Blessed John Paul II to the Church in America (1999)

Each of Blessed John Paul II’s post synodal exhortations in preparation for the Jubilee year address the New Evangelization.  In his address to the Church in America evangelization is a key theme.

Ecclesia in America (1999)

In 1999, Pope John Paul II, wrote the post-synodal Apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America, The Church in America. The theme of the evangelization of culture is covered in Chapter V, “The Path to Solidarity.” This chapter concludes with a discussion of the question of immigration and advocates a more penetrating evangelization of immigrant peoples. Chapter VI is entitled, “The Mission of the Church in America Today: The New Evangelization.” He notes;

As I have said on other occasions, the new and unique situation in which the world and the Church find themselves at the threshold of the Third Millennium, and the urgent needs which result, mean that the mission of evangelization today calls for a new program which can be defined overall as a “new evangelization” (EA 66).

The center of the “new evangelization” must be “a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery” (EA 66). Christ must be proclaimed by the witness of each one’s life. We must have a preferential but not exclusive concern for the poor. One current problem is the neglect of those in leading sectors of society with the resulting secularization of political, economic, union-related, military, social or cultural sector of society. There is a need for an evangelization of the leadership sector, and a special formation of consciences on the basis of the Church’s social doctrine.

Pope John Paul II discusses the means of evangelization and notes that the first impulse for witness comes about from our personal encounter with the Lord. He then moves on to discuss the importance of catechesis. He notes;

The new evangelization in which the whole continent is engaged means that faith cannot be taken for granted, but must be explicitly proposed in all its breadth and richness. This is the principal objective of catechesis, which, by its very nature, is an essential aspect of the new evangelization (EA 69).

Pope John Paul II points to two essential resources for this ministry, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis. Pope Benedict XVI has recently added to this the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II moves on to discuss the evangelization of culture and quotes Pope Paul VI’s remark that, “the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time.” As mentioned above, the Council Fathers note the “breach between faith and daily life among so many must be considered one of the more serious errors of our time” (GS 43). Pope John Paul II quotes the Fathers of the extraordinary synod, “the new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture”. This implies the need to inculturate preaching “in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed in the language and in the culture of its hearers” (EA 70). This can occur through Catholic centers of education inspired by Catholic principles. This includes universities and schools. He notes that in “the overall work of the new evangelization, the educational sector occupies a place of honor”,

A special effort should be made to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools, whose specific character is based on an educational vision having its origin in the person of Christ and its roots in the teachings of the Gospel. Catholic schools must seek not only to impart a quality education from the technical and professional standpoint, but also and above all provide for the integral formation of the human person (EA 70).

He also highlights the need for evangelization through the media,

For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel. At the same time, the media also help to shape the culture and mentality of people today, which is why there must be special pastoral activity aimed at those working in the media (EA 72).

Pope John Paul II then discusses the problems created by the proselytism of sects which violate people’s freedom and conscience with their methods. He points out “the urgency of prompt evangelizing efforts aimed at those segments of the People of God most exposed to proselytism by the sects” (EA 72). Along with this he notes, “it is more necessary than ever for all the faithful to move from a faith of habit, sustained perhaps by social context alone, to a faith which is conscious and personally lived” (EA 72). There is also still an urgent need “among those on this continent who do not yet know the name of Jesus” such as “indigenous peoples not yet Christianized or of the presence of non-Christian religions such as Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, especially among immigrants from Asia” (EA 74).

The fruit of these thoughts leads to Blessed John Paul II’s vision for the new millenium.

Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte (2000)

In his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope John Paul II names Mary as the “Star of the New Evangelization” (MNI 74). He proposes that a “new apostolic outreach is needed, which will be lived as the everyday commitment of Christian communities and groups” (MNI 40). Christianity will have to respond effectively to inculturation, and to the pastoral care of young people (MNI 41). The Church must become a witness to love, the home and the school of communion. We need to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life as well as the specific vocation of the laity (MNI 46). In relation to this, “another important aspect of communion is the promotion of forms of association, whether of the more traditional kind or the newer ecclesial movements, which continue to give the Church a vitality that is God’s gift and a true ‘springtime of the Spirit'” (MNI 46). Special attention should also be given to the pastoral care of families.

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