Decree Ad Gentes on the missionary Activity of the Church
Decree “Ad Gentes”on the Missionary Activity of the Church 27 November 2012
Our first task in approachinganother people, another culture, another faith, is to take off our shoes, for the place where we are standing is holy. Else we may forget that before we came, God was already present. Motto of the Volunteer Missionary Movement (founded 1969)
The World of Vatican II“What is effectively the centre of gravity of Christianity in theWest has shifted more and more, and 1970 reached a criticalpoint: by then 51% of all Catholics were living in the southerncontinents…By the year 2000 a good 70% of all Catholics willbe living in the southern hemisphere…The church there has the opportunity of becoming the churchof the poor and for the poor, not merely on paper but in deedand truth.” Walbert Buhlmann, OFM, The Church of the Future, 1986
The Coming of the Third Church“since Peter went to Rome, no Pope had ever left Europe. ButPaul [VI] visited all six continents as a sign that now thechurch has really become a church of the six continents…We now know that the one universal Church with its strongcentralized power (Vatican I) exists concretely in countlesslocal churches all of which have the right and duty not to beany longer ‘only’ missions, carbon copies of the Europeanchurch, but to stand on their own feet and be allowed tocontribute their full say within the framework of the wholechurch.”
Decree Ad Gentes on the Mission Activity of the Church• Principles• Mission Work• Particular Churches• Missionaries• Planning Missionary Activity• Cooperation
Preface“.. this sacred synod, … desires to sketch the principles ofmissionary activity and to rally the forces of all the faithful inorder that the people of God, marching along the narrow wayof the Cross, may spread everywhere the reign of Christ, Lordand overseer..”
Principles of Mission“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since itis from the mission of the Son and the mission of the HolySpirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decreeof God the Father.”“Since this mission goes on and in the course of historyunfolds the mission of Christ Himself, who was sent to preachthe Gospel to the poor, the Church, prompted by the HolySpirit, must walk in the same path on which Christ walked: apath of poverty and obedience, of service and self - sacrificeto the death, from which death He came forth a victor by HisResurrection.”
“.. division among Christians damages the most holy cause ofpreaching the Gospel to every creature and blocks the way tofaith for many. Hence, by the very necessity of mission, allthe baptised are called together into one flock, and thus theywill be able to bear unanimous witness before the nations toChrist their Lord.”
“.. circumstances are sometimes such that, for the time being,there is no possibility of expounding the Gospel directly andforthwith. Then, of course, missionaries can and must at leastbear witness to Christ by charity and by works of mercy, withall patience, prudence and great confidence. Thus they willprepare the way for the Lord and make Him somehowpresent.”
Mission WorkChristian Witnessrespect, charity, education, uplifting human dignityPreaching the Gospel and Gathering together the People ofGodban on force or enticement, involving ‘entire community ofthe faithful’ in the catechumenateForming a Christian Communitynurture ecumenical spirit, special attention to the role of laityand catechists, fostering religious life
Particular Churches“Let the young church keep up an intimate communion withthe whole Church.”“The church has not been really founded, and is not yet fullyalive, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ, unless there is a laityworthy of the name working along with the hierarchy…Therefore, even at the very founding of a Church, greatattention is to be paid to establishing a mature, Christianlaity.”
Missionaries“Vatican II taught me the narrowness of my previousassumption that my task as a missionary was mainly to getnew converts for the Church. I now see my call as one ofsharing in the mission of Jesus to proclaim and promote themission of God – which mean working to bring about a worldof justice, respect for human rights, reconciliation,community-building, all animated by generous and realisticlove.” Donal Dorr, St Patrick’s Missionary
“As you sit watching the sinking sun you wonder if there were still time formissionaries somewhere, somehow to be able just once to carry out themissionary work as it should be carried out:To approach each culture with the respect due to itTo approach the people of any culture or nation, not as individuals, but ascommunity.To plan to stay not one day longer than is necessary in any one place.To give the people nothing, literally nothing, but the unchanging, supracultural,uninterpreted gospel before baptism.To insist that they themselves be their own future missionaries.To link them with the outside church in unity, and the outside world in charityand justice.And then the final step.The final missionary step as regards the people of any nation or culture, and themost important lesson we will ever teach them – is to leave them.” Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered
Cooperation“As members of the living Christ, incorporated into Him andmade like unto Him through baptism and throughconfirmation and the Eucharist, all the faithful are duty-bound to cooperate in the expansion and spreading out ofHis Body, to bring it to fullness as soon as may be.”“The grace of renewal cannot grow in communities unlesseach of these extends the range of its charity to the ends ofthe earth, and devotes the same care to those afar off as itdoes to those who are its own members.”
T Howland Shanks SJ, (1992),“Salt, leaven and light. These images all suggest notopposition to the world, but permeation, pervasion,insertion. The mission of the followers of Jesus is to beactive in the world, not to withdraw from it or tocontrol it. Nor do these images suggest that themission is to make all the world Christian. Salt doesnot turn all the food into salt, and leaven does notchange all the dough into yeast. Salt, Leaven & Light, The community called church, with reference to Matt. 5:13-16 and Luke 13:20-21:
“Further, if salt, leaven and light are effective, theyno longer stand out from that which they permeate orblend in with it. They transform from within. Theseimages do not focus on Christian uniqueness ordistinctiveness, but on the contribution Christians canmake in the transformation of the whole”
“This time is dark only for those who do not believethe Lord is present in it.” Gustavo Gutierrez
Which aspects of the new evangelizationproclamation dialogue work for social justice use of media respecting the freedom of individuals involving the laity do you see as the most important? Why? What else needs to be done?
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