VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ new document on the “joy” of evangelization is an opportunity for Catholics to re-examine how to share the Gospel in today’s world, several Catholic commentators note.
“Pope Francis says the Church has to focus on what is essential and most beautiful, that everyone has to have a personal encounter with the saving grace of Christ,” Vatican media adviser Greg Burke said Nov. 26.
“It’s a wide-ranging document, one that deals with everything, from better Sunday homilies to the broadening gap between rich and poor,” Burke said.
The Pope’s 85-page document, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), was released Nov. 26. The apostolic exhortation follows the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith.
Father Mark Morozowich, dean of The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, called the work “a wonderful call for the entire Church to once again rethink what we’re doing to seed the ever-renewing Spirit and to reach out in evangelization.”
“You can really see the pastor coming through in Pope Francis,” Father Morozowich said. “I think he wants that closeness of pastoral life between the bishop and his flock, between the priest and his people.”
He cited the Pope’s comment that evangelizers must take on the “smell of the sheep.” The document is written, he noted, “as a pastor would speak to his parishioners,” in the Pope’s approachable “invitational style.”
Father Morozowich said Pope Francis is “calling parishes to renewal,” and parish leaders should ask themselves questions like: “What more can we do to reach out? How can we invite people? Are we an inviting place?”
Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said Pope Francis is showing “how to live the Gospels and reach out to the world with what every person needs: a relationship with God.”
“He is leading the world to deeper faith, and the bishops of the United States happily receive this exhortation with faith and look forward to sharing it in our dioceses,” he said.
Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, said the document shows Pope Francis’ “missionary spirit” and is “an important and timely contribution to the cause of the New Evangelization.”
“It highlights his belief that the Gospel message and loving outreach of the Church are for everyone, that the Church must go outside itself and welcome those on the margins with love and healing in the spirit of Christ himself,” Anderson said.
He added, “If this document is embraced by the Church throughout the world, it could mark a key moment for a reinvigorated New Evangelization of our culture, which too often has forgotten the Good News of the Gospel, which is central to our faith.”
Greg Burke said the document is in some ways traditional and has an emphasis on “returning to the essentials.” In other ways, he said, it is “prophetic,” as Pope Francis calls for a change to how the papacy and the Vatican work.
The Vatican media adviser noted the document’s treatment of the economy and its critique of “the culture of prosperity which makes people indifferent to the needs of others.”
He said, “The document suggests major changes are on the way, with Francis noting that the Church has to get over an attitude that says, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”