Evangelii Nuntiandi

views updated


Apostolic exhortation of Pope paul vi, "On Evangelization in the Modern World," issued Dec. 8, 1975, following the third ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Sept. 27 to Oct. 26, 1974). The assembly was charged with clarifying the church's evangelizing identity in a way that did justice both to traditional theology and to the liberationist construction of mission and evangelization. Unable to arrive at a synthetic position and publish a document, it handed the results of its deliberations to Paul VI for his elaboration and study. The exhortation comprises seven chapters.

The exhortation's unifying concern is with the organic nature of evangelization as a fundamental concept and focal image of the mission and ministry of the church. It articulates the answers to three questions: (1) how can "the hidden energy of the Good News have a powerful effect on the human conscience?"; (2) how and to what extent is "that evangelical force capable of transforming the people of this century?"; and (3) "what methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?" (EN 4).

In chapter one, the pope roots the church's evangelizing mission in the person and work of Jesus. As evangelization was central to the life of Jesus, so it is to the life of the church. In chapter two, "What Is Evangelization?" the concern is to show that "evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity and through its influence transforming humanity from within" (EN 16) in a way that permeates cultures "without being subject to any one of them" (EN 20). In that process, witness is primary but proclamation is necessary to make what is implicit explicit and to make it capable of drawing new members into the Christian community (EN 2223).

Chapter three, "On the Content of Evangelization," confronts both those who overemphasize the inner dimensions of Christian conversion and those who accentuate the public and the political, but downplay the spiritual. This chapter envisages a church vitally inserted in the dramas of the day, armed with an anthropology that is always aware of humanity's tendency to confuse its temporal accomplishments with permanent achievements, while forgetting the need for constant conversion of heart (EN 3537). This emphasis in the exhortation is widely taken as Paul VI's warning that changing social structures that lead to sin and oppression will not suffice as the sole focal image of the Christian mission in the world.

In sections on the "methods" (chapter four) "beneficiaries" (chapter five) and the "workers" (chapter six) of evangelization, Pope Paul advocates the use of all modern means to spread the gospel message among all peoples and all strata of every society, including "dechristianized" and non-Christian peoples. In regard to the latter, the pope teaches both that respect is due to followers of other traditions, but also that "the religion of Jesus objectively places human beings in relation with the plan of God which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out to heaven" (EN 53).

Of special importance in chapter six, where the pope differentiates the proper roles of the various orders of the church in the evangelization of the world, is the stress he places on the role of the laity, whose field of work is "the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media" (EN 70). In chapter seven, the pope emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit (EN 75), displaying his consciousness of the need for a fully Trinitarian theology of religion and evangelization.

[w. burrows]