Friday, December 14, 2007

The Missionary Memo

Noting the current presence of "'a growing confusion' about the church’s missionary mandate," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith today released another noteworthy Note, this time focusing on "Some Aspects of Evangelization."

At a Vatican press conference held within the hour to introduce the document, the CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada said that while making known "the truth of God's purpose... is a great blessing for humanity and for each human being," at the same time "human dignity requires that the search for this truth respect human freedom of conscience."

"The importance of Christian witness to holiness and charity is essential if evangelization is to be credible," Levada emphasized.

Seeking to assuage the controversy stirred by the CDF's summertime note reaffirming Catholicism's claim as the sole body "in which the church of Christ is concretely found on this earth," the cardinal-prefect today praised "evangelization among various Christians" for "lead[ing] to dialogue and a sharing of gifts leading to deeper conversion to Christ."

At the presser -- the first dedicated to a CDF text in quite some time -- Levada headed up an A-list panel of curialists, including the prefects of the Congregations for Divine Worship and the Evangelization of Peoples, with the former, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, addressing aspects of inculturation.

"Provided that it is done with full respect for their human dignity and freedom," Arinze -- himself an adolescent convert -- said that "if a Christian did not try to spread the Gospel by sharing the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ with others, we could suspect that Christian either of lack of total conviction on the faith, or of selfishness and laziness in not wanting to share the full and abundant means of salvation with his fellow human beings."

An English-language summary of the text has been prepared by the Vatican Press Office.