Lecture 2 -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 010:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: Lecture 2
Author: Anonymous

Lecture 2

The New Evangelization of Latin America, 1992: Prospects

Three weeks ago last Thursday, October 8, 1992, Pope John Paul II arrived in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He came also to open the fourth General Assembly of the Latin American Conference of Bishops—-which has met only three times previously, in Puebla in 1970, Medellin in 1968, and in Rio de Janeiro in 1955. Santo Domingo was chosen for at least two reasons: (1) it was the first seat of the Spanish colonial government, and (2) it was the first Roman Catholic diocese where the initial evangelization of Indo-America began. I could wish that Santo Domingo was likewise chosen because there the incredibly courageous Dominican priest, Father Antonio de Montesinos, lifted his voice against the atrocities being committed by the Spanish colonists against the native American population. The choosing of Santo Domingo was clearly intentional, but—according to Pope John Paul II—not to celebrate the conquest and colonization, but to commemorate the evangelization of Latin America.1

As I sought to indicate in my previous lecture, looking at Latin America today, the Church from one perspective does have something to commemorate. There is no other area in the world where the impact of Roman Catholic Christianity has been greater or where Roman Catholicism is more deeply rooted and interwoven with the culture. From any impartial perspective, Latin America today is overwhelmingly and undeniably Roman Catholic. It is the most Roman Catholic of the world’s six continents. According to Church statistics, 88.25% of the people are Roman Catholics. Recognizing that this figure may be slightly inflated, it is nonetheless indicative of the strength and extent of the Church’s influence over the lives of the people. Despite apparent inroads made by Protestantism since the 1950s, most people in Latin America still consider themselves Roman Catholics, and even those who leave the Church for a Protestant “sect” retain the lasting imprint of their Catholic formation and their Catholic culture.

Assuming the Church’s statistics are fairly dependable, what is the meaning and significance of Pope John Paul’s recent call for a “new evangelization” of the continent? It should be noted that it was in 1983 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that the Pope first urged Latin American bishops and all the faithful to begin a “new evangelization” of the continent. Pointing to the approaching 1992 quincentennial, the Pope said:

The celebration of the half-millennium of evangelization will have full meaning if it re...

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