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Paris Hosts International Congress for the New Evangelization

"What Can Bring us Happiness?" Is the Theme

PARIS, OCT. 25, 2004 (Zenit) - Paris is the host city for the 2004 International Congress for the New Evangelization (ICNE) ending on All Saint's Day.

The 10 day event, begun Oct. 23, is one of a series of missions organized jointly by the bishops of Vienna, Belgium, Lisbon and Budapest. The first mission was held in Vienna May 23-June 1, 2003. Future missions will be held in Lisbon in 2005, Brussels in 2006 and Budapest in 2007.

In this interview with us, Monsignor Jean Yves Nahmias, vicar general of the archdiocese of Paris, explains the meaning of the ICNE, whose theme is "What Can Bring Us Happiness?"

Q: An evangelization mission of this type is something new. What does it consist of?

Monsignor Nahmias: The archdiocese of Paris is hosting this ICNE after the one held in Vienna in May of 2003. It is a time for exchange and reflection, the congress is a week of evangelization in the city, which ends with the feast of All Saints.

We are all called to proclaim the Gospel. It is the mission every Christian receives at baptism. The idea that Christ must be proclaimed is increasingly shared today. This missionary congress seeks to answer the questions posed by evangelization in the new situation of our countries of Europe.

Q: What are the highlights of this week?

Monsignor Nahmias: The highlights include the 500 projects, celebrations, festive gatherings, conferences, exhibitions and concerts that have been organized throughout the city to give witness to our faith to Parisians. A guide, of which 300,000 copies were printed, is a magazine that brings together all these initiatives.

Important meetings will punctuate the week. After welcoming the participants from abroad on Saturday and Sunday, in the courtyard of Notre Dame Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger unveiled the "Tree of Life," a monumental cross placed in front of the Cathedral as symbol of Christ who gives us life.

In every church and chapel, a "Book of Life" has been opened, which enables anyone who so wishes to request prayer intentions for loved ones, for the living and for the deceased.

On Friday 40 churches will propose to Parisians a "day of forgiveness," a time of prayer, meeting, reconciliation, a path to peace and forgiveness.

The culmination of the mobilization of all Parisian communities will take place on Oct. 31: groups from all the churches of Paris will come to Notre Dame to hand in their "Book of Life" and to thank God for the good he enables us to experience.

Q: It seems that the French government is determined to relegate religion to the private sphere. Isn't the organization of a mission on the street of Paris a provocation? How are the authorities reacting?

Monsignor Nahmias: We decided to host this ICNE on the occasion of the feast of All Saints as it is a special time in which many in France think of their deceased loved ones. It is a way of penetrating the urban setting, while respecting the symbolic character of the date. Is it not legitimate that Catholics celebrate the feast of All Saints? The civil authorities have understood our motivation and respect it. Moreover, the liturgy of this feast includes a reading of the Beatitudes, which responds to the longing of all human beings expressed by the Psalmist: "What Can Bring Us Happiness?" (Psalm 4,7). It is the theme that unifies the multiple initiatives of the parishes.

Q: Did last year's mission held in Vienna enable you to draw conclusions that will be applied in Paris?

Monsignor Nahmias: Our two countries have different histories. The Church's position is different; therefore, it is not a question of reproducing in Paris what is happening in Vienna. In 2005 Lisbon will have to find its own expression. This inculturation is indispensable, despite the fact that over time we realize that we face the same challenges.

Q: The Pope speaks constantly of a "New Evangelization," specifying that it must be new both in the methods as well as the language. Do you think that this type of evangelization "on the street" should spread to the whole Church?

Monsignor Nahmias: The street apostolate is legitimate and has demonstrated its fruitfulness, but it is only one of the possibilities of evangelization. The New Evangelization is not above all a question of method. The question is how is it possible to be sign of Christ in the metropolises? How can the words of faith be found that answer the questions of the man of today? How is love of neighbor a testimony offered to Christ? Begun in Vienna in May 2003, reflection continues in Paris. The congress' working sessions will address the principles of the apostolate. We are asking: what is the nature itself of the evangelizing act?


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