The Catholic Church's Mission with the Marginalized: An Analysis in the Light of the Teachings of Pope Francis's Evangelii Gaudium

By Alva, Reginald | International Review of Mission, May 2020 | Go to article overview

The Catholic Church's Mission with the Marginalized: An Analysis in the Light of the Teachings of Pope Francis's Evangelii Gaudium


Alva, Reginald, International Review of Mission


The church exists to serve the missio Dei and spread the kingdom of God. Proclamation of the gospel is an integral part of the church's mission. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel, Evangelii gaudium, has widened the scope of evangelization to make it more relevant to contemporary times. According to him, the church's mission of evangelization needs to include "the poor in the society" and work for "peace and dialogue within the society." In this way, Pope Francis has attempted to give a special place for the marginalized in the mission of the church. No one, especially Christians, can treat the poor and the marginalized as mere recipients of charitable or welfare works. The role of the marginalized is indispensable in the church's mission. Pope Francis has called all people of goodwill to collaborate with the marginalized to confront the unjust structures prevalent in our society, which deprive them of their legitimate rights and dignity as persons. In this paper, I shall make concrete suggestions in the light of the teachings of Evangelii gaudium to reach out to the marginalized and make them partners in spreading the kingdom of God. I shall refer to the various documents by Pope Francis that re-emphasize the need to focus on the poor and the marginalized. In addition, I will refer to social teachings of the Catholic Church and the opinions of experts in this field.

The Catholic Church's Mission with the Marginalized

King Lemuel's mother taught her son, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Prov. 31:8-9). It is interesting that in a patriarchic Israelite society, a woman's advice to her son, a king, is an apt exhortation to all leaders and people in places of authority to uphold the rights of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized. In the present time, the Holy Spirit is calling upon all people of goodwill, especially Christians, to stand in solidarity with the poor, the exploited, and the marginalized in society, which also includes Mother Earth. Pope Francis notes in the encyclical Laudato si', "A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor." (3) It is incumbent on all to create an atmosphere in the society, which safeguards the dignity and the rights of the marginalized and gives them equal opportunities to develop their maximum potential. In the light of the teachings of Evangelii gaudium, I propose the following steps, which the church as a people of God needs to take to reach out to the marginalized and make them collaborators of missio Dei.

Step 1. Restructure Power Structures within the Church

Many Christians and Christian institutions work tirelessly to provide food, clothing, and shelter to the poor. They also work for social, political, and economic equity in society. (4) Pope Francis notes, "[I]n many countries, even those where Christians are a minority, the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need." (5) However, at times the church hierarchy has failed to practise what it preaches. The various financial and sex abuse scandals by bishops and clergy reveal the dark side of the power structures within the church. (6) Moreover, some members of the hierarchy try to alienate people who do not agree with their views or their way of working. Pope Francis points to the need to dismantle the power structures within the church, which hinder the working of the Spirit and alienate the poor and the marginalized.

We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of 
belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the 
occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and 
communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they 
simple or complex, in the lives of our people. … 

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