An appreciation of the central role of evangelization on the worldwide impact of the Second Vatican Council over the past 50 years is closely related to how the Council was interpreted.If one agrees with Father Joseph Komonchak, a leading expert on the Council, there are two distinct wings by which the Council flies. One proposes the idea that the Council’s implementation is about a robust proclamation of the faith in continuity with tradition and Catholic identity. The other proposes that respectful dialogue with the world is the means par excellence for engaging that world on behalf of the Gospel. To pursue this dialogue requires an ability to listen and learn from others before expounding one’s own convictions. Divisions regarding the interpretation of Vatican II can be understood in terms of the tension between proclamation and dialogue. While the thrust toward dialogue seemed to be strongest in the early years after the Council, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have attempted, with some success, to achieve what they perceive to be a greater balance between these two tendencies, for no one can deny that both are fundamental to an appreciation of Vatican II.The tension between the two wings of Vatican II is perhaps reconciled in what came to be the Church’s teaching on evangelization. The word itself does not appear much in any of the documents of Vatican II, but the spirit of evangelization is certainly present in major documents like Gaudium et Spes and Ad Gentes. The new evangelization, the need to re-propose the faith to people who have embraced it long ago but now become tepid, has become the central challenge for the Church today among the Western nations, especially in the face of growing secularism.Major themes of the Council — for example, church renewal, the integral connection between faith and justice, and the commitment to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue as a fundamental mandate — are subsumed in a larger vision and expressed in arguably the single most influential document of the post-Vatican II era, namely, Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), published in 1974. From that time forward the church increasingly expressed its understanding of its identity and mission in terms of evangelization and linked this understanding to fidelity to the Council’s vision.What is evangelization and the “new” evangelization as Pope John II and especially Pope Benedict XVI have advanced these ideas? Evangelization can be understood as resting on four pillars. —The first is the most important: a personal encounter with Christ, personal conversion. —The second is cultural conversion, or inculturation. —The third is transformation of the socioeconomic and political order, or liberation. —The fourth is ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue whereby Christ’s followers and all humanity strive to achieve the communion mandated by Christ himself in the Gospel. Evangelization is a rich and nuanced idea and means much more than simply reaching out. The fundamental teachings regarding evangelization were furthered by Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptoris Hominis and Redemptoris Missio. Eventually Pope John Paul II developed the idea of evangelization and spoke of a “new” evangelization characterized by new expressions and methods, as well as by greater ardor. The new evangelization, the need to re-propose the faith to people who have embraced it long ago but now become tepid, has become the central challenge for the Church today among the Western nations, especially in the face of growing secularism.It is important, however, to recall that the Church is global. The church’s implementation of Vatican II varies from continent to continent. The church in Latin America, for example, took up the challenges of Vatican II with enthusiasm and enjoyed considerable success. Both proclamation of the Gospel and dialogue with the social and cultural reality of the Latin American Continent led to significant developments that have had a global impact on the Church: —The option for the poor.—The pastoral methodology called the pastoral circle (see-judge-act) first proposed by the Young Christian Workers of the 1940s but taken up earnestly and disseminated by the last four General Conferences of Bishops of Latin America —Medellín, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida.—The idea of structural sin integrated into Catholic Social Doctrine and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.—The base ecclesial communities as privileged instruments of evangelization and contributors to a renewed vision of the church as community.In the United States, the vision of church proposed by the bishops in the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, in the three pastoral encuentros, in the process and results of Jubilee 2000 (the official, U.S. Catholic celebration of the Third Millennium) and the prevailing U.S. directives and practices for Hispanic ministry have all been significantly influenced by Latin America’s response to the Second Vatican Council. These approaches have all been carried out as elements of a larger vision, one that corresponds to the rich and nuanced understanding of the church as evangelizing in its entirety. This vision is today at the heart of the extraordinary development of lay ecclesial ministers (as they are called in the U.S.) and missionary disciples (as they are called in Latin America) as a significant change for the church moving forward. The emergence of a committed, more prepared and active laity is one of the greater, if not the greatest of, the accomplishments of the Second Vatican Council.Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck is the Casassa Chair of Social Values and Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. He was the first executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1012/vatdeck/{/gallery}