Vatican Statement on Catholic Evangelization

CNS Story.

From the Vatican Summary:

Today there is “a growing confusion” about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think “that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom,” suggesting that it is enough to invite people “to act according to their consciences”, or to “become more human or more faithful to their own religion”, or “to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity”, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. Because “of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to public the present Note.” …

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.” Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism. With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideals, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue. In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

“In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term.” [n. 12]

Good as far as it goes. The question is, will they reciprocate? Will they allow that in a majority Catholic country, “if a Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of truth, asks to enter into the full communion of another Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term”?

Update: Text of the statement.

2 thoughts on “Vatican Statement on Catholic Evangelization

  1. Hey Bill, I haven’t visited your blog in a while, but was doing some Sabbath surfing and saw your post. =)

    I really resonated with the following statement, but made a couple revisions that I think make it even better:

    “Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism. With [Christians of other traditions and even non-Christians], we must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideals, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue, [as well as received]. In this way, [we] are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.”

    Evangelization as dialogue and an an exchange of gifts…

    It’s also interesting that the statement alludes to the fact that a person would ask to enter full communion, and not be pressured to make a decision. If you got a good think going, it will be obvious and others will want to join in…Once again, food for thought.

    People wanting to join a church, and not being asked! Imagine that…

    Anyway, thanks for the post.

  2. “if a Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of truth, asks to enter into the full communion of another Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion…”

    Being from a majority Catholic country — Brazil — and having seen the rise of Pentecostal Protestant churches of every kind and description in recent decades (although the proportion of Catholics has stabilised in the last Census), I can affirm from experience that our Conference of Bishops pronounced no invectives against apostasy, but rather has looked inward to understand the reasons for our failure to retain the believers…

    Although of course, doctrine which is not found in the Church isn’t really truth, but error, so of course someone who is convinced of truth and seeks to enter another communion is falsely convinced… That’s a minor quibble, though.

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