Church not in decline, faith’s revival seen among Catholic youth, Aussie cardinal says
SYDNEY, Apr. 12, 2007 (www.catholic.org) - A revival of interest in religion is taking place among the young and adults, despite reports that the church is in decline, said an Australian cardinal.
In a April 8 Easter homily delivered at St. Mary’s Cathedral here, Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, said that the Easter feast celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus carries with it big “challenge to credulity” for Christians having to face questions about the confrontation of good and evil, whether suffering can have meaning and belief in life after death.
“At Easter we affirm the central Christian message of love, that Jesus was not just a spokesman for God, but was from God, the only Son of God,” he said. “We believe that he redeemed us by his suffering and death, so that our sins will be forgiven if we repent, that the happiness of heaven is opened to us, that everyone is called to faith and that everyone must choose between good and evil, truth and falsehood, hope and despair.”
Yet, he stressed, many writers who “don’t know much about Christianity” insist to assert pessimistic views about the church future.
“Some of the diagnoses are spectacularly wrong,” the cardinal said, asking whether such nay-sayers have attended Catholic churches in Australia for Christmas and Easter Masses to see the thousands present. He also pointed to a recent poll that showed that more than 90 percent of adults in the United States profess belief in God and about 82 percent call themselves Christian.
“A revival of religious interest is occurring among many young Australians who are drawing the unsurprising conclusion that money, materialism and self-seeking do not bring meaning or peace of mind,” he said.
“What is surprising about teenagers today is not the percentage who are hostile to institutions, but the larger percentage who will listen to the Christian message spoken from any agency with conviction and sympathy,” Cardinal Pell added.
He stressed that “the truth of the Easter story” is not an easy one to hear, as “Jesus’ progress from the Last Supper to his death is moving and powerful.”
“The person of Christ is not simply a pain killer,” the cardinal said. “Christ promised no one a pie in the sky, and it was not Father Christmas who was crucified on Good Friday.”
The cardinal archbishop of Sydney claimed that there is today “an openness to the gospel which was not there even 25 years ago in Australia,” while noting that no one should be under any illusions of the challenges to Christianity and to the faithful.
“Because Christ brings us the truth of the human situation, he also brings us hope and we call him the light of the world,” Cardinal Pell said. “The Easter Vigil’s fire reminds us of this, as the hundreds of candles flickering in our darkened churches remind us of our task and the hostile challenges, the indifference which we face.”