Evangelization, the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, is closely linked to what the Church calls inculturation. Inculturation is the process by which “the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community.” This process brings about “an intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values” (Redemptoris Missio, 52).
Evangelization is the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love for us and his gift of eternal life and salvation through the forgiveness of our sins. Pope John Paul II’s use of the term “new evangelization” does not mean a new or changed proclamation of the good news. It means that it must be newly presented to the world today: to those who do not know the love of the one true God; to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as true God and true man and to those who once did, but no longer believe or practice the faith. The proclamation of the New Evangelization is a calling for all the People of God, not just the ordained.
In contrast to the culture of death with its loss of hope, Pope John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of Hope and the Mother and Evangelizer of America. He announced a new mission in America under her patronage. He did this at the historical First Synod of all of the Bishops of America in Rome in December 1998 that closed on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in America, his summary of the Synod. He delivered this at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on January 23, 1999.
The Pope likened the Synod to the upper room where Mary and the apostles prayed before Pentecost. The Synod began the year 1998 dedicated by the Pope to the Holy Spirit towards the joyful celebration of the Great Jubilee Year 2000. He announced a new mission “to undertake the New Evangelization of the American continent”. He sees America as one continent “from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from the Pacific to the Atlantic…, a continent called in its various sectors to integration and solidarity.”
At the Synod, the Pope mentioned the challenges of the New Evangelization such as the authentic teaching of the Church’s doctrine and the need for society’s laws to harmonize with it; the defense of human life; the role of the family and the value of human work. He said that the solution to these challenges is to spread the civilization of love through apostolic action rooted in the Gospel and “courageously proclaiming Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the whole man and of every man.”
Pope John Paul II taught that evangelization means connecting the Gospel with the materialistic culture of this secular, permissive, post-Christian era. This new era of the third Christian millennium faces new problems, challenges, and transformations. He said that the effort to proclaim anew to this culture who Jesus Christ is requires: “A commitment not to a re-evangelization but to a ‘new’ evangelization: new in ardor, methods, and expression.”
The heart of the New Evangelization must be “a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery.” In addition to this, the fullness of the Church’s teachings on faith and morals must be presented through catechesis which is an essential part of the New Evangelization.
The Pope said that the New Evangelization must penetrate our secular culture through the process of “inculturation”, especially the traditional media and the new media of the Internet.