Pope Urges Lapsed Catholics To Consider Return As Synod Ends

John Stegeman

Pope Benedict XVI held a closing mass Sunday to mark the end of a synod, or gathering of bishops, to discuss the faith and find new ways to reach out to lapsed and lukewarm Catholics in an increasingly secular world. The Catholic Church and the Pope have termed this new outreach effort the "New Evangelization."

The Catholic Church is suffering the loss of many faithful in the wake of sexual abuse scandals and religious positions that are increasingly in conflict with modern secular ideas, such as Church opposition to same-sex unions and abortion. The Pope called on Church leaders Sunday to find new ways to reach out in the modern world, but did not specify how. Based on the recommendations of the synod, the Holy Father is expected to publish a letter on the matter, called an apostolic exhortation, in the coming weeks.

Catholics worldwide heard a section of the Gospel of Mark that dealt with Jesus healing a blind man named Bartimaeus. In his homily, published in full at the Vatican's website, the Pope used Bartimaeus as a metaphor for the Church in places like western Europe and the United States where the New Evangelization hopes to reach out.

"Bartimaeus could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives. These people have therefore lost a precious treasure...," Benedict said in his homily. "They are the many in need of a new evangelization, that is, a new encounter with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1), who can open their eyes afresh and teach them the path."

Reuters reports that one of the nearly 60 proposals made by the bishops at the end of the synod called for Catholic leaders to be better trained in the use of electronic communications. Earlier this year, the Vatican released images of the 85-year old Pope using an iPad.