The New Evangelization
A renewal of the Church’s evangelizing efforts was begun by Pope Paul VI in 1974 when he called a Synod on Evangelization. In 1975, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Paul VI issued his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Evangelization in the Modern World. In this exhortation, the Holy Father lays the cornerstone for a renewed evangelization in which he states,
“We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. She exists in order to evangelize. . .”EN#5
This was a great evangelizing document and in many ways was prophetic and ahead of its time. The Paulist Fathers responded to Pope Paul VI’s exhortation and took up the mantle of evangelization as its central mission which was at the heart of the community’s founding in 1858 in North America.
So what is the new evangelization? The first time we heard this phrase was in 1983. The occasion was Pope John Paul II’s visit to Port au Prince, Haiti to speak with the Latin American bishops at their CELAM (Episcopal Conference of Latin America) meeting. At that time he said:
“The commemoration of the half millennium of evangelization will gain its full energy if it is a commitment, not to re-evangelize but to a New Evangelization, new in its ardor, methods and expression.”
This began a renewal of evangelization all over. However, this concept of new evangelization had a twist to it and that was to proclaim the Gospel in new ways to those already evangelized as a way of engaging our present-day culture and us today. The church was hemorrhaging members and with the rise of secularization the culture was luring people into a culture where God is not a priority.
In 2010, Pope Benedict established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization at which time he said.
Pope Benedict XVI valiantly tried to meet this challenge by calling a Synod on the New Evangelization and the Transmission of Faith. In bringing together bishops from all over the world he added his stamp on the new evangelization by saying:
“We need to re-propose faith in a culture which has lost the instinct to believe.”
It is precisely this “frame of mind” where the paradigm shift needs to take place among members of the church, both those in leadership and those lay faithful. The paradigm shift that needs to take place for a new evangelization is in our own personal identity.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI called a Synod of Bishops together to address the theme of the The New Evangelization and the Transmission of Faith. Great propositions came forth from this Synod. However, in 2013, Pope Benedict surprised the world by announcing that he no longer had the energy to effectively carry out the mission entrusted to him as the Successor of St. Peter and announced his resignation. His successor would be the one to write the Apostolic Exhortation.
Pope Francis exhorts the Synod’s direction and in Evangelii Gaudium reaffirmed the new evangelization. In many ways, he personifies the description of a disciple above. He extends an invitation:
“I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”