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John Paul II Hall, Holy See Press Office
Friday, 4 March 2011



“The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”


I. Introduction

As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). With these words the Risen Jesus Christ, victorious over sin and death, sent his disciples into the whole world to proclaim the Good News, after pouring out the Holy Spirit upon them for the forgiveness of sins.

This mission is also reaffirmed in the Synoptic Gospels in their conclusions: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15); “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In the name of the Risen Lord “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached... to all nations beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24: 47).

The Church, brought together by the Holy Spirit, seeks to carry this mandate out faithfully during her earthly pilgrimage. Strong in the guidance of the glorified Lord who promised his presence “to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19), she wishes to continue this mission into the present with renewed enthusiasm.

It is for this reason that the Holy Father Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome and universal Pastor of the Church, convoked the 13th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will take place from 7 to 28 October 2012 on the theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. According to the Holy Father who chose to announce personally the convocation of this important ecclesial event at the solemn Eucharistic concelebration for the closure of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, it should be a moment to examine the journey made and to resume with a fresh impetus the urgent work of the evangelization of today’s world.

The Supreme Pontiff’s decision was preceded by two major events. First, in accordance with the usual practice, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops on the Holy Father’s behalf asked the 13 Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the 113 Bishops’ Conferences, the 25 Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General to suggest in writing three themes to be considered for a synodal reflection which would have important pastoral significance, would interest the universal Church and would be suitable for discussion at the Synod.

Once the answers had been received from the above-mentioned bodies — with which the Synod of Bishops collaborates at the institutional level — before being submitted to the Holy Father they were attentively assessed by the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This Council is composed of 15 members, 12 of whom were elected during the 12th Ordinary General Assembly held from 5 to 26 October 2008, and three named by the Supreme Pontiff. Most of the episcopates proposed in their answers the transmission of the faith as the theme for the upcoming Synodal Assembly. This process has encountered many difficulties in recent times, due to the great social, cultural and religious changes.

The second event that influenced the definitive choice of the topic of the Synod was the Holy Father’s decision to set up the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. This new Dicastery was established on 21 September 2010, with Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Ubiqumque et Semper. Hence the Pope’s decision to frame the above-mentioned pastoral concern about the transmission of the faith in a reflection on the new evangelization, which is indispensable, although in different ways, throughout the Church.

II. Synodal Procedure

The Lineamenta which are presented today are an important stage in the preparation of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. They were drafted by the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops with the help of several experts. The reasons given by the bodies concerned for their choice of the respective Synod themes were taken into account. Once the Document, with which the Holy Father established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, had been published, the Council took it into consideration, as well as the Holy Father’s other interventions concerning this topic.

The purpose of the Lineamenta is to generate discussion on the theme of the Synod throughout the universal Church. For this reason the Lineamenta have been published in eight languages: Latin, French, English, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and German.

The electronic version of the Document may be found on the website of the Synod of Bishops. In addition, every chapter is accompanied by specific questions which should facilitate the reflection of the particular Churches and of the respective bodies. The Questionnaire consists of 71 questions in all.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has provided for the distribution of the Document to the bodies concerned in order to enable them to promote reflection in individual countries (dioceses, parishes, congregations, movements, associations, groups of faithful, etc.). This distribution will also allow them to summarize their input and ensure that their answers are sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops by 1 November 2011, the Solemnity of All Saints.

The Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat will not fail to examine the answers it receives, which will be summarized in the Instrumentum Laboris, the “Work-Document” of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly.

III. Structure of the ‘Lineamenta’

The Lineamenta are divided into three chapters which reflect the theme of the Synodal Assembly: 1) Time for a New Evangelization ; 2) Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ; 3) Initiation into the Christian experience. There is an Introduction, preceded by a Preface, and the Document ends with a brief Conclusion.

In the Preface several practical ideas are provided on the synodal process and on the meaning of the Lineamenta. In addition, the theoretical distinction between evangelization as a regular activity of the Church is highlighted; the first announcement ad gentes, to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ; and the new evangelization which is addressed mainly to those who have drifted away from the Church, to people who have been baptized but are insufficiently evangelized. In ecclesial practice the three categories often coexist in the same territory, which is why local Churches must at the same time practise them all, especially because of the phenomenon of globalization and the mobility of people through emigration and immigration.

The Introduction stresses that the 13th Ordinary General Assembly fits into the renewed commitment to evangelization that the Church has undertaken following the Second Vatican Council. With this work, promoted by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and currently Pope Benedict XVI, the Church hopes to live in the joy of being a community gathered together by Jesus Christ to praise God the Father through the Spirit and to present this joy anew to people near and far. At the same time, the new evangelization is intended as a response to the great challenges of the world that is rapidly changing. In this regard theological and ecclesial reasons for this action are given.

The theological motives derive from the mystery of the Triune God. “The Church imitates God who communicates himself through the gift of his Son to humanity, who lives in Trinitarian communion and who pours out the Holy Spirit so as to carry on a dialogue with humanity” (Lineamenta, n. 2).

Evangelization must be the echo of divine communication. The Church, founded to spread the Gospel, must therefore let herself be formed by the action of the Spirit to be configured to Christ crucified and risen. She rediscovers her maternal mission as Ecclesia mater, who begets children for the Lord, in other words the duty to evangelize.

From the ecclesiological viewpoint, it should be reaffirmed that evangelization concerns the very nature of the Church as well as all her activity. Therefore, the proclamation of the Gospel is not a matter of strategies of communication or of choosing those to whom to address them first, such as, for example, young people. Proclaiming the Gospel concerns the Church’s capacity for being configured as “a real community, a true fraternity and a living body, and not a mechanical thing or enterprise” (ibid.). In fact, the whole Church is missionary by her very nature. She exists in order to evangelize. To carry out this task adequately, the Church begins by evangelizing herself. She knows she is the fruit of evangelization, rather than the agent, convinced that the lead role is played by God who guides her in the course of history through the Spirit of his Only-Begotten Son Jesus Christ. Evangelization, therefore, demands an act of discernment. The Church in her entirety is called to listen, to understand, to revise and to revitalize her own evangelizing mandate in particular, in the face of the great changes in our world today. The Church is not approaching this task unprepared. It suffices to recall the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi and Catechesi Tradendae, that resulted from the synodal assemblies of 1974 and 1977 and confronted these issues, offering the Church itineraries and approaches that are still valid today.

IV. Chapter I: Time for a ‘new evangelization’

Chapter I describes the birth of the concept of the new evangelization and the way that it spread during the Pontificates of the Servant of God John Paul II and of Pope Benedict XVI. John Paul II used the term for the first time on June 1979 in his Homily at the Shrine of the Holy Cross in Mogila, Poland: “a new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever” (n. 5). The background of this concept is found in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of the Servant of God Paul VI, frequently mentioned in the Lineamenta. Although it does not actually coin the expression, Evangelii Nuntiandi speaks of “a new period of evangelization” (n. 2), and of a fresh impulse (ibid., nn. 2, 5), whereas n. 24 of the Document is entitled: “Involving a new apostolate”. These references are also explained by the fact that as Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła was appointed General Rapporteur for the general conclusion of the Synod in 1974 on Evangelization in the Modern World.

The term “new evangelization” occurs countless times in the documents of his pontificate and the Lineamenta cites the most significant examples, without any claim to making an exhaustive review of them. The Lineamenta would like to generate a discussion on the meaning of the concept itself. For instance it is consistently present in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations of the continental assemblies, celebrated in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Indeed, a “new evangelization” is often synonymous with dynamic functioning, with “renewed spiritual efforts in the life of faith within the local Churches, starting with a process to discern the changes in the various cultural and social settings and their impact on Christian life” (Lineamenta n. 5).

These challenges are pointed out with six sectors which in recent decades have challenged the Church and require an adequate response if they are to become places for the witness of Christians who are called to transform them with the proclamation of the Gospel.

1) The sector of secularization occupies the first place and is given ample room. It concerns principally the western world, but from the west it has spread across the whole world. Although it uses anti-Christian and anti-religious tones at times, secularization has generally assumed a dowdy character which has invaded people’s daily life, fostering a mentality in which God is left out. This is the culture of relativism, which has serious anthropological implications that also influence the life of the Church.

Moreover, in addition to secularization, there is also a religious reawakening in the world. Unfortunately, many positive aspects of the search for God and the rediscovery of the sacred in various religions, are “overshadowed by the phenomenon of fundamentalism which oftentimes manipulates religion to justify violence and even terrorism” (n. 6).

2) The second sector mentioned is the phenomenon of migration which is changing “the ethnic make-up of our cities, our nations and our continents” (ibid.). It has various causes and is associated with the phenomenon of globalization, which has positive but also problematic aspects and therefore requires the demanding process of discernment.

3) The means of social communications and the computer revolution represent one of the Church’s great challenges. The media and the digital culture in themselves bring many benefits but also the inherent risks, which might ultimately result in “the formation of a culture centred on passing novelties, the present moment and outward appearances, indeed a society which is incapable of remembering the past and with no sense of the future” (n. 5).

4) The evangelization of the Church is also marked by the economic sector, by the economic crisis, by the growing disproportion between the northern and southern hemispheres “in access to resources and their distribution as well as the damage to creation” (n.6).

5) Scientific and technological research is another sector that challenges the evangelizing action of the Church. Science and technology, in fact, are in danger of becoming today’s new idols, a new religion, fostering “new forms of ‘gnosis’... where technology itself becomes a kind of philosophy in which knowledge and meaning are derived from an unreal structuring of life” (n. 6). Furthermore, we are witnessing the birth of new cults that turn religious practice into a therapeutic form promising prosperity and instant gratification.

6) It is also necessary to consider the political sector, the epochal changes which have taken place in recent decades: the fall of the Communist ideology and the end of the division of the western world into two blocks, which has fostered religious freedom and the reorganization of the local Churches. In addition this is creating a global situation with new political, economic and religious forces, similar to Asia and the Islamic world

In the face of these new sectors as well as engaging in discernment Christians are called to bring the question of God to them and to illuminate them with light of the Gospel, contributing their own witness. In this new context they are called to give an evangelical flavour to the great values of peace, justice development, the liberation of peoples, respect for human rights and the rights of peoples, especially minorities, as well as the stewardship of creation and of the future of our planet. It is a the form of Christian martyria in today’s world. This duty offers great possibilities for ecumenical dialogue with the members of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

Thus the new evangelization must answer the question of spirituality which is emerging in the world with renewed vigour. In this context interreligious dialogue with non-Christian denominations, especially with the great Oriental religions.

In confronting these challenges, the Church must identify new approaches to evangelization, suited to today’s ever-changing social contexts and cultures. Maintaining her missionary identity, the Church must keep her popular, domestic dimension even in contexts where she might be in the minority or subject to discrimination.

She is called to broaden her horizons, to go beyond boundaries since “the new evangelization is the opposite of self-sufficiency, a withdrawal into oneself, a status quo mentality and an idea that pastoral programmes are simply to proceed as they did in the past” (n. 10).

V. Chapter II: Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The aim of evangelization and especially of the new evangelization is the proclamation of the Gospel and the transmission of the faith. The Gospel is not to be understood as a book or a set of teachings but rather as a person: Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God who became man. Christians are called to establish a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, in the community of the faithful and in the Church. He brings us to the Father through the Holy Spirit. “The aim of transmitting the faith and the goal of evangelization is to bring us ‘through him [Christ] in one Spirit to the Father’” (n. 11).

The Church transmits the faith which she herself lives, which forms her proclamation, her witness and her charity. The transmission of the faith as an encounter with Jesus Christ is brought about through Sacred Scripture and through the living Tradition of the Church. The Church, ceaselessly regenerated by the Spirit, is the Body of Christ whose expression par excellence consists in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The past two Ordinary General Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, respectively in 2005 and 2009, were dedicated to these pillars of the Church, the Eucharist and the Word of God.

Transmitting the faith takes place through prayer, which is faith-in-action. The liturgy is a privileged place, with proper pedagogical elements in which “the one who instructs is God himself and the true teacher in the ways of prayer is the Holy Spirit” (n. 14).

The Church reflected on the transmission of the faith at the Synod on Catechesis in our Time which was celebrated in 1977. The results of the Synod were presented in the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, a document published in 1979, frequently cited in these Lineamenta. The Lineamenta also refer frequently to the General Directory for Catechesis, published by the Congregation for the Clergy in 1997. Taking up its main arguments, the Lineamenta seek to apply them to the current social and ecclesial situations. Catechesi Tradendae presented the term “pedagogy of the faith” which includes two basic instruments for transmitting the faith: catechesis and the catechumenate. Catechesis is meant as “the process of transmitting the Gospel in the same manner as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it” (ibid.).

Consequently, the catechumenate is the model the Church has adopted from the Second Vatican Council “to give form to transmitting the faith” (ibid.). It is the baptismal catechumenate, namely, the “specific formation” whereby “an adult converted to belief is brought to explicit profession of baptismal faith during the Paschal Vigil” (General Directory for Catechesis, n. 59; cf. Lineamenta n. 14), that must inspire other forms of catechesis, with regard both to their objectives and their dynamism.

The agent for transmitting the faith is the universal Church, which “is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium, n. 26). In past decades, the local Churches have done their utmost in this field. It is enough to think of the number of Christians, priests, lay people, catechists, families and communities, groups and ecclesial movements that are spontaneously and freely committed to the proclamation and transmission of the faith. Yet, “the cultural climate and the general state of fatigue in many Christian communities in our local Churches is endangering the proclamation of the faith, its transmission to others and instruction in the faith” (n. 15).

Such a situation requires renewed efforts, fresh zeal, a gift of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Good News anew joyfully and vigorously. This is a task for the whole Church and all her members. It is becoming even more urgent, given the challenges of contemporary society.

Today too Christians are called to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) with a new personal and community style, responding “‘in gentleness and reverence and a clear conscience’ (1 Pt 3:16), with the gentle strength which comes from union with Christ in the Spirit and with the conviction that our goal is a personal encounter with God the Father in his Kingdom” (n. 16).

Christian witness must be private and public, must embrace thought and action, the internal life of Christian communities and their missionary drive, their educational action, their charitable activity and their presence in contemporary society in order to communicate to them the gift of Christian hope.

“The goal of the entire process of transmitting the faith is to make the Church a community of witnesses of the Gospel” (n. 17). To be able to do this in accordance with the will of the Lord Jesus the Church herself “has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 46; Lineamenta, n. 17).

The Lineamenta aims to help the local Churches reflect on the positive aspects but also on the above-mentioned challenges and difficulties in transmitting the faith.

VI. Chapter III: Initiation into the Christian experience

Chapter III proposes anew the reflection on the instruments the Church uses for introducing people to the faith and, in particular, on the Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. They are seen as “as stages in a growth process, from birth to adulthood in the Christian life, which is a part of the general programme of initiation into the faith” (n. 18). Reflection on Christian initiation has experienced promising developments in recent decades but has also sparked discussion on various aspects to be examined. Thanks to the contribution of the young Churches, in this process of introduction to the faith it is often the adult and not the child who is taken as model. Moreover, importance has been restored to the Sacrament of Baptism by recovering the structure of the ancient ritual of the catechumenate as a way of providing for a more conscious celebration, hence that is better able to guarantee the Christian life of the baptized.

In the case of infant Baptism an effort is being made for a greater involvement of the parents and the community. There is also an emphasis on mystagogy, to ensure that the process of initiation also continues after administration of the Sacrament.

The practices of ecclesial communities, however, have given rise to various questions. Among them the Lineamenta mention the following:

In the revision of the administration of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation the question of their order has arisen, especially with regard to Confirmation. Concerning this Sacrament, various Traditions and rites exist in the Church. As for the order of the Sacraments of Initiation for adults, the customs of the East coincide with those of the West; the diversity is seen in the administration of Confirmation to young people. Finding a commonly agreed-upon time for the Sacrament of Confirmation continues to be a challenge to the Church that demands reflection. Besides, the Holy Father Benedict XVI mentioned this issue in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (n. 18).

Furthermore, it is necessary to restore the content and dynamic of the mystagogical dimension of Christian Initiation. The possible delegation of education in the faith to the teaching of religion in schools does not suffice, since it is the Church’s proper task to proclaim the Gospel and engender the faith, especially in the case of children and adolescents, through the catechumenate and catechesis.

In the face of today’s challenges the new evangelization must enable the faithful to overcome their fears and place greater trust in the Holy Spirit who guides the Church through history, in order to perceive more lucidly the most appropriate places and ways in which to put the question of God at the centre of the life of our contemporaries, in response to their expectations and anxieties. In this task a catechesis for those who have already received the first proclamation of the Gospel and who believe in God revealed by the Lord Jesus is indispensable. Catechesis develops this conversion, educates the believer in the faith, inserting him or her in the Church, the community of Christians.

Initiation in the faith is strongly linked to the educational activity the Church undertakes as her service to human beings and to the world. In contemporary society every educational action seems so difficult that the Holy Father Benedict XVI has spoken of an “educational emergency”.

Transmitting to new generations the basic values for living and right conduct is becoming ever more arduous. It is not only parents who are experiencing this but also educational institutions and especially schools.

This difficulty is a consequence of the widespread relativism which blots out the light of truth. In such a context the Church’s commitment to educating in the faith becomes more than ever a valuable contribution to enabling our society to emerge from the educational crisis.

In this regard the Church has an important tradition of schools, educational institutes, pedagogical resources, specialized people, and various male and female religious orders, that are able to offer a significant presence in the world of school and education. After appropriate discernment of this situation the Church, which is also subjected to important changes through the social and cultural transformations, the Church will be able to bring back as a gift to society her educational tradition, finding her place in the public arena, proposing anew the question of God, the basis of all Christian education.

It could be said that the objective of the Church’s education is what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “ecology of the human person” (cf. Caritas in Veritate 51; Lineamenta, n. 21), which makes a whole with the human and the environmental ecology. The new evangelization is also called to be concerned with the cultural and educational commitment of the Church. In any case, it is in greater need of witnesses than of teachers.

“No matter what the proposal in the ‘new evangelization’ and no matter what the pastoral project of proclamation and transmission of the faith, there is no escaping the fact that people’s lives give force to their efforts at evangelization” (Lineamenta, n. 22).

Today’s “educational emergency” increases the demand for educators who know how to be credible witnesses of values which can serve as the basis for personal existence and for projects of human society to which it is worthwhile being committed.

In the Lineamenta several celebrated witnesses of the Church’s history in the area of education are mentioned, starting with St. Paul, St. Patrick, St. Boniface, St. Francis Xavier, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, St. Damien de Veuster and Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Thanks be to God it would easily be possible to extend the list. Their examples serve to emphasize that the new evangelization is above all a spiritual duty of Christians in pursuit of holiness. This process presupposes God’s grace and demands education, effort, perseverance and prayer. In this regard the witnesses, listed above, will be able to use a language that is also intelligible to people of today, preaching above all with the example of a life totally dedicated to God and to their neighbour.

VII. Conclusion

In their conclusion, the Lineamenta take up certain descriptions of the “new evangelization”, with no claim to give a precise and exhaustive definition but rather to facilitate reflection on this topic.

It is reaffirmed that the basis of the new evangelization is the Holy Spirit who the Risen Lord poured out upon his disciples at Pentecost. Present among them, in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, was Mary Mother of Jesus and our Mother. “Full of grace”, she is the image of the Church, who accompanies her in evangelization during her 2000-year-old history. The new evangelization must become a new Upper Room, a place where, beneath the grace of the Holy Spirit the Church will not find a new Gospel but rather “a new response to the needs of humanity and people today in a manner adapted to the signs of the times and to the new situations in cultures, which are the basis of our personal identity and the places where we seek the meaning of our existence” (n. 23).

The new evangelization must rekindle in Christians the impetus of the origins, a new missionary approach that involves all the members of the People of God: “A new apostolic outreach is needed, which will be lived as the everyday commitment of Christian communities and groups” (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 40; Lineamenta, n. 24).

Let us pray the Lord, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, that the upcoming synodal assembly may help the Church resume the task of evangelizing with fresh vigour, joyfully proclaiming to those near and far the Gospel of Jesus Christ “the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16).

Translation by L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English