The new evangelization and social justice
Speech to Arise participants, Fort Wayne, August 20, 2013
Since my ordination as a bishop in December 2004, I have been asked, both back in Harrisburg and here in Fort Wayne-South Bend, what are my vision, goals, priorities, as bishop? My response has always been the same: the new evangelization! I believe this is the great task of the Church in our times. Of course, the proclamation of the Gospel (evangelization) has always been the fundamental mission of the Church, since Jesus sent the apostles on mission. The Church has always had this missionary mandate: to make disciples of all nations. Recent Popes have reminded us that the Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the command of Jesus, the disciples went out to the whole world to announce the good news, spreading Christian communities everywhere. Thus the Catholic Church has grown and spread throughout its 2,000 year history. Here on the American continent, the first evangelization took place some 530 years ago. At various times and places in history, God has raised up dynamic missionaries for the spread of the Gospel.
In our day, Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have called us to a renewed evangelical dynamism. The Church continues the mission “ad gentes,” “the announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation.” But the Church is embarked today also on what is called “a new evangelization”, which is “directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily Opening World Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization 10/7/12).
Back in 1983, Pope John Paul II, speaking in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, spoke of the need for a commitment to an evangelization “new in ardor, methods, and expression.” John Paul, Benedict, and now Pope Francis, travelled throughout the world leading this new evangelization. Pope Benedict established a new Vatican office for the new evangelization, and he called for this Year of Faith to help us rediscover the truth, beauty, and power of the Catholic faith.
Last year, the World Synod of Bishops met to discuss the theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. was the Relator of the Synod. He explained the need for the Church to re-propose the Gospel, the Catholic faith, today in these words:
“Across the Church we deal in many instances but particularly in most of the so-called First World countries with a dramatic reduction in the practice of the faith among those who are already baptized.”
Cardinal Wuerl quoted Pope Be