John Paul II & The New Evangelization
On December 7, 1990, Pope John Paul II published the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio which would prove to be a tremendously profound reflection on evangelization. In this document, the Holy Father encourage all Catholics to be engaged in the work of evangelization. Worthy of note was a distinction that he made between the mission ad gentes and the new evangelization. The mission ad gentes (“to the nations”) is the activity that is associated with an historical understanding of mission. In essence, it is directed towards nations and people who have never heard the Gospel. The new evangelization is a new type of mission work, for it is directed toward historically Christian countries and people who have heard the Gospel but have not fully responded to it. The message to be proclaimed is not new, for it is still the never changing Gospel of Jesus Christ, but this new evangelization is, according to John Paul II, new in methods, ardor, and expression. In large part, this is a missionary effort directed toward the baptized. One need not look far in society to see many baptized Catholics who no longer practice the faith, who have joined sects or other religions, and even some who, while still practicing the faith, have never made a full and generous adult response to the loving invitation of Christ. John Paul II wrote that he sensed “that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (RM 3).