Date of Submission



This thesis, after appropriate analysis, proposes a number of principles, which guide both an understanding of the new evangelization as formulated by Pope John Paul II and how the new evangelization can be applied. The key insight of the new evangelization is that growing numbers of people, especially in Western countries such as Australia, whilst retaining what can be termed a 'loose' form of Christian affiliation, can no longer be described as having a living sense of the Gospel. This makes these people distinct from the classical focus of missionary activity, namely, those who have never heard the Gospel proclaimed. Pope John Paul II's exposition of the new evangelization arose from his understanding of key conciliar and post conciliar documents. In this understanding, the new evangelization is one of the clear fruits of the Council, a path that can be traced from Ad Gentes (1965) to Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) to the writings of John Paul II. The concept of the new evangelization is a response to the new reality of this growing number of loosely affiliated Christians and can be interpreted on a number of levels. In essence, this concept proposes a reorientation toward a deep, personal, and abiding relationship with Christ. The new evangelization is also a living out of this renewed relationship manifested most obviously by a desire to bring others into communion with Christ. It has a clear ecclesiological dimension as a closer communion with Christ is experienced as part of a community of faith. Following from this, the new evangelization is well situated within an ecclesiology of communion, which arises from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (1964). Within this ecclesiology, a discipleship model of Church is privileged. The thesis engages a wide range of scholarly thought in seeking to better understand the conditions that have led to the need for the new evangelization.;Changes in socialization patterns along with the emergence of a diffuse spirituality have led to what is described as a 'new Catholic mentality', which is marked by, amongst other things, a reluctance to strongly commit to Christian belief and practice. Another perspective, offered from a more theological lens, describes modern culture as moving from a classical to an empirical basis. A manifestation of this shift is that religious conversion and experience of a transcendent dimension to life have become increasingly marginal. Modern societies can also be conceived of as ones where the compelling meta-narratives of previous eras no longer have the same hold. In such an environment, religion can become one choice amongst many. In these circumstances, a key question focuses on what the Church has to offer those who are accustomed to living as consumers in a culture of choice? The argument is made that concepts such as vicarious religion and secularization, understood as movements of religious salience from the public to personal domain, explain well the social terrain in many Western countries. For many, this cultural context facilitates a loose sense of religious affiliation. In response to these modern conditions, the Church needs actively to consider ways in which strong religious commitment can be nurtured. In a consumer choice orientated culture, the Church needs to cultivate plausibility so that people - especially younger people - can develop and strengthen their religions bonds and sensibilities. Strategies such as developing plausibility structures, building strong affirming faith communities, and providing a ready experience of the divine can be used to help realize the new evangelization. These are part of a wider plan, which describes the Church as taking on a more evangelical demeanor where proclamation is given a high priority.;The new evangelization is both necessary and a well-conceived response to the challenges facing the Church in Western societies. It recognizes that the loose affiliation that typifies many in countries such as Australia is a harbinger of a more long lasting disconnection and, as such, is a situation that needs to be addressed. The new evangelization is not in conflict with Church reform; rather, it is an appropriate response to a changed pastoral reality, one that provides significant challenges. The thesis culminates in the final chapter, which seeks to synthesize the previous discussion into a number of guiding factors and principles of the new evangelization. Guiding factors such as the importance of the human element, and principles such as providing cogent answers, strong and sustaining boundaries, and experiences of supportive communities, flow from an understanding of the new evangelization and a realization of how it could come to fruition.


School of Theology

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


336 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Theology and Philosophy