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New Evangelization: Good News to the Poor.

With this concise volume Brazilian and former Franciscan Leonardo Boff continues his untiring struggle to renew the church from below. The context for these pages was the controversial "celebration" of the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Columbus on American shores. Very sagely, Boff correlates this event with a second major theme: Pope John Paul's call for a "new evangelization" (p. xii). Boff takes the pope at his word and spells out clearly and boldly the shape of this challenge for Latin America, in sharp contrast to the "first evangelization" carried out by the Spaniards and Portugese during the colonial period.

For this double agenda, Boff provides a wealth of valuable documentation that makes his book an excellent primer on both Luso-Hispanic colonialism and on current Roman Catholic missiology. An opening quotation from a Guatemalan text, Chilam Balam, describes poignantly the Mayan shock and grief over the "Gospel as anti-Gospel" during the conquest. Boff also quotes the infamous "Requirement" read to the Indians (p. 100) and a chilling catechism (Santo Domingo, c. 1510) that blithely informs the natives that all their parents and ancestors are in hell (p. 15). On new currents in missiology, Boff quotes basic passages from Vatican Council II, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Medellin, and Puebla.

Boff argues eloquently that true evangelism must occur within a sincere, open dialogue with the culture being evangelized, including its religion. The triune God is present in the culture long before the missionary arrives; native religions reveal divine grace as well as human sin--which is also all too present in European Christendom. To confuse the Gospel with one of its inculturations, or to identify one image of God with God, is idolatry.

The first evangelization failed, according to Boff, because it was not really sufficiently Christian and evangelical. The new evangelization must involve letting the "evangelized" evangelize the "evangelizers." "The Church stands ever in need of evangelization" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi 15).

Specifically, Boff argues that the Roman Catholic Church--especially the hierarchy--must be willing to be evangelized by other Christians (Protestant, Pentecostal, Orthodox) and by the cultures to which it presumes to take the good news (pp. 44-47). Boff argues forcefully for the dismantling of European Christendom and the emergence, through the Spirit, of a genuine "Communitarian Christianity" (p. 118) that will be a culturally authentic incarnation of the good news.
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Author:Stam, John
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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