Many of you have heard that Pope Francis has released an apostolic exhortation, entitled Evangelli Gaudium, which has attracted a moderate amount of attention in the press. The document is of interest for many reasons, not least among them that it reflects the thinking of the Pope somewhat more directly than the encyclical Lumen Fidei, which really is a combined effort of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. There is much to ponder, and it is not possible to cover the many important things which the encyclical covers, but we will attempt to discuss several items of interest. There is much that is Good, some that is bad, and a few things that are ugly. As always it pays to read the original, which can be found here.
The Pope himself has done us the favor of defining what he is trying to achieve. As he puts it:
“I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality. In this context, and on the basis of the teaching of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, I have decided, among other themes, to discuss at length the following questions:
a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach;
b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers;
c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes;
d) the homily and its preparation;
e) the inclusion of the poor in society;
f) peace and dialogue within society;
g) the spiritual motivations for mission.
I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. But I have done so, not with the intention of providing an exhaustive treatise but simply as a way of showing their important practical implications for the Church’s mission today. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. “
Therefore the main concern of the Pope is to call all of us to the task of evangelization and to suggest a particular style of doing so. He does also note earlier in the same document the following:
“I intend to express my own concerns about this particular chapter of the Church’s work of evangelization. Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study. Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world.
I think it should be obvious from this statement, not everything in the document carries equal weight, so criticism of aspects of it, does not necessarily count as “dissent”, and In fact this Pope has specifically thanked those who have criticized him from the traditionalist perspective as manifested here . In any case we will proceed with a series of posts discussing various aspects of the exhortation over the next few days. Stay tuned.