The New Evangelization: Old and New

St John Paul Ii
July 31, 2014

The New Evangelization is a term coined by Pope St. John Paul II, but he attributes it to Pope Paul VI, who makes reference to the need for "a new period of evangelization" in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation for the 1974 Bishops' Synod, Evangelii nuntiandi (EN 2).  One can make the argument that this new period can be traced back to the middle to late 18th century and the loss of the papal states.  Yet, it is clear that what ever the beginning, the Magisterium considers that the New Evangelization was the primary goal of the Second Vatican Council and every Pope since.

Evangelization is what the Church has always done and never stopps doing, bringing Jesus Christ to man.  In this sense, the New Evangelization is not new; it is quite ancient.  Yet, today we face new circumstances brought about by such things as technological changes influencing the way think and live, the influence of postmodernism which in many ways eschews thinking and is dismissive of tradition, and the breakdown of marriage and family life to name just a few.

For this reason, we need to avoid seeing the New Evangelization as just another program or some temporary need.  Rather, the New Evangelization is a response to the changed circumstances which make traditional means of proclaiming Jesus Christ much less effective than in the past.  It brings together the concern for bringing Jesus Christ to unbelievers as well as the concern to bring Jesus Christ to a large majority of the baptized who for a variety of reasons, now live as though they were not baptized.

The New Evangelization continues the 2000 year old mission of making disciples of all nations but it does so recognizing that we are in a period of renewed hostility to the Christian message and in a period of uncomprehending, dismissiveness to any message perceived as having been tried and found wanting.  It is our task to show the attractiveness, the beauty and goodness of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church.  We must develop new ardor, new methods and new means of expressing the faith which can convince the world that Jesus Christ is the answer to their deepest longings.

For more on this, see the article on What the New Evangelization is Not.


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