Saturday, 27 October 2007 01:49

Church Teaching on Evangelisation

ImagePope Paul VI said that for the Church to evangelise, it means bringing the Good News into, and transforming, every level of humanity, and making the whole of humanity new in the process .

This starts with the need for individuals to be converted and renewed by lives lived according to the Gospel, but the Church should not stop there. As the hearts of individuals are changed by Jesus’ love, they will more and more shine the Light of Christ to those around them in their lifestyles and workspaces. We the Church should then be excited at this opportunity to share the Good News, not just to give life to people, but also to seek to convert to Christ all of “society’s collective consciences, and the activities in which individuals and society engage” such as businesses, institutions, popular culture, music, media, sports, governments, cultures, and society. These different areas are layers of humanity into which the Good News must be brought, and all are rungs to a ladder that leads to the transformation and renewal of humanity as a whole. Yet still, the evangelisation of humanity must grow from the ‘mustard seed’ that is the conversion of individuals.

Pope Johns Paul II wrote about the New Evangelisation. The Call of Christ to all his followers is to, "Go and make disciples of all nations..." This divine mandate from Jesus has been re-emphasized in the Church since the Vatican II Councils. Pope John Paul II, constantly called all Christians to join in what he called a "new evangelization and mission to the nations." A call that he stated, "no believer or institution of the Church is exempt from, to proclaim Christ to all people." (See Mission of the Redeemer, 3). Listen to the words of Pope John Paul II here .

In 2010  Pope Benedict XVI announced the formation of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and that the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in October 2012 dedicated to the theme "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith".

Here’s a short summary of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (PCPNE):

The roots of evangelisation lie firstly in Scripture, and have been taken up and addressed by Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi n, 52, and  Pope John Paul II’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifidelis Laici.

Pope Benedict urged “that the entire Church, allowing herself to be regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, may present herself to the contemporary world with a missionary impulse in order to promote the new evangelisation”.

Furthermore.... “The variety of situations demands careful discernment to speak of a ‘new evangelisation’ does not in fact mean that a single formula should be developed that would hold the same for all circumstances”.

“Likewise, at the root of all evangelisation lies not a human plan of expansion, but rather the desire to share the inestimable gift that God has wished to give us, making us sharers in his own life”.

Conversion: What is it?
We should take care to avoid a definition of “conversion” that is too shallow. A popular definition of the word sees it to mean the process where someone changes from membership in one religion (or denomination) to membership in another (in our case the Catholic Church).

Question: I was born a Catholic. That means that I’m already there, doesn’t it? I don’t need to be converted or evangelised any more, right?
The person who asks these questions misses out on the richness of a deep faith in Jesus Christ. When talking about the need for conversion, if we only look at which institution a person is a member of, then we aren’t going deep enough. Of course, for many people, the choice to enter into full and visible membership with the Catholic Church is a big decision, and the process of doing so is most certainly a “conversion”. However, in such cases, the external, visible, ritual conversion that takes place is usually an exterior sign of a deeper, interior conversion that is occurring in the person’s heart.

To adopt a fuller, deeper and more versatile definition of “conversion”, let us see it as a “change of heart”, or a turning of one’s heart towards God. Therefore, a conversion is not just when someone joins the Church, turning their heart from non-belief to belief in Christ, but also when a person turns from a state of belief to a state of greater belief in Christ, as when a Christian repents of his or her sin, or steps out in faith, and orients a part of his or her heart more towards Christ.

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