INTERVIEW WITH MONSIGNOR GENO SYLVA – New Evangelization needs catechesis

Magdalene Chan and Andrew Lam

Monsignor Geno Sylva is an official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. He gave the interview after the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church held in October last year. This article helps us understand the new trends in relations between the new evangelization and catechesis.

What is the role and function of Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization since the change of responsibility in taking up the task of catechesis, aside from the work of promoting CCC in 2013?

When Pope Benedict transferred the competence of catechesis from the Congregation of the Clergy to this Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, it was a very significant shift to really demonstrate that it is an institutional change and show to all the world the importance of catechesis in the entire process of the New Evangelization. We cannot do Evangelization without catechesis. So, when Pope Benedict transferred the competence we at the Pontifical Council began on a mission of helping to carry out the central mission of catechesis in the new Evangelization

Why is there a shift from the Congregation of the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization in carrying out catechetical work? What are their different approaches to the catechetical task exercised in the universal Church?

The Pontifical Council is a new office. It was founded in 2010. And so this institutional shift made in the Roman Curia really demonstrates the fact that when we come up with and propose initiative suggestions for the New Evangelization at the same time, we have to look at how the catechesis is a part of that. Also, what we have to demonstrate to the world is that the catechesis and Evangelization have to be woven together. This goal goes back to Pope Paul IV. He said that without catechesis you can’t do Evangelization. So this Pontifical Council is really responsible for all the different areas of catechesis: the approvals for catechisms that are coming from episcopal conferences, for translations of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, also the training and the forming of the catechists — how we work, how we propose ideas… Bishops come here to tell us that we have to have a better formation and training of catechists! By the way they teach, they are witnessing to the faith and helping people understand and give them reason for their hope and belief.

What kind of support does the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization give to the various local churches?

Since 2013, what we have done is to host a very large international conference for catechists a few years ago. We have also traveled to different episcopal conferences to learn what are the challenges, what are the opportunities, what are the witnesses, in terms of catechesis, here in Europe, in central America, in Latin America, in United States… And so what we try to do is also learn the best practices: how can we then share these practices to the world. In fact, the coming week we are hosting [a workshop on] catechesis for persons with disabilities. So we have people coming tomorrow from all over the world, because it is the central task, this daily pastoral ministry the in life of the Church. We try to see how we address the special need of each baptized person, not only how we invite them to accept the teaching of the Church but also how they can receive it and take it as their own. Also, how we could ask those who with disability to do catechesis. They have a mission and a  ministry in the Church. So I am very excited.

What do you suggest so we can make good use of the new editions of the CCC with comments on pastoral theology based on the five languages, for the local churches?

The text that just came out for the 25th anniversary, which puts together the commentary and the catechism, has come out in Italian. We are very excited about that. We are now working in United States with the publications. They have to publish, so it is possible to distribute in English speaking countries. And they continue to work on other languages. It is getting be a very very powerful resource: for bishops, priests, religious, deacons, lays, leaders and catechists… Because it is very rich, profound commentary.

What are main differences between the GDC (1997) and the coming new General Directory for Catechesis in terms of the scheme and elements of the catechesis (content, audiences with various circumstances, methods and ministries)?

Yes, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has finished the draft of the New Directory for Catechesis, which will not be published until 2018 at the earliest. Though it is not the right time to expose the content the new directory in detail now, the basic elements of the catechesis ordinarily have to be retained. The new directory needs to be enriched by evangelical teachings given through some related documents promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI as well as Pope Francis.

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