The Bishop of Portsmouth has said that priests must improve their people skills in order for the “new evangelisation” to flourish.
Addressing the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy last week, Bishop Egan said: “As priests our attitude towards people is critical. My Dad, an ordinary Catholic, loves Pope Francis: his big smile, his chatty humanity, his down-to-earth approach, his concern for those on the margins. He radiates people-skills.”
He continued: “God forgive us for any times you or I have been impatient with people or unapproachable: they never forget it. People treat us badly at times, we know; they can abuse the Church. Yet the Jesus we love in the Eucharist is the same Jesus we should love in the poor.”
Speaking on the topic of ‘Being a Priest in a Secular Culture’ Bishop Egan said: “We need to become less absorbed with the Church, with churchy things, with change in the Church and more concerned with the Person of Christ, with the kerygma of his death and resurrection, with personal and intentional discipleship.
“New Evangelisation is not about preaching the Church, enhancing the institutions of the Church, or getting more people into Church but about presenting the attractive figure of Jesus of Nazareth. We need to focus less on the Church of the Lord and more on the Lord of the Church.”
Bishop Egan said that people were leaving the Church not because of scandals or doctrinal disagreement but because of a lack of spiritual nourishment. He said: “Whilst older priests believe the young who leave the Church will eventually come back, perhaps at marriage, surveys show they don’t. 70% of Catholics do not practice, and half of those no longer identify themselves as Catholic.
“Interestingly, a large number of ex Catholics convert to other religions and Evangelicalism not because of Church teachings, or the abuse-crisis or a marriage issue, but because, they, their spiritual needs were not being met.”
Bishop Egan also said that relativism was now “state-enforced”. He said that it was victimising the weak, the elderly, family life, moral values, Catholics, the unborn and the dying.