Yes, Catholics–All Catholics–Evangelize

The following is the speech, “The Announcement of the Gospel Today, between missio ad gentes and the new evangelization,”then Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan gave at the meeting of the 133 Cardinals with Pope Benedict XVI on Friday 17th February 2012.  He was elevated to the College of Cardinals the next day.

Holy Father, Cardinal Sodano, my brothers in Christ:

Sia lodato Gesu Cristo! [Praised be, Jesus Christ!]

It is as old as the final mandate of Jesus, “Go, teach all nations!,” yet as fresh as God’s Holy Word proclaimed at our own Mass this morning . . .

I speak of the sacred duty of evangelization. It is “ever ancient, ever new.” The how of it, the when of it, the where of it, may change, but the charge remains constant, as does the message and inspiration, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

We gather in the caput mundi, evangelized by Peter and Paul themselves, in the city from where the successors of St. Peter “sent out” evangelizers to present the saving Person, message, and invitation that is at the heart of evangelization: throughout Europe, to the “new world” in the “era of discovery,” to Africa and Asia in recent centuries.

We gather near the basilica where the evangelical fervor of the Church was expanded during the Second Vatican Council, and near the tomb of the Blessed Pontiff who made the New Evangelization a household word.

We gather grateful for the fraternal company of a pastor who has made the challenge of the new evangelization almost a daily message.

Yes, we gather as missionaries, as evangelizers.

We hail the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, especially found in Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, and Ad Gentes, that refines the Church’s understanding of her evangelical duty, defining the entire Church as missionary, that all Christians, by reason of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, are evangelizers.

Yes, the Council reaffirmed, especially in Ad Gentes, there are explicit missionaries, sent to lands and peoples who have never heard the very Name by which all are saved, but also that no Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus and offering His invitation to others in his own day-to-day life.

Thus, mission became central to the life of every local church, to every believer. The context of mission shifted not only in a geographical sense, but in a theological sense, as mission applied not only to unbelievers but to believers, and some thoughtful people began to wonder if such a providential expansion of the concept of evangelization unintentionally diluted the emphasis of missio ad gentes ["mission to the Gentiles," broadly interpreted as "all peoples."]

Blessed John Paul II developed this fresh understanding, speaking of evangelizing cultures, since the engagement between faith and culture supplanted the relationship between church and state dominant prior to the Council, and included in this task the re-evangelizing of cultures that had once been the very engine of gospel values. The New Evangelization became the dare to apply the invitation of Jesus to conversion of heart not only ad extra but ad intra, to believers and cultures where the salt of the gospel had lost its tang. Thus, the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.

In Redemptoris Missio, #33, he elaborated upon this, noting primary evangelization –the preaching of Jesus to lands and people unaware of His saving message — the New Evangelization — the rekindling of faith in persons and cultures where it has grown lackluster — and the pastoral care of those daily living as believers.

We of course acknowledge that there can be no opposition between the missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization. It is not an “either-or” but a “both-and” proposition. The New Evangelization generates enthusiastic missionaries; those in the apostolate of the missio ad gentes require themselves to be constantly evangelized anew.

Even in the New Testament, to the very generation who had the missio ad gentes given by the Master at His ascension still ringing in their ears, Paul had to remind them to “stir into flame” the gift of faith given them, certainly an early instance of the New Evangelization.

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