Holy See clarifies 'growing confusion' on Church mission

 The Holy See has expressed concern that certain incorrect ideas about evangelization could hamper the Church's mission in the world. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Friday issued a note on Catholic understanding of the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The right of every person to hear the Good News of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling, implies the corresponding duty to evangelize, the note said. 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 human beings are given intellect and will by God that they might come to know and love what is true and good, the Vatican note said, the ultimate fulfillment of the vocation of the human person is found in accepting the revelation of God in Christ as proclaimed by the Church. The human search for truth cannot be accomplished entirely on one,s own, but inevitably involves help from others and trust in knowledge that one receives from others. Thus, teaching and entering into dialogue to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not inappropriate encroachment on human freedom, "but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful." Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures. Coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of others is wrong. Christian evangelization is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages. But respect for religious freedom and its promotion must not in any way make Christians indifferent towards truth and goodness. Love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves. The document points out the important role of ecumenism, noting that Christian divisions can seriously compromise the credibility of the Church,s evangelizing mission. The more ecumenism brings about greater unity among Christians, the more effective evangelization will be. Catholic evangelization in a country where other Christians live must be carried out 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. "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. Source: VIS

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