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George Weigel on Evangelical Catholicism in Catholic Universities

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October 17, 2014 - 9:02 PDT


NOTE: Watch Weigel's talk online at

STEUBENVILLE, OH (October 17, 2014) - "We are moving into a new phase in Catholic history, a new way of being the one Church of Christ," said George Weigel, Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on religion and public life. "It is the same Church because it's the same Lord; it's the same faith, it's the same baptism, but things change in the way the Church manifests itself to the world."

Weigel's October 7 talk was the first of four Distinguished Speakers Series presentations to be given at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Weigel described how Catholic universities, by employing the new evangelization, help recover the lost cultural memory of the Western world and become rescuers of democracy.

Weigel said this new evangelization or evangelical Catholicism that the Church is transitioning to is "a re-centering of the Church on Christ and on the proclamation of Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life."

Weigel said the Church should be understood as a communion of Christ-centered disciples in mission, where each member relates to the other as cells in a human body.

"That communion of disciples does not exist for itself alone," he said. "In fact, it betrays itself if it thinks of itself as existing for itself alone. It exists to give away the gift that it has been given, it exists for mission."

Speaking to a packed crowd of students and faculty in the J.C. Williams Center Gallery, Weigel said everyone who exists in that communion of disciples must think of themselves as missionaries. He said the Church of the new evangelization is one of "radical discipleship, lifelong commitment," that is steeped in the Bible. He said on the day of their baptism, each Catholic is given a commission to be a missionary disciple.

Turning his attention to the wider secular culture, Weigel said, "The culture around us no longer supports the transmission of the faith in the way it did as recently as 50 or 60 years ago. Indeed the culture around us has become increasingly an impediment to the transmission of the faith ... the culture has become 'Christo-phobic.'"

Weigel said that if Catholics want to share the gift they have been given, they must have the courage to be counter-cultural. He said Catholic institutions of higher learning exist to equip disciples for mission and to be witnesses to Christ.

"Your [Franciscan] University is at the forefront of the renewal of Catholic higher learning in America. By being immersed in this tradition of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome, you have learned not only the past, you have become equipped to be a rescuer of cultural memory in the future and a rescuer of democracy."

Weigel said what is done at Franciscan University and in similarly committed Catholic universities throughout the country, and how well it is done, "are urgently important for the United States and its future. They are urgently important for the future of Western Civilization. Be the missionary disciples you were baptized to be, learn how to do that by becoming the authentic heirs of the great civilizational tradition on which this University rests."

Peter Zogbi, philosophy major from Portland, Oregon, said Weigel's talk, "really put perspective on how we need to form ourselves in this present day and age. I want to change from looking at myself as doing acts of kindness to living a life of kindness."

Matthew Dean, theology and catechetics major from Cool, California, said the way Weigel talked about how missionary evangelization should spring from an intimate relationship with Christ, makes him "want to go out and share the faith with everyone because I have experienced what it is to be truly human."

Weigel is a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and Vatican analyst for NBC News. He is the author of 21 books, including the acclaimed Witness to Hope and The End of the Beginning, his two-volume biography of Pope St. John Paul II. He has been awarded 18 honorary doctorates including one from Franciscan University in 2004.

Weigel's talk was part of the Distinguished Speakers Series at Franciscan University, which is a collaborative effort of the offices of Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Advancement.


Franciscan University of Steubenville
OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations,


George Weigel, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Evangelical Catholicism


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