Holy Father, Venerated Synod Fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My comments are based on twenty years of mission experience. The highlight of this work was the Budapest City Mission in 2007, when answering the call of our Cardinal Péter Erdő, the entire archdiocese joined in unprecedented unity to proclaim the Good News. The ongoing evangelization has since changed many lives, especially among the poor, the homeless and marginalized people and many of the youth. In my experience, the key for an effective witness is very simple: to hold fast the spiritual laws of evangelization, which the Church, explaining to us Holy Scripture reveals.
In light of the Conciliar and post-conciliar documents the entire process of transmitting the faith is clear before us. After a possible time of preparation it really begins with a proclamation, which is the Kerygma, that is to say the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including a call to conversion and repentance. Then comes the process of catechesis, based on the faith born of the hearing of the Good News. We cannot neglect first announcing our faith and inviting people to repent and convert. This cannot be replaced with anything else.
Redemptoris Missio constantly speaks about the permanent priority of proclamation in mission (see point 44). The nature of proclamation is remarkably different than teaching itself or dialogue! The word ‘euangelion’ appears more than 100 times in the New Testament, and most of the time in the context of proclamation. The Gospel was given to us to declare!
A return to a Biblical foundation would also clarify the authentic meaning of the term ‘evangelization’. It would be more than enlightening, if it was reserved for, and used in its primary sense, that is to say a situation where the Gospel is proclaimed, and only secondly for the process of sanctification of the entire individual or the entire society. With this proper usage, we could avoid the confusion of calling all Church activity evangelization, for if everything can be called evangelization then nothing will be it, and it will most certainly not be “new”!
The content of the Kerygma is defined by the speeches of the Apostles and enlightened by the entire New Testament. God loves humanity, even though it has turned from him because of sin. Of his own strength Man can neither regain a state of innocence, nor eternal life in communion with God, that he has lost. To save us from this hopeless situation the Father sent his Son. In his death, the Son took upon Himself our sins and erased them, and in His resurrection offers us the gift of a new life. This new life is possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and completed through life in the community of the Church.
We must make it clear that this is a salvific message. Sin separates men from God just as much today as it did in the time of the Apostles. In this sense nothing has changed! If we do not talk about sin, if we do not talk about the final consequences of sin, and the necessity of repentance and conversion, then most people will not be interested in what we have to say. People’s attention is caught by only a message of salvation for eternity! The last three sentences of Lumen Gentium 16 are relevant here.
Evangelization – in its first meaning – is the proclamation of the basic Gospel, which carries with itself the power of God, and we cannot replace it with anything else. “Faith comes through what is heard!”