1. The ecclesiological reflection of the Second Vatican Council, together with the considerable social and cultural changes of recent decades, has resulted in various Particular Churches having to reorganise the manner in which the pastoral care of Parish communities are assigned. This has made it possible to initiate new experiences, enhancing the dimension of communion and implementing, under the guidance of pastors, a harmonious synthesis of charisms and vocations at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel, which better corresponds to the demands of evangelisation today.
Pope Francis, at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, recalled the importance of “creativity”, meaning thereby “seeking new ways”, that is “seeking how best to proclaim the Gospel”; in respect of this, the Holy Father concluded by saying, “the Church, and also the Code of Canon Law, gives us innumerable possibilities, much freedom to seek these things”.
2. The situations outlined in the following Instruction, represent a valuable opportunity for pastoral conversion that is essentially missionary. Parish communities will find herein a call to go out of themselves, offering instruments for reform, even structural, in a spirit of communion and collaboration, of encounter and closeness, of mercy and solicitude for the proclamation of the Gospel.
3. Pastoral conversion is one of the central themes in the “new phase of evangelisation” that the Church is called to foster today, whereby Christian communities be ever more centres conducive to an encounter with Christ.
The Holy Father, in this regard, recommends that: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37)”.
4. Urged on by this concern, the Church “faithful to her own tradition and at the same time conscious of her universal mission, she can enter into communion with the various civilizations, to their enrichment and the enrichment of the Church herself”. The fruitful and creative encounter between the Gospel and the culture leads to true progress: on the one hand, the Word of God is incarnate in the history of men, thus renews it; on the other hand, “the Church […] can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life”, enhancing thereby, in our present age, the mission entrusted to her by Christ.
5. The Church proclaims that the Word, “became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14). This Word of God, who loves to dwell in our midst, in his inexhaustible richness, was received the world over by diverse peoples, inspiring in them the most noble of aspirations, such as the desire for God, the dignity of every human life, equality among men and respect for difference within the single human family, dialogue as a means to participation, a longing for peace, welcome as an expression of fraternity and solidarity, together with a responsible care for creation.
It is unthinkable, therefore, that such newness, whose propagation to the ends of the earth remains incomplete, abates or, worse still, disappears. In order for the journey of the Word to continue, the Christian community must make a determined missionary decision “capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation”.