WASHINGTON (December 14, 2000) -- The U.S. Bishops have established a self-standing Secretariat for Evangelization and a Commission on Catholic Evangelization.
The Secretariat will be headed by Paulist Father John Hurley, current head of the Evangelization Office, which has been operating on an ad hoc basis. The new status becomes effective January 1.
The formation of the Commission was established by the Bishops' Committee on Evangelization.
The actions come on the 25th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), which was proclaimed December 8, 1975.
In the statement, Pope Paul VI declared "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 a 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 to evangelize ..."
The new Secretariat was formally approved during the November 2000 meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Washington. It will staff the Bishops' Committee on Evangelization and work for the implementation of Go and Make Disciples, A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States.
The plan and strategy for Catholic Evangelization was approved by the full body of bishops in November 1992.
Bishop Michael Warfel of Juneau, Alaska, and Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Evangelization, welcomed the new status for evangelization in the United States.
"After 25 years since the release of Evangelii Nuntiandi, Catholics throughout the world have taken great strides to appropriate mission of evangelization into what they say and do, both in parishes and in their personal lives," he said. "Now the U.S. Bishops re-emphasize this essential mission within their own conference."
The Evangelization Committee at its November 2000 meeting committed itself to fostering practical ways to implement Evangelii Nuntiandi and Go and Make Disciples by establishing the U.S. Commission on Catholic Evangelization.
Bishop Warfel announced the Commission's establishment before a gathering of diocesan evangelization coordinators.
"This commission will strengthen and build a broad network of the many ministries in the Church which seek to embrace and nurture the missionary mandate of the Gospel," he said. "Each member of the Church is in some way responsible for the Church's mission."
Through its committees, the Commission will network diocesan evangelization and multi-cultural offices and national Catholic organizations.
Father Hurley welcomed the establishment of the Commission.
"This Commission will further enhance the collaborative nature of the essential mission of the Church among U.S. dioceses," he said, "and will assist in formulation of the authentic missionary and pastoral approaches to the diverse cultures that fundamentally shape our Church and every dimension of Catholic Evangelization."