Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization

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Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! Rom There is today, however, a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective cf.

The Church has a duty to evangelize; it is also its inalienable right

Mt Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity.


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Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church. In the face of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to publish the present Note.

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This document, which presupposes the entirety of Catholic doctrine on evangelization, as extensively treated in the teaching of Paul VI and John Paul II, is intended to clarify certain aspects of the relationship between the missionary command of the Lord and respect for the conscience and religious freedom of all people. It is an issue with important anthropological, ecclesiological and ecumenical implications. God has given human beings intellect and will so that they might freely seek, know and love him. Nothing puts in play human freedom like the search for the good and the true, by inviting it to a kind of commitment which involves fundamental aspects of life.

This is particularly the case with salvific truth, which is not only an object of thought, but also an event which encompasses the entire person — intelligence, will, feelings, actions and future plans — when a person adheres to Christ. In the search for the good and the true, the Holy Spirit is already at work, opening the human heart and making it ready to welcome the truth of the Gospel, as Thomas Aquinas stated in his celebrated phrase: omne verum a quocumque dicatur a Spiritu Sancto est.

Today, however, with ever-increasing frequency, questions are being raised about the legitimacy of presenting to others — so that they might in turn accept it — that which is held to be true for oneself. In this connection, when it comes to the search for truth, whoever trusts only in his own individual efforts and does not recognize the need for help from others, is deceiving himself. Evangelization does not only entail the possibility of enrichment for those who are evangelized; it is also an enrichment for the one who does the evangelizing, as well as for the entire Church.

It is indeed the Holy Spirit who, after having been operative in the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, animates the maternal action of the Church in the evangelization of cultures. Although the Gospel is independent from any culture, it is capable of infusing all cultures, while never allowing itself to be subservient to them. In this way, the Pentecost-event continues in history, in the unity of one and the same faith, enriched by the diversity of languages and cultures.


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  • The acceptance of the Good News in faith is thus dynamically ordered to such a communication. Therefore, fully belonging to Christ, who is the Truth, and entering the Church do not lessen human freedom, but rather exalt it and direct it towards its fulfilment, in a love that is freely given and which overflows with care for the good of all people.

    It is an inestimable benefit to live within the universal embrace of the friends of God which flows from communion in the life-giving flesh of his Son, to receive from him the certainty of forgiveness of sins and to live in the love that is born of faith. Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others.

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    Indeed, the heart of another person can only be approached in freedom, in love and in dialogue, in such a manner that the word which is spoken is not simply offered, but also truly witnessed in the hearts of those to whom it is addressed. This requires taking into account the hopes, sufferings and concrete situations of those with whom one is in dialogue.

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    Precisely in this way, people of good will open their hearts more freely and share their spiritual and religious experiences in all sincerity. This experience of sharing, a characteristic of true friendship, is a valuable occasion for witnessing and for Christian proclamation. Presents writings by women religious from the Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions from the earliest Presents writings by women religious from the Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions from the earliest years of Christianity to the present day.

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