GDC 58: “Socio-religious situations and evangelization”

GDC 58 owes its content to Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio.

58. The evangelization of the world finds itself placed in a very diversified and changing religious panorama, in which it is possible to distinguish three basic situations (Redemptoris Missio 33) requiring particular and precise responses.

a) The situation of those “peoples, groups and socio-cultural contexts in which Christ and his Gospel are not known, or which lack Christian communities sufficiently mature to be able to incarnate the faith in their own environment and proclaim it to other groups”. (Redemptoris Missio 33b) This situation requires a “mission ad gentes”,* where missionary activity is concentrated preferably toward young people and adults. Its particular characteristic consists in the fact that it is directed to non-Christians and invites them to conversion. In this context catechesis is usually developed within the baptismal catechumenate.

* Redemptoris Missio 33b. It is important to be cognisant of the parameters (fines) that RM assigns to the “mission ad gentes”. This is not restricted solely to territorial parameters (Redemptoris Missio 37) but also to new social environments and phenomena (Redemptoris Missio 37) such as large cities, youth, migration and to cultural areas and modern fora (Redemptoris Missio 37) such as modern communications, science and ecology. In virtue of this a particular Church already rooted in a particular territory carries on a missio ad gentes not only ad extra but also ad intra.

Do you find it interesting that missionary activity in these lands is concentrated away from children?

Also interesting is the note attached to the RM 33b reference, that we’re not just talking evangelization based on nations or regions, but also any of the vast number of subcultures on the planet. In addition to those mentioned, I would think the internet is a major one these days. Also universities, even those with a Catholic affiliation. And one timely with one current trend: evangelization among the Occupants.

b) There are, moreover, situations in which, in a definite socio-cultural context, “there are Christian communities with adequate and solid ecclesial structures. They are fervent in their faith and in Christian living. They bear witness to the Gospel in their surroundings and have a sense of commitment to the Universal mission”. (Redemptoris Missio 33c) These communities demand an intense “pastoral action of the Church” since they are made up of people and families of profound Christian outlook. In such contexts it is vital that catechesis for children, adolescents and young people develop various processes of well articulated Christian initiation which permit these to arrive at adulthood with mature faith which makes evangelizers of those who have been evangelized. Also in these situations adults are also in need of different types of Christian formation.

Even churches deemed “adequate and solid” demand pastoral action. Note the word used: demand. And note that the catechesis of children and youth is to be directed at developing a mature faith with an evangelical approach to the lay apostolate. Do you suppose our parishes fulfill these prescriptions? Do we sell short our children and youth by not forming them for evangelization?

c) In many countries of established Christian tradition and sometimes in younger Churches there exists “an intermediate situation”, (Redemptoris Missio 33d.) where “entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel”. (Redemptoris Missio 33d.) Such situations require “a new evangelization”. The peculiar nature of this situation is found in the fact that missionary activity is directed towards the baptized of all ages, who live in a religious context in which Christian points of reference are perceived purely exteriorly. Here primary proclamation and basic catechesis are priorities.

The “New Evangelization” is hopefully something deeper than a fad among Catholics, so please note that the notion is at least a generation old.

This section alone would spark significant discussion in any parish attempting to take seriously the catechetical mission of Catholicism. What is your parish doing well? Where are our weaknesses–both in the local parish and in the Church on a national scale?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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