The Holy See
back up


JEAN-PAUL II       -       JOHN PAUL II       -       JUAN PABLO II


The need of a new evangelization

On the threshold of the new Millennium, we rightly speak of the need for a new evangelization: new in method, but always the same with regard to the truths it proclaims. The new evangelization is an immense task: universal in its content and destination, it must take on new and diverse forms, adapting to the needs of different places. How can we not sense the need of God’s help to sustain our weakness and limitations?

Homily at Znjan esplanade, Croatia, 4-10-1998.


La verdad y el amor se necesitan recíprocamente

Al final de un largo camino, [Edith Stein] pudo llegar a una constatación sorprendente: sólo el que se une al amor de Cristo llega a ser verdaderamente libre.

La experiencia de esta mujer, que afrontó los desafíos de un siglo atormentado como el nuestro, es un ejemplo para nosotros: el mundo moderno muestra la puerta atractiva del permisivismo, ignorando la puerta estrecha del discernimiento y de la renuncia. Me dirijo especialmente a vosotros, jóvenes cristianos, en particular a los numerosos monaguillos que han venido durante estos días a Roma: Evitad concebir vuestra vida como una puerta abierta a todas las opciones. Escuchad la voz de vuestro corazón. No os quedéis en la superficie; id al fondo de las cosas. Y cuando llegue el momento, tened la valentía de decidiros. El Señor espera que pongáis vuestra libertad en sus manos misericordiosas.

Santa Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz llegó a comprender que el amor de Cristo y la libertad del hombre se entrecruzan, porque el amor y la verdad tienen una relación intrínseca. La búsqueda de la libertad y su traducción al amor no le parecieron opuestas; al contrario, comprendió que guardaban una relación directa.

En nuestro tiempo, la verdad se confunde a menudo con la opinión de la mayoría. Además, está difundida la convicción de que hay que servir a la verdad incluso contra el amor, o viceversa. Pero la verdad y el amor se necesitan recíprocamente. Sor Teresa Benedicta es testigo de ello. La "mártir por amor", que dio la vida por sus amigos, no permitió que nadie la superara en el amor. Al mismo tiempo, buscó con todo empeño la verdad, sobre la que escribió: "Ninguna obra espiritual viene al mundo sin grandes tribulaciones. Desafía siempre a todo el hombre".

Santa Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz nos dice a todos: No aceptéis como verdad nada que carezca de amor. Y no aceptéis como amor nada que carezca de verdad. El uno sin la otra se convierte en una mentira destructora.

Homilía durante la santa misa de canonización de Santa Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz, 11-10-1998.


Mettre la science au service de l'homme

Les progrès scientifiques et techniques imposent une réflexion morale sérieuse et approfondie, ainsi que des législations appropriées, pour mettre la science au service de l'homme et de la société. En effet, ils ne dispensent personne de se poser les questions morales fondamentales et d'y trouver des réponses adéquates pour le bon ordre social (cf. Encyclique Veritatis splendor, nn. 2-3). Tout en s’attachant à connaître clairement les différents aspects scientifiques, ceux qui ont le devoir de prendre des décisions politiques et sociales dans leurs nations sont appelés à fonder leur démarche essentiellement sur les valeurs anthropologiques et morales, et non sur le progrès technique qui, en lui-même, n’est ni un critère de moralité ni un critère de légalité. Au cours de ce siècle, nous avons pu mesurer à plusieurs reprises en Europe que, lorsque les valeurs sont niées, les décisions publiques prises ne peuvent qu'opprimer l'homme et les peuples.

Discours aux participants de la deuxième Rencontre d'hommes politiques et de législateurs d'Europe, 23-10-1998.


Fundamental human rights are founded in human nature

A country's progress in fact can never be reduced to the simple accumulation of wealth and the greater availability of goods and services. A deep-rooted sense of the inviolable dignity of the human person must be the basis of social, economic and educational projects which aim at bettering people's lives and at meeting genuine human needs more effectively. To recognise every man and woman as the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms means that nations and the international community must effectively guarantee that the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of life are always and everywhere respected and promoted. […]

As we approach the end of the twentieth century, a period which has witnessed so much violence, warfare, ideologically fuelled persecution and attempts by totalitarian regimes to annihilate whole peoples, it should be clear that efforts to bring about a renewed social order at the national and international levels will succeed only by guaranteeing in law universal and unchanging moral norms, founded in human nature and accessible to reason. The Christian view is that fundamental human rights are consequent upon human nature, deriving ultimately from God and not simply conferred by human authorities. The failure to recognise the existence of a truth which transcends social and cultural realities is a fast path towards the exclusive dominion of the State over every aspect of life. The way is then open to totalitarian impositions of all kinds (cf. Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 44). When sure moral reference points are removed and moral relativism takes over, the threat to fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms exists even in a society which appears to be democratic (cf. Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 101). "If there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 46).

To the new Ambassador of Ireland, 23-10-1998.


We need cultural and intellectual renewal

At the end of the second millennium humanity stands at a kind of crossroads. As Pastors responsible for the life of the Church, we need to meditate deeply on the signs of a new spiritual crisis, whose dangers are apparent not only at the personal level but regarding civilization itself (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 68). If this crisis deepens, utilitarianism will increasingly reduce human beings to objects for manipulation. If the moral truth revealed in the dignity of the human person does not discipline and direct the explosive energies of technology, a new era of barbarism, rather than a springtime of hope, may well follow this century of tears (cf. Speech to the United Nations, October 5, 1995, No. 18).

In addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 1995, I proposed that in order to recover our hope and our trust on the threshold of a new century "we must regain sight of that transcendent horizon of possibility to which the soul of man aspires" (ibid., No. 16). Because the spiritual crisis of our times is in fact a flight from the transcendent mystery of God, it is at the same time a flight from the truth about the human person, God’s noblest creation on earth. The culture of our day seeks to build without reference to the architect, ignoring the biblical warning: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Ps 127:1). In doing so, a certain part of contemporary culture misses the depth and richness of the human mystery, and life itself is thereby impoverished, being divested of meaning and joy. No demand on our ministry is more urgent than the "new evangelization" needed to satisfy the spiritual hunger of our times. We must not hesitate before the challenge of communicating the joy of being Christian, of being "in Christ", in the state of grace with God, and of being united with the Church. This is what can truly satisfy the human heart and its aspiration to freedom. […]

The dialogue of the Church with contemporary culture is part of your "diakonia of the truth" (Fides et Ratio, 2). You must do all you can to raise the level of philosophical and theological reflection, not only in seminaries and Catholic institutions (cf. ibid., 62), but also among Catholic intellectuals and all those who seek a deeper understanding of reality. As we approach the new millennium, the Church’s defense of the human person requires a firm and open defense of the capacity of human reason to reach definitive truths concerning God, concerning man himself, concerning freedom and concerning ethical behavior. Only through reasoned reflection, open to the fundamental questions of existence and free from reductive pre-suppositions, can society discover sure points of reference on which to build a secure foundation for the lives of individuals and communities. Faith and reason in cooperation manifest the grandeur of the human being, "who can find fulfilment only in choosing to enter the truth, to make a home under the shade of Wisdom and dwell there" (ibid., 107). The Church's long intellectual tradition is born of her confidence in the goodness of creation and the ability of reason to grasp metaphysical and moral truths. Collaboration between faith and reason, and the continued involvement of Christian thinkers in philosophy, are essential elements of the cultural and intellectual renewal...

Address to the "ad limina" group of United States Bishops, 24-10-1998.


Intégrer les différentes connaissances
dans une unité harmonieuse

Dans l'Encyclique Fides et ratio, j'ai exprimé ma préoccupation face au phénomène de la fragmentation du savoir, qui contribue à faire perdre le sens des connaissances et à les faire dévier de leur véritable finalité. Il s'agit d'un phénomène dû à de multiples causes. Le progrès même de la connaissance nous a conduits à une spécialisation toujours plus poussée, dont l'une des conséquences est l'absence de communication entre les diverses disciplines. Pour cela, j'ai invité les philosophes, les hommes et les femmes de culture, à retrouver " la dimension sapientielle de recherche du sens ultime et global de la vie " (cf. ibid., n. 81), car l'unification du savoir et de l'action est une expérience inscrite dans notre esprit.

Dans cette perspective, il apparaît indispensable de souligner la fonction de la réflexion épistémologique, en vue de l'intégration des différentes connaissances dans une unité harmonieuse qui respecte l'identité et l'autonomie de chaque discipline. Cela constitue d'autre part l'une des acquisitions les plus précieuses de la pensée contemporaine (cf. ibid., n. 21). Ce n'est que s'il s'en tient rigoureusement à son domaine de recherche et à la méthodologie qui le guide que le scientifique est, en ce qui le concerne, un serviteur de la vérité.

En effet, aujourd'hui, tous s'accordent à dire qu'il n'est pas possible d'accéder à la plénitude de la vérité en partant d'une discipline particulière. La collaboration entre les représentants des différentes sciences devient donc une nécessité. D'autre part, dès que l'on affronte un argument complexe, les chercheurs ressentent le besoin d'éclaircissements réciproques, dans le respect, bien évidemment, des compétences de chacun.

C'est la raison pour laquelle la Commission historique et théologique pour la préparation au grand Jubilé a considéré à juste titre ne pas pouvoir réfléchir de façon adéquate sur l’Inquisition sans avoir auparavant écouté des experts en sciences historiques, à la compétence universellement reconnue.

[…] Le problème de l’Inquisition appartient à une période agitée de l’histoire de l’Église sur laquelle j’ai invité les chrétiens à revenir avec une âme sincère. J’ai écrit textuellement dans la Lettre apostolique Tertio millennio adveniente : " Il y a un autre chapitre douloureux sur lequel les fils de l’Église ne peuvent pas ne pas revenir en esprit de repentir : le consentement donné, surtout en certains siècles, à des méthodes d'intolérance et même de violence dans le service de la vérité " (n. 35).

Cette question, qui concerne le milieu culturel et les conceptions politiques de l'époque, possède des racines typiquement théologiques, et présuppose un regard de foi sur l'essence de l’Église et sur les exigences évangéliques qui réglementent sa vie. Le Magistère ecclésial ne peut certes pas se proposer d’accomplir un acte de nature éthique, comme l'est la demande de pardon, sans s'être informé avec précision de la situation de l'époque. Mais il ne peut pas non plus s'appuyer sur les images du passé véhiculées par l'opinion publique, car celles-ci sont souvent chargées d'une émotivité passionnelle qui empêche un diagnostic serein et objectif. S'il ne tenait pas compte de cela, le Magistère manquerait à son devoir fondamental de respecter la vérité. Voilà pourquoi le premier pas consiste à interroger les historiens, auxquels on ne demande pas de porter un jugement de nature éthique, mais d'offrir une contribution pour reconstruire de la façon la plus précise possible les événements, les coutumes, la mentalité d'alors, à la lumière du contexte historique de l'époque.

Ce n'est que lorsque la science historique a eu la possibilité de rétablir la vérité des faits, que les théologiens et le Magistère même de l’Église sont en mesure d'exprimer un jugement objectivement fondé.

Dans ce contexte, je désire vous remercier vivement pour le service que vous avez offert avec une pleine liberté et je vous exprime une fois de plus toute l'estime de l’Église pour votre travail. Celui-ci, j'en suis convaincu, offre une contribution éminente à la vérité et, de cette façon, contribue de manière indirecte à la nouvelle évangélisation.

Audience aux participants du Symposium international sur l’Inquisition, 31-10-1998.


Renew of encounter between the Gospel and cultures

Your mission on the threshold of the third Millennium becomes more urgent when viewed in the light of the new evangelisation. You are called to work daily to foster an ever more fruitful encounter between the Gospel and cultures, as the Christian orientation of the [Church’s national] cultural plan demands.

As I mentioned at the ecclesial convention in Palermo, the Church in Italy must renew its commitment to an authentic Christian spirituality, so that every baptised person can learn to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, who is "the main agent of the new evangelization" (no. 2). […]

The encounter between the Gospel and cultures has an intrisically missionary character, which – in the context of today’s culture and in daily life – calls for the witness and service of the lay faithful, not only as individuals but also in associations which are meant to assist in the work of evangelisation. Precisely because of their distinctively secular character, individuals and associations are called to take the path of sharing and dialogue, which leads every day to the proclamation of the Word and to growth in faith.

A renewed encounter between the Gospel and cultures is also the territory on which Catholic Action, as an ecclesial lay association, can make a specific and meaningful contribution to the renewal of Italian society, and its customs and institutions: it is the way for Christians to be the soul of the social fabric, of civic life and of the dynamics of economics and politics.

Homily at the concluding mass at the 10th national assembly of Italian Catholic Action, 8-12-1998.


Un patrimoine inestimable au service
de la nouvelle évangélisation et de la culture

Votre travail ne se limite pas à l'engagement, pourtant très important, de conserver les livres et les manuscrits, les Actes des Souverains Pontifes et des dicastères de la Curie romaine, et de les transmettre à travers les siècles, mais il vise surtout à mettre à la disposition du Saint-Siège et des chercheurs du monde entier les trésors de culture et d'art dont les Archives et la Bibliothèque sont l'écrin. […]

Il faut ensuite souligner […] le service que vous prêtez à l’évangélisation de la culture, ou plutôt, à la nouvelle évangélisation de la culture. Vous savez bien qu'il s'agit d'un engagement central et vital pour l’Église dans le monde contemporain, qu'évoquait déjà à travers des paroles éclairées le serviteur de Dieu Paul VI, dans l'Exhortation apostolique Evangelii nuntiandi (cf. nn. 19-20), à laquelle j'ai plusieurs fois fait référence. Il faut trouver la façon de faire parvenir aux hommes et aux femmes de culture, mais peut-être encore plus aux milieux et aux cercles où la culture actuelle est élaborée et transmise, les valeurs que l’Évangile nous a communiquées, en même temps que celles qui naissent d'un véritable humanisme; les unes et les autres étant en réalité étroitement liées. […]

Vous contribuez de manière significative à établir les conditions qui permettent aux hommes et aux femmes engagés dans le domaine de la culture de trouver la voie qui les conduit à leur Créateur et Sauveur, et ainsi, également, à la véritable et pleine réalisation de leur vocation spécifique en cette période de transition entre le second et le troisième millénaire.

Discours au personnel des Archives Secrètes Vaticanes et de la Bibliothèque Apostolique Vaticane, 15-1-1999.



Inculturation of the faith

16. Given that in America, popular piety is a mode of inculturation of the Catholic faith and that it has often assumed indigenous religious forms, we must not underestimate the fact that, prudently considered, it too can provide valid cues for a more complete inculturation of the Gospel (Propositio 21). This is especially important among the indigenous peoples, in order that "the seeds of the Word" found in their culture may come to their fullness in Christ (Cf. Propositio 18). The same is true for Americans of African origin. The Church "recognizes that it must approach these Americans from within their own culture, taking seriously the spiritual and human riches of that culture which appear in the way they worship, their sense of joy and solidarity, their language and their traditions" (Propositio 19).

Evangelization of urban culture

21. The phenomenon of urbanization therefore presents great challenges for the Church's pastoral action, which must address cultural rootlessness, the loss of family traditions and of people's particular religious traditions. As a result, faith is often weakened because it is deprived of the expressions that helped to keep it alive.

The evangelization of urban culture is a formidable challenge for the Church. Just as she was able to evangelize rural culture for centuries, the Church is called in the same way today to undertake a methodical and far-reaching urban evangelization through catechesis, the liturgy and the very way in which her pastoral structures are organized (Cf. Propositio 35).

Differences can be a source of mutual enrichment

32. The Catholic Church, which embraces men and women "of every nation, race, people and tongue" (Rev 7:9) is called to be, "in a world marked by ideological, ethnic, economic and cultural divisions", the "living sign of the unity of the human family" (Propositio 33). In the multiplicity of nations and the variety of ethnic groups, as in the features common to the entire continent, America presents many differences which cannot be ignored and which the Church has the duty to address. Thanks to effective efforts to integrate the members of the People of God within each country and to unite the members of the particular Churches of the various countries, today's differences can be a source of mutual enrichment.

Formation does take account of the culture

40. Special attention needs to be given to vocations among indigenous peoples: they need a formation which takes account of their culture. While receiving a proper theological and pastoral formation for their future ministry, these candidates for the priesthood should not be uprooted from their own culture (Propositio 52).

Cultural and religious heritage ot the migrants

65. In its history, America has experienced many immigrations, as waves of men and women came to its various regions in the hope of a better future. The phenomenon continues even today, especially with many people and families from Latin American countries who have moved to the northern parts of the continent, to the point where in some cases they constitute a substantial part of the population. They often bring with them a cultural and religious heritage which is rich in Christian elements. The Church is well aware of the problems created by this situation and is committed to spare no effort in developing her own pastoral strategy among these immigrant people, in order to help them settle in their new land and to foster a welcoming attitude among the local population, in the belief that a mutual openness will bring enrichment to all. […] Migrants should be met with a hospitable and welcoming attitude which can encourage them to become part of the Church's life, always with due regard for their freedom and their specific cultural identity.

Inculturation of the Gospel

70. My Predecessor Paul VI widely remarked that "the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, December 8, 1975, 20: AAS 68 [1976] 19 ). Hence the Synod Fathers rightly felt that "the new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture" (Propositio 17). The Son of God, by taking upon himself our human nature, became incarnate within a particular people, even though his redemptive death brought salvation to all people, of every culture, race and condition. The gift of his Spirit and his love are meant for each and every people and culture, in order to bring them all into unity after the example of the perfect unity existing in the Triune God. For this to happen, it is necessary to inculturate preaching in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed in the language and in the culture of its hearers (Cf. ibid.). At the same time, however, it must not be forgotten that the Paschal Mystery of Christ, the supreme manifestation of the infinite God within the finitude of history, is the only valid point of reference for all of humanity on its pilgrimage in search of authentic unity and true peace.

In America, the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within (Cf. ibid).

71. Education can play an outstanding role in promoting the inculturation of the Gospel. Nonetheless, Catholic centers of education, and those which, although non-denominational, are clearly inspired by Catholic principles, will be able to engage in authentic evangelization only if at all levels - including that of the university - they clearly preserve their Catholic orientation. […]

In the overall work of the new evangelization, the educational sector occupies a place of honor.

72. For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel. At the same time, the media also help to shape the culture and mentality of people today, which is why there must be special pastoral activity aimed at those working in the media (Cf. Propositio 25).

The challenge of the sects

73. The proselytizing activity of the sects and new religious groups in many parts of America is a grave hindrance to the work of evangelization. The word "proselytism" has a negative meaning when it indicates a way of winning followers which does not respect the freedom of those to whom a specific kind of religious propaganda is directed (Cf. Instrumentum laboris, 45). The Catholic Church in America is critical of proselytism by the sects and, for this reason, rejects methods of this kind in her own evangelizing work. Presenting the Gospel of Christ in its entirety, the work of evangelization must respect the inner sanctuary of every individual's conscience, where the decisive and absolutely personal dialogue between grace and human freedom unfolds. […]

The success of proselytism by sects and new religious groups in America cannot be ignored. It demands of the Church on the continent a thorough study, to be carried out in each nation and at the international level, to ascertain why many Catholics leave the Church. Pastoral policies will have to be revised, so that each particular Church can offer the faithful more personalized religious care, strengthen the structures of communion and mission, make the most of the evangelizing possibilities of a purified popular religiosity, and thus give new life to every Catholic's faith in Jesus Christ, through prayer and meditation upon the word of God, suitably explained (Cf. Propositio 65). No one can deny the urgency of prompt evangelizing efforts aimed at those segments of the People of God most exposed to proselytism by the sects: immigrants, neighborhoods on the outskirts of the cities or rural towns with no regular presence of a priest and therefore marked by widespread religious ignorance, families of simple people suffering from material difficulties of various kinds. From this point of view too, base-communities, movements, family groups and other forms of association in which it is easier to build interpersonal bonds of mutual support, both spiritual and economic, have shown themselves to be very helpful.

Post-synodale Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America", 22-1-1999.