Tender Evangelization: A Revolution from Pope Francis

The issue of Liturgy dealing with “Pastoral Liturgy and Pope Francis,” guest-edited by Katharine Harmon, looks at many aspects of Pope Francis’ ministry. Katharine Mahon writes about his “revolution of tenderness” as a way to envision evangelization in our era. She is a visiting assistant professional specialist in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Protestants and Roman Catholics alike may find in Pope Francis’ words about sharing the gospel message new ways to imagine inviting people into faith or into deeper faith. –– Melinda Quivik

The following excerpt is from Katharine Mahon’s essay “Serving the New Evangelization: Opportunities and Challenges in Catechesis and Pastoral Ministry in the Vision of Pope Francis.”


Writing on evangelization in the Catholic Church in the era of Pope Francis, Jared Dees has described how evangelization—whether the New Evangelization to the church’s own members or the ongoing evangelization to the world—must mimic Jesus’ own earthly ministry: “he healed, he proclaimed, and he taught.” Dees, like Francis, argues that healing must come first. This healing ministry might be better understood, Dees explains, as a ministry of mercy or as a revolution of tenderness. It is a turning to the other with love, meeting them where they are and accepting them as the person who they are, and seeking to know and care for them.

The initial building of relationship may not heal an individual’s deep emotional or spiritual wounds, but it spans the chasm of distance between individuals and can give participants a glimpse into the experience of God’s love. In other words, it is a ministry of learning how to receive love. For if faith in God is a trust in God’s loving promises, it is a trust arrived at only through one’s own experiences of love. Evangelization, then, is a process of transformation through and for love—being transformed into a person who knows oneself to be loved by God—and it begins with the healing work of experiencing the love of another. . . .

While the work of healing ministry falls primarily to the church’s pastoral ministers in their many roles, the next step in Dees’ pattern of modern evangelization—the work of proclamation—is shared by all men, women, and children who are called to holiness by virtue of their baptism. Thus, while the proclamation of the Gospel has a treasured place within the church’s liturgy as proclaimed and explained by ordained ministers, sharing the Gospel outside the liturgy, through word and example, is the vocation of all of the church’s members. . . .

Finally, teaching completes the church’s evangelization. The work of teaching is principally, though not exclusively, the work of the catechists. Catechists are both those who are employed by parishes and schools to teach in religious education classes and programs, and those who volunteer to aid in the ongoing religious education of a community’s members. Like the work of proclamation and the church’s healing mission, teaching is not relegated only to those who are trained for and engaged in catechetical work. Teaching is, moreover, not merely an intellectual endeavor. It is the ongoing work of all the church’ members to know and hold up the teachings of the Catholic Church, to be sure, but it is also their mission to teach the truths of scripture and tradition as witnessed by the saints, the church’s liturgies and sacramental life, and the religious practices of the faithful. The work of evangelization is healing (Jesus’ own primary ministry), then proclamation of the Gospel, and, finally, teaching so that the message and meaning of Jesus’s salvific life, death, and resurrection might be better known and lived out.


Mahon’s full essay is available in Liturgy 33, no. 2 available by personal subscription and through many libraries.

Katharine Mahon, “Serving the New Evangelization: Opportunities and Challenges in Catechesis and Pastoral Ministry in the Vision of Pope Francis,” Liturgy 33, no. 2 (2018): 20-27.

David Turnbloom