|Vatican Issues 'Doctrinal Note' On Aspects Of Evangelization; Says Christians Must Spread Gospel By Word, Action|
WASHINGTON (December 14, 2007)—Christians are called to evangelize, that is "to proclaim Jesus Christ by one's words and actions" to all people, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) emphasized in a recent "Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization."
"Every person has the right to hear the 'Good News," the Note said. Every Christian has the corresponding duty to help people meet Jesus Christ, a task that must be accomplished not only by words, but also by one's actions, it added.
The Note was sent from the CDF to conferences of bishops worldwide to be made public December 14, when it was to be published in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican official newspaper.
It was signed by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the CDF, and Salesian Archbishop Angelo Amato, CDF secretary.
The CDF issued the statement because of "a growing confusion" about the Church's missionary mandate, the Note said. For example, some maintain that "any attempt to convince others on religious matters" somehow infringes on the freedom of the person. Some argue that conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. The Note, CDF said, "is intended to clarify certain aspects of the relationship between the missionary command of the Lord and respect for the conscience and religious freedom of all people."
The CDF highlighted anthropological, ecclesiological and ecumenical implications of evangelization.
Citing anthropological implications, the Note said that human freedom cannot be separated from its integral reference to truth. Teaching and dialogue, it said, constitute "a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful."
Communication of religious truths so that they might be accepted by others is also in harmony with the natural human desire to have others share in one's own goods, the Note said.
Evangelizers themselves benefit from evangelizing, it added.
"Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church," the Note said.
The Note underscored the attitudes which should accompany evangelization and said that whatever fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in dialogue, such as coercion or improper enticement, has no place in Christian evangelization.
It also warned against relativism.
The Church's task of evangelization is endangered, it said, "by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto, but also de iure." Such theories overlook the fact that human freedom is not indifference; it is rather directed towards truth.
In noting ecumenical implications, the CDF spoke of a close connection between evangelization and ecumenism in the sense that Christian divisions seriously compromise the credibility of the Church's evangelizing mission. The more ecumenism brings about greater unity among Christians, the more effective that evangelization will be.
When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with "both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation."
The CDF noted ecumenism's different dimensions: listening, "as a fundamental condition for any dialogue"; theological discussion, "in which, by seeking to understand the beliefs, traditions and convictions of others, agreement can be found, at times hidden under disagreement"; and witness and proclamation "of elements which are not particular traditions or theological subtleties, but which belong rather to the Tradition of the faith itself."