As part of the proceedings of the second session of the Synod of Bishops, yesterday, representatives of the five continents (although, for the sake of simplicity, the Americas were suddenly a single continent…) offered a report on the background of the new evangelisation in their respective parts of the world. Representing Europe was Péter Cardinal Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and President of the CCEE, the Council of European Episcopal Conferences.

Since this report relates to our own part of the world, it merits some special attention. First of all, I have it available in my Dutch translation here.

Cardinal Erdö divides his report in eleven bullet points. Points 1 to 3 discuss the need for evangelisation in the face of the loss of knowledge of the Christian faith and conscious efforts to distort and attack that faith. In points 4 and 5 discuss the effect that this has on the areas of human rights and politics, especially people’s attitude towards these, in Europe. Points 6 to 8, then, discuss signs of hope and opportunity. Points 9 to 11, finally, speak of the progress made in ecumenism. Combined, these points paint a picture of the reality in which the new evangelisation must somehow bear fruit.

While we may recognise much from what Cardinal Erdö says in what we see and read in the news, as a Catholic “on the ground” in Europe, I must admit that I don’t recognise everything in this report. Maybe that is due to the fact that the report discusses general trends in a large area, and the reality in the small area of a parish may be quite different. But, on the other hand, it is in that parish that the new evangelisation must take root.

Point two, about religious education, is as far as I am concerned spot on. With some experience in education, I can say that the standards of RE in secondary schools in the Netherlands are exceedingly low. Few are the schools which undertake any serious Catholic religious education, and for most students, it is indeed “an education in syncretism or indifference”.  If everything is equal, everything is equally ineffective and unimportant.

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