Church Would Vanish If It Didn't Talk About Christ, Says Theologian

Distinguishes Proselytism from Evangelization

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ROME, MARCH 13, 2003 ( If the Church did not talk about Christ, it would «cease to exist,» says theologian Severino Dianich.

The professor, of the Florence-based School of Theology of Central Italy, addressed a conference here on «The First Proclamation,» organized by the Italian episcopal conference’s Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith.

«Among today’s Christians,» Dianich said, «there is widespread difficulty in defining the essential content of one’s faith,» especially when meeting nonbelievers, or «threshold Christians,» namely, those who only draw near to the Christian community every now and then or who remain on the margin.

In his address, reported by the Italian bishops’ SIR agency, the theologian said that the Church cannot exist «if the communicative act of the faith is missing; […] if it is not oriented to others.»

In this connection, Dianich said that it is necessary to clarify two prejudices that are turned into accusations against believers: the accusation of «intolerance,» in proclaiming the Gospel to those who do not believe; and the centuries-old conflict between the Church and the modern «liberal or democratic» society.

To surmount these problems, Dianich clarified the difference between «proselytism» and «evangelization.» The second, he explained, «is concerned with the good of the person, regardless of whether he is for or against the proposal of faith.»

Regarding the relation with society, Dianich recalled that the Church, in proclaiming the Gospel, is at the «global service of the needs of the human family,» which means that its action is not only directed to believers, but also to nonbelievers.

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