Summary of Vatican II’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church “Ad Gentes”

Background Notes (click here)


  • The Church is “a universal sacrament of salvation” (LG 48).

Ch.1: Principles of Doctrine

  • Trinitarian mission – the plan of the Father through Christ’s redemptive work now carried on in the power of the Spirit.
  • The Church is, by Her very nature, missionary. Christ continues His work in the Church. He sends the Church to “reconcile the world to Himself” (3).
  • Missionary activity = evangelization! special undertakings by people in this time between the 1st and 2nd coming of Christ, sent by Church, carry out the preaching of the Gospel, plant the Church to those who do not yet believe Christ.
    • To convert all nations to Christ (so all may pray “Our Father” = Trinitarian again).
    • Necessary because it is God’s will & an act of charity.
      • Even when we know there are some who, under invincible ignorance, do not know the Gospel, through the mercy of God and His mystery, can be saved.
    • To bring all into Christ’s Church through baptism.
      • The paramount piece proclaimed must be Christ’s own words, “Repent, and believe the Gospel.”
      • The preaching is supported by the sacraments which bring God to man.

Ch.2: Missionary Work Itself

  • Article 1: Christian witness – witness to Christianity by authentic life. Be familiar with cultural traditions. Dialogue well. Charity must be the driving force for all evangelistic zeal. Share with all regardless of “race, creed, or social condition; it looks for neither gain nor gratitude ”(12).
  • Article 2: Preaching the Gospel and Gathering together the People of God – Restore the catechumenate. Make it a true formation in morality and life. Involve the entire Christian community. Do not force the faith.
  • Article 3: Forming the Christian Community – Missionaries must strive to build up and form Christian communities not only amongst their fellow missionaries, but amongst those they minister to. As much as possible, local churches should form themselves of local Christians who are drawn into the religious life of the Church and serve the local community as bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity. Religious life, both active and contemplative, should be fostered and it should not be forgotten that the contemplative orders are instrumental in the fruitful evangelization of the world.

Ch.3: Particular Churches

  • All particular churches are called to mission even if they suffer from a shortage of vocations.
  • Those churches with plentiful resources should assist others and “this mission action should also furnish help to those churches, founded long since, which are in a certain state of regression or weakness” (19).
  • Bishops especially must lead the local church and act a “herald of the Faith, who leads new disciples to Christ” (20).

Ch.4: Missionaries

  • A unique call within the call: All disciples of Christ are called to share and spread the Gospel, but some are called especially to be preachers to nations.
  • Requirements for missionaries: They must not be ashamed of the Cross and must be humble as their Master was humble. They must be willing to suffer all, even to shed their blood.
  • Training: As such, these missionaries need to be prepared “by a special spiritual and moral training” (25). This training should take into consideration the universality of the Church as well as the diverse mission nation. Familiarity with the customs of the peoples the missionary is sent to administer to is needed as well as fluency in the native tongue so as to share the Gospel most efficaciously.

Ch.5: Planning Missionary Activity

  • General Organizations: Synod of Bishops.
  • Congregation for Propaganda.
  • Diocese & Bishop work.

Ch.6: Cooperation

  • Missionary duty of whole people of God: All sons of the Church “should spend their forces in the work of evangelization.” (36). They do this first by leading a profoundly Christian life.
  • Missionary duty of bishops & priests: Bishops are the leaders of their flock and he must work to stimulate, promote, and direct “the work for the missions, [and] make the mission spirit and zeal of the People of God present and as it is were visible, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary” (38) This includes priests and laity partaking in the mission of the Church.
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