Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization

 — Dec. 14, 200714 déc. 2007

[Vatican City, VIS • December 14, 2007] A “Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization” prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was made public today. Accompanying the publication is an English-language summary outlining the main points of the new document. Extracts from the summary are given below:

“The Doctrinal Note is devoted principally to an exposition of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the summary begins.

“Today there is ‘a growing confusion’ about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think ‘that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom,’ suggesting that it is enough to invite people ‘to act according to their consciences,’ or to ‘become more human or more faithful to their own religion,’ or ‘to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity,’ without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith.

“Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church.”

Considering certain “anthropological implications” the document observes that “while some forms of agnosticism and relativism deny the human capacity for truth, in fact human freedom cannot be separated from its reference to truth.”

“This search for truth cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own, but inevitably involves help from others and trust in knowledge that one receives from others. Thus, teaching and entering into dialogue to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not inappropriate encroachment on human freedom, ‘but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful’.”

“Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures.”

“Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization.”

Going on to examine “some ecclesiological implications,” the summary affirms that “for Christian evangelization, ‘the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages’.”

“The Doctrinal Note cites the Vatican Council II’s ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (Gaudium et Spes) to say that respect for religious freedom and its promotion ‘must not in any way make us indifferent towards truth and goodness. Indeed, love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves’.”

Finally, on the subject of “ecumenical implications,” the document “points out the important role of ecumenism in the Church’s mission of evangelization. Christian divisions can seriously compromise the credibility of the Church’s evangelizing mission.”

“When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with ‘both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation.’ Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism.”

Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization (CDF, December 3, 2007)

Posted: Dec. 14, 2007 • Permanent link:
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