Document: On Evangelization in the Modern World
Author: Pope Paul VI
Thoughts from Pope Paul VI well worth pondering given the issues the Church presently faces:
— In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man's conscience?
— To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?
— What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?
Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people's hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?
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— We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.
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— The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers . . .and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the "mighty works of God" which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by Him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.
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— The first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. . . . . "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."
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— In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one's personal experience of faith?
It must not happen that the pressing need to proclaim the Good News to the multitudes should cause us to forget this form of proclamation whereby an individual's personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique world that he receives from someone else. We can never sufficiently praise those priests who through the sacrament of Penance or through pastoral dialogue show their readiness to guide people in the ways of the Gospel, to support them in their efforts, to raise them up if they have fallen, and always to assist them with discernment and availability.
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— But who then has the mission of evangelizing?
The Second Vatican Council gave a clear reply to this question: it is upon the Church that "there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the gospel to every creature. And in another text: " . . .the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God.