You might say that the New Evangelization has been in the works for a long time. Originally signaled by Pope Leo XIII in his 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus and greatly strengthened by the theology Vatican II and the teachings of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the New Evangelization has been gestating for well over a century. That said, it was not until 1983 that St. Jonn Paul II coined the expression “New Evangelization” and began to show the world how to live this mission. Since then, both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continuously championed this new thrust of Catholic evangelization as the predominant theme of their papacies.
Evangelization has always been our central mission as Catholics; it was a mission given to all of us by Christ when He said “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). But if evangelization has always been a central part of Christ’s church, what makes it “new”?
In the words of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
“The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on ‘re-proposing’ the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. Pope Benedict XVI called for the…Gospel [proclamation] ‘to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.’ The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.”1
Further, “the New Evangelization is new, not in its content but rather in its inner thrust; new in its methods that must correspond to the times; and new because it is necessary to proclaim the Gospel to those who have already heard it.”2 The new evangelization is not a new message, but the very message that Christ Himself shared with us. It is our commitment to evangelization that is “new in its ardor, methods and expression.”3
While the New Evangelization identifies the need to re-evangelize the baptized, the proclamation of the Gospel to non-Christians loses none of its vigor. In fact, it is itself invigorated by the re-evangelization of the baptized as they, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, leap forth to share with those “who as yet do not know Christ, the Redeemer of humanity.” (RM 31)
The New Evangelization is now underway. And SPES is working harder every day to make the New Evangelization a thriving reality in the United States and throughout the world so that all can know and love God.