church should be the conscience of society. This obliges the Church to be in dialogue and, at times, in tension with both society and the state.
Attrition of the youth from the faith
Archbishop Rugambwa observed that, by proposing this topic for his address, the Remuera parish “is committed and determined to face the matter without downplaying it or letting ourselves be taken by despair or abandonment”. The contemporary cultural reality, and the powerful impact of the mass media, are complicating parents’ duty and right to raise their children in the faith, he observed.
He said that it is time to ask what is being done to ensure that the children grow up as Catholics. “Christianity is not innate or automatic. It is something we receive and learn through our parents, our family, our whanau, our parish community, and later on the wider Catholic community reinforces it.” The archbishop suggested that this called for a concentrated effort to strengthen the faith in young people by programmes of religious formation and of a wider appreciation of the beauties of the Church and the contributions it has made in many areas of learning and achievement.
The involvement of the laity in the Church
The involvement of the laity in the Church can strengthen her mission and enable her to withstand contemporary threats. Lay men and women, by virtue of their baptism and confirmation, have a double call to holiness and to service; lay people need to be involved and work in our own holiness. But also, again by virtue of their baptism and confirmation, lay men and women are called to voluntarily put all their God-given talents to the good of the Church and of society. “Unity is a fundamental aspect of the Church and it calls for collaboration between the clergy and the laity. That is why it is the duty of bishops and priests to identify and orient the talents of the laity for the good of the Church,” said Archbishop Rugambwa.
The vision of Pope Francis
Those seeking to have an understanding of the Pope’s vision are recommended by Archbishop Rugambwa to make a study of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. “This Pope’s teaching can serve as a path towards a solution to the challenges of the Church today, a Church more attractive to the young generations and a Church that sees that the lay men and women are joyfully engaged in her mission.” The nuncio explained to the meeting the essence of the Pope’s vision of the Church: the encounter between God and the human family; solidarity with society, by which concern is shown to the vulnerable, the needy and the poor; the search for the common good, which is necessary for attaining peace; the Church as God’s instrument to give people hope by presenting to the world the God who loves and accompanies the human person. This hope strengthens humanity on their way to the salvation of the souls.
The annual meeting followed a Sunday Mass in St Michael’s church at which Archbishop Rugambwa was celebrant and delivered the homily. At a parish social event following the meeting, many parishioners met the archbishop.
The text of the address is at www.remueracatholic.org.nz/annual-meeting