Holy Father, brothers and sisters,

Engagement with reality (No. 118-119) as part of discernment presupposes an adequate analysis (interpretation) of the reality that has been recognized. I perceive in the “Instrumentum Laboris” a simplified and negative view of secularization. Secularization is acknowledged, briefly in part one of the Instrumentum, as a characteristic of the change of epoch in which we live. But it is seen as a kind of dark stage that has to be overcome. In the second part, where the Instrumentum is seeking to understand reality and discern the action of God in history, the issue disappears completely. It reappears in some numbers of the third part, but like in the first part, always in a negative tone.

But,what if we dare, instead, to see secularization as a sign of the times, in the theological sense that the Second Vatican Council indicated? That Council invited us to see secularization, and the secular world that emerges from it, as one of the ways in which the Spirit is speaking and guiding us in this time. Instead of multiplying regrets for an idealized past that is gone, let us ask ourselves sincerely what the Lord is telling us through secularization, where the Holy Spirit leads us through that path that humanity is actually living.

Let us ask ourselves, for example, what secularization liberates us from. Answering that question leads us to differentiate the various types of reactions provoked by secularization.

(a) One reaction is that of aggressive secularism, based in a militant atheism, that fights against any form of religious faith.

(b) In other cases, secularism presents itself as indifferent to religious experience.

(c) One of the frequent effects of secularization is the interruption of the social transmission of religion. This leads to ignorance of faith, of religious experience, and of religion itself.

(d) In a society that has already become secular, many people want to know more about religion and to have an experience of faith.  At this point, the phase of fighting against religion is over; indifference moves into an investigation of the phenomenon of religion. In this way, out of curiosity many young people come close to a faith community in order to see what they can discover and learn.

Perceiving the process of secularization as a “sign of the times”:

1) leads to a greater awareness of how the secular world frees us from being Christians automatically, out of habit, or because we live in a Christian environment, or because we are part of a Christian family in a Christian society. In a secular society, you are Christian because you want to be. You have asked the question, it has been answered, and you choose to be a Christian.

2) liberates us from basing religion in tribal identity, national identity or any other identity detached from an authentic spiritual experience. Instead, we are invited to recognize ourselves as humans, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same father.

3) leads us to recover the importance of the proclamation of the faith and the pastoral accompaniment of people in their human and Christian maturation. The first proclamation of the faith thus becomes a key dimension of the work of the Church in these types of societies. The proclamation of the faith is based on the testimony of the apostles of whom Jesus, the crucified-resurrected one, let himself be seen. Today there are witnesses who have had a personal encounter with Christ and testify with their lives as disciples.

4) initiates, after the proclamation of faith, the long and complex process of accompanying people as they mature in their faith. The experience of faith does not produce people who feel they have to obey an earthly ruler. Instead its fruit is people who freely follow the Universal Lordship of the crucified-risen one because they have freely chosen to become disciples. And so, Christian communities are important because we know that the Christian faith is not lived alone. The Christian faith is lived in community and it is the community that guarantees this accompaniment of the process of maturation in faith.

[Original Spanish text]