The Church’s call for a New Evangelization goes back to the Second Vatican Council, which sought to engage the modern world in order to more effectively proclaim the saving message that she possessed. While the Church has been engaged in drawing people to herself since Jesus’ command to “go forth and make disciples of all nations,” during the Second Vatican Council, the Church recommitted herself to this essential mission and to find ways to present the Gospel in ways best suited to men and women of our time. This call was picked up by Pope Paul VI, who set forth clear vision for evangelization in his document Evangelii Nuntiandi, Evangelization in the Modern World; and then by Pope John Paul II, who called for an evangelization that was new in “ardor, methods, and expression” in his encyclical, Ecclesia in America, The Church in America. In continuity with the vision of Vatican II and his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI committed his pontificate to making the New Evangelization the focus of the Catholic Church around the world.
So, what exactly is the New Evangelization? It is a call to the entire Church to recommit herself to the essential reason for her existence: to lead all people into a relationship with Jesus Christ in communion with the Church that He established. This is the goal of evangelization: that people might come to know the one true God and Father of all creation, through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the message that the Church proclaims. The call for a New Evangelization is a call to find the best ways possible of making this message known in our own day and age. It is a call to look for those methods and modes of expression that will best speak to people of our time. What we are saying does not (and cannot) change, but the way in which we say it can and must be adapted so that people today are able to truly receive it. This is what the New Evangelization is all about: a commitment to make Christ known in ways best suited for the modern world.
“On us particularly, the pastors of the Church, rests the responsibility for reshaping with boldness and wisdom, but in complete fidelity to the content of evangelization, the means that are most suitable and effective for communicating the Gospel message to the men and women of our times” (Pope Paul VI – Evangelii Nuntiandi, 40).