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Back to the Basics in Catechesis

Interview With Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli

ROME, JUNE 10, 2006 (Zenit) - New methods are needed to catechize believers in the truths of the Eucharist, says Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli.

The monsignor, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is author of "L'Eucaristia, dono incomparabile di Dio agli uomini" (The Eucharist, Incomparable Gift of God to People), published by Ediciones San Clemente.

In this interview with us, Monsignor Martinelli explains how he has worked to meet an increasing need for catechesis.

Q: What is the major challenge regarding explaining the sacrament of the Eucharist?

Monsignor Martinelli: Surveys tell us that the percentage of people who go to Mass on Sunday in large Italian cities is 8-9% of the population. It is true that statistics must be taken with caution, but the data is low.

One of the greatest problems in present-day Eucharistic celebration is the temptation to abandon the traditional explanations without proposing appropriate substitutions. It was easy to demolish the past, but explanations have not been suggested that might last longer.

The solution of course is not to continue with the guidelines of the past, and beyond renewing exterior forms, we must add new vital sap. The form can change or remain the same, what is important is to have a new justification, with greater vigor and support.

Q: But, from where will this new way come?

Monsignor Martinelli: According to Christina tradition, it should be taken from the liturgy; therefore, a greater exchange must be created between the liturgy and popular piety. In this way, we succeed in renewing, rejuvenating and also maintaining what is the fundamental and authentic aspect of our faith.

Q: In the book just published on the Eucharist, you pay special attention to the one who celebrates the Mass, to how the celebration develops, and to the place, the vestments and the liturgical objects used. Why?

Monsignor Martinelli: I am convinced that we must begin again with the ABCs, explaining the signs, gestures and forms of the liturgy.

Moreover, the success of the book and film "The Da Vinci Code" shows people's great need for catechesis.

The novel and film are not very interesting, but what they highlight is the great lack of understanding and religious ignorance with regard to the Catholic faith.

Dan Brown's arguments are not new; they were already refuted quite a few centuries ago, and today they are presented as an unimaginable discovery. This shows that many people do not know history and the principles of Christianity.

Q: You hold, therefore, that the success of "The Da Vinci Code" in terms of sales and the public is the consequence of a hunger for catechesis?

Monsignor Martinelli: There is an evident demand for catechesis. You cannot imagine how strong and widespread the demand for religious knowledge is.

For example, reflecting on very many of the questions that the faithful ask me, a year ago I wrote, published and made available in the Basilica of St. Charles, catechetical pamphlets on 33 arguments of present-day importance, ranging from why it is necessary to proclaim Jesus Christ, to how to pray, to the importance of the rosary, how to appreciate miracles, what the Church thinks of homosexual unions, etc.

To my great surprise I have seen how over a year the faithful have taken and used more than 800,000 pamphlets.

This is a great number, considering that the pamphlets then pass from hand to hand so that the people who read it are many more. And I must say that the form pamphlet in demand was the one entitled: "Why is it necessary to proclaim Jesus Christ."

It is incredible. When I was writing this pamphlet, I thought only a few would pick it up.


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Catechesis, Martinelli, Eucharist, Compendium, Catechism

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