Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2012 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in the United States and its bishops should play a major role in the New Evangelization by presenting the gospel values they maintain amidst a secular culture, the Pope’s representative to the U.S. said.
"The leadership of the bishops is of pre-eminent importance if the Year of Faith is to have a long-term effect and if the New Evangelization is to be not merely a temporary enthusiasm, but rather a permanent dynamic in the life of the local Church," said Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S.
The nuncio addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its fall general assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 12.
During the American bishops' recent series of "ad limina" visits to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the "grave challenges" presented by an "increasingly secularized society," Archbishop Viganò recalled.
In response to these challenges, the Pope has emphasized the need for a New Evangelization and has called for a Year of Faith, which is currently underway, he said.
Archbishop Viganò observed that the Church in the U.S. has "reaped untold benefits" from saints, such as the North American martyrs, Junipero Serra, Mother Cabrini and others who came from Europe and distant lands "to plant seeds and act upon the Gospel message" in an initial evangelization.
Now, he said, Europe has fallen away from gospel values, turning towards consumerism and materialism.
"Yet, these Gospel values, by the grace of God, although strongly confronted by secular society, are still very much alive in the Church in America," the archbishop declared.
For this reason, America "should take major responsibility in this New Evangelization, not only for the members of our local Church but for the Church worldwide."
"Therefore, missionary zeal must be reborn," he said, emphasizing that bishops must lead the way in witnessing to a life in Christ, showing this path to others.
"The vibrant spirit, still so much alive in the Catholic Church, should inspire those who have lost their way, those who have become absorbed in materialism, imprisoned by secularism and those disillusioned young people looking for meaning for their existence," he said.
To accomplish this mission, Archbishop Viganò said that every bishop must devote his attention to "the spiritual renewal of his presbyterate, as well as the life of the seminary."
"We must continually undergo conversion ourselves, so that our people, especially through this Year of Faith, will have a renewed trust and confidence in us who are the messengers of the Gospel," he said.
In the same vein, Archbishop Viganò urged "careful selection of those aspiring to priesthood," exercising "a discerning eye to see and to take leadership of what is the best course to follow for those who are preparing for the ordained ministry."
"Vocation directors must be priests who, working together with their bishop, have a keen and prayerful sense of those who will faithfully communicate to others the mind of the Church," he explained.
"We must choose for our seminaries the finest priests possible, not necessarily the most renowned, or the most highly recognized, or even the most intelligent, as true teachers, models and examples for our seminarians," he added. "We need priests first and foremost who draw others to the message of Christ crucified through holiness of life."
He encouraged the bishops not to distance themselves from their priests and seminarians, but to make them "feel that they can freely come to you."
"There are many optimistic signs that this renewal of the presbyterate is already taking place," Archbishop Viganò observed, pointing to bishops' participation with their priests in liturgical events, retreats and group meetings.
He also related that his "limited personal experience" seems to indicate a promising "revitalization of seminary life" in the U.S.
The nuncio encouraged the bishops to continue these positive endeavors, always remembering to ask for forgiveness in times of failing, in order to more effectively meet the call of the New Evangelization.
"With good, solid, dedicated priests and seminarians, the Church will have the future leadership it needs to face the challenges of the twenty-first century and to make the Gospel message come alive," he said.