Pope at Audience: The first means of evangelization is witness

Pope Francis continues his weekly catechesis at his General Audience and urges all those present to re-read Saint Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii nuntiandi", as each person goes forth in their journey of evangelizing and evangelization.

By Francesca Merlo

Addressing the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square for his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis spoke of evangelization, and opened his catechesis by referring to Saint Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandiHe noted that "evangelization is more than just simple doctrinal and moral transmission but rather that it is first and foremost, the witness of the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word in which salvation is fulfilled". The witness of Christ, continued the Pope, "is at the same time the first means of evangelization and an essential condition for its efficacy, so that the proclamation of the Gospel may be fruitful".

To witness is also to profess faith

Pope Francis went on to express the importance of remembering that "witness also includes professed faith, that is, convinced and manifest adherence to God the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, who created and redeemed us out of love". Witness, he continued, "cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes, what one proclaims and what one lives". The Pope, in this regard, noted that many Christians live their lives saying they believe, but live by something else, as if they do not. "This is hypocrisy", said the Pope.

"The witness of a Christian life involves a journey of holiness, based on Baptism, which makes us “sharers in the divine nature; in this way, they are really made holy'". This holiness is a holiness that is not reserved for the few, but is a gift from God and demands to be received and made to bear fruit for ourselves and for others, nourished by prayer, said the Pope.

The Holy Father then explained that we must as such be aware that the people to whom evangelization is addressed are not only others, "those who profess other faiths or who profess none, but also ourselves, believers in Christ and active members of the People of God".

To bear witness

"To bear this witness, the Church as such must also begin by evangelizing herself"; she must do so in order to not become "a museum piece", he added. In brief, the Pope explained, "this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour, and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel”.

Bringing his catechesis to an end, Pope Francis stressed that "a Church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a Church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path of continuous conversion and renewal" and this also entails the ability to change the ways of understanding and living its evangelizing presence in history, avoiding taking refuge in the protected zones of the logic of 'it has always been done this way". This Church, concluded the Pope, is one that "dialogically encounters the contemporary world, that weaves fraternal relationships, that generates spaces of encounter, implementing good practices of hospitality, welcome, recognition and integration of the other and of otherness, and that cares for the common home that is creation".

With this in mind, Pope Francis, finally, before blessing all those following his audience, once again urged all those present to read or re-read Evangelii nuntiandi, "at home and in your communities," assuring them that he himself reads it often.

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22 March 2023, 10:14

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