Interview by: Željka Kolar (Hagiohr Archive)

I am intrigued by the topic of re-evangelization and, even more, the integration of hagiotherapy into re-evangelization and evangelization. Therefore, I looked for Prof. Ivančić, and in a pleasant conversation learned everything that interested me on this topic. I also thought of you, readers. I hope that the following questions are articulations of your doubts too and that the answers are solid arguments in understanding the Church, the world, and hagiotherapy.

What exactly is re-evangelization and how different is it from evangelization? 

The Church is constantly in need of renewal, change, conversion, as the document Gaudium et Spes says. She is “Ecclesia semper reformanda est”; it always needs to be reformed. By re-evangelization, then, we mean the evangelization of the Church. When we talk about evangelization, we mean that the Church should evangelize her environment, the world, those who have not yet been baptized, who have not known Jesus Christ. The Church should proclaim the Good News to them.

In his document Evangeli Nuntiandi Pope Paul VI stated that the Church is beginning to evangelize herself. Namely, because it is also made up of people, it is constantly in danger of falling away from the Gospel and Jesus Christ and falling into the formalities of ritual and prayer. She must turn completely to Jesus of Nazareth and stop being just ritual and drawn into herself. In other words, the Church must not follow the rules of religions and religiosity, but the Gospel.

To re-evangelize means to proclaim the Good News to the Church, to show her that she must get rid of her apostasy from God and accept the living Jesus.

The Church suffers when the word of Jesus has not fully entered her practice and mentality. The Church is incompetent, powerless and tragic when it is not filled with the Holy Spirit and when it does not accept the words of Jesus, his personality, when it does not associate with him. If she is not re-evangelized, the world will not be evangelized either.

Believers, on the other hand, for the most part, only formally live their Christianity. They go to church on Sundays, to religious education at school, they go on various pilgrimages and celebrations, but these are often formalities that do not touch their lives deeper, and because of that the Church is inauthentic and powerless to help itself and others. The Church is waiting for its conversion.

I think it is even good that the world is attacking her because it can help her reflect upon herself and turn to Jesus.

The Church can and should evangelize the world, but who can re-evangelize the Church?

Yes, if the Church, and therefore the Pope, bishops, priests and believers, who are to work in evangelization, themselves need conversion, the question arises – who will carry it out? Do we have to wait for Jesus to come to earth again? Will the Holy Spirit do this in some visible way, or will God send us some holy people to renew the Church?

It is not a problem, but the Church itself, from the pope, bishops, priests to the faithful, should imagine and accept re-evangelization as its first task and first show the fruits of conversion to Jesus Christ – to celebrate the Eucharist in a new way, so that believers go out from the Church into the world as holy, transformed people.

By not having priestly and religious vocations and by leaving parishes empty, God is simply calling, urging us to take that first step. The Church needs to give up her countless tasks of accomplishing nothing, and to think about herself and see that she has fallen away from the Gospel in many ways. This will happen sooner or later because the priests themselves realize that their prayers and the way of celebrating the Eucharist must change. There is a new refreshment coming that I feel inside the Church, and it will succeed if we dare to go to the end.

Has not humanity in the 21st century, with advanced science, perfect technology, available knowledge, and all possible psychological training and practices, outgrown the need for evangelization?

The world has no other way to become better than only if the Church renews herself and thus, the world finds the means to renew itself. It is necessary for the Church to carry out re-evangelization, and for the world, it is necessary to recognize man’s spiritual dimension, his wounding and possibilities of healing.

Despite all the movements, all the scientific results and alternative offers, man does not change at all. Neither schools, nor colleges, nor the fact that someone becomes a Doctor of Science, change man or his life at all. Nothing in the world can change man. With all the knowledge we don’t even know what man is nor have we discovered what should change in him to become better. That is what the world and science lack and that is what even the Church and theology lack. Man is primarily a spiritual soul, and by it he speaks, thinks, creates, is responsible, free and conscious… and should be able to put an end to his evil, the injustices he does.

However, we have no power against evil in the 21st century, nor will we have it in the 22nd. Since all of mankind is at the level of evil, which we in the Church recognize as original sin, it has no power to destroy evil and death. With the advancement of science, we only turn out to be even weaker, more dependent, and more powerless. And man cries out from within to be helped.

Why is there such a gap in communication between the Church and the world?

On the one hand, the Church seems to place the whole moral structure of man on the level of religiosity, the level of relationship with God, where then we have logic – if I sin, God will punish me, so God is a strict judge. On the other hand, people in the world, atheists and members of other religions find no arguments why we should not sin. Today in the world we have no one who would be competent to say why evil should not be done and why good should be done. The world has only a legal system that sanctions those who have harmed someone. But what about naughty people, who hate, who quarrel with a neighbour, who are lazy, addicted, etc.? Who takes them into account?

So we have two extremes: the separation of the Church from the world, but also the world from the fundamental cognition of man. Neither the Church speaks of man, nor the world. The Church does not see the most serious diseases of man, spiritual diseases, at all, but speaks of man’s insults to God, from which God’s punishment follows. Of course, people then prefer to avoid such a Church. And the world again does not seem to believe that there is sin and evil at all, and that is because science has not studied the spiritual dimension and is incapable of explaining evil. Man’s deepest problems, such as disease, addiction, and hatred, are neither scientifically nor theologically put on the right level.

So both the world and the Church were separated from the centre, from man, he was left alone. The Church looks only to God, and the world looks at man only on his psychosomatic level. The Church must approach man, understand him, and save him as Jesus of Nazareth did, and the world must know through its science who this man is. Then we will become one because the Church will be able to heal the fundamentals in man from God’s side, and science from the human side. Then we will have one society and then the Church will be the soul of society. What will free both the Church and the world for mutual understanding and communication is a thorough study of man as man – his spiritual dimension.

To what extent is hagiotherapy synonymous with evangelization and re-evangelization, and how different is it? 

Hagiotherapy is a thorough preparation for evangelization and re-evangelization. I would also introduce here the term ‘spiritual renewal of the world’. For, re-evangelization and evangelization concern the Church, and spiritual renewal is the realization of man’s spiritual dimension, its woundedness and its healing.

The Church needs hagiotherapeutic research to get to know man more deeply and to discover how she affects him. In this way, the Church would cease to be an institution that defends God and leaves man sick and unsaved. After all, Jesus came to defend man, not God; God does not need to be defended because he is an absolute Being.

On the other hand, the world needs a science that explores man in his spiritual dimension because so far in science man has not found himself.

Is evangelization more necessary than re-evangelization?

The Church cannot evangelize if it is not re-evangelized. It needs re-evangelization, and the world needs evangelization as soon as possible. Because the world needs to hear as soon as possible that God is love.

The Church must therefore proclaim, let the world know that God loves man immeasurably, does not punish him, but wants to save him, watches over him and loves every man from the moment of conception, that the world is filled with God’s immeasurable love – the Church must proclaim it.

For now, however, there is a stronger proclamation of sin in the Church – we criticize each other because we sin. The Church cries out to the world why it does not repent, and the world blames the Church for why she sins and why she does not correct herself. We are both human, and we cannot fix ourselves. We must ascend to the spiritual dimension where then man is connected with the absolute God, and only then can there be a transformation of the Church and the world.

Will evangelization proceed spontaneously after the re-evangelization of the Church and not as an assignment that the Church has to perform?

It is perfectly normal. If I am re-evangelized, if I love Jesus Christ, then I cannot keep silent about what I have seen, heard and experienced. As Christ’s converted man, I “radiate”, it can already be seen on my face as on the screen that I am different, and that already changes the people around me, even if I don’t say anything to anyone.

When we are with God, He cleanses us from evil and sin, and we become people who change the world; that relationship to Almighty God “radiates” from us. That means re-evangelizing. Give the Church to turn on its light. It is impossible that the world does not see this and does not begin to change, and this is then evangelization.

Many think that evangelization is preaching to others. We need to testify, Jesus says, and he sends us as witnesses, but that first means that people notice that we are different, and then they want to become like that themselves. Love and kindness are immensely attractive, and they change people. Evangelization is not a problem for me, the problem is the re-evangelization of the Church, that is, of Christians.

Will we one day be able to say that we are as evangelized and re-evangelized as we can say that we have finished primary and secondary school?

If re-evangelization and evangelization were learning, then we could say that we have learned. Since it is life, entering into ever greater spaces of the Spirit, and the Spirit is limitless, re-evangelization is entering into the process of infinite development, entering into the absoluteness of God. It is therefore a constant movement. It is important to get into that process. What we lack is that we are not in the process, that we are outside of it and do not realize at all that it needs to be entered into. It is hard to be man, burdened with psychophysical requirements and limitations, but it is nice to be man when we realize that psychophysical reality is not decisive and primary, so we turn to good and love.

What liberates more – hagiotherapy or evangelization?

Evangelization and re-evangelization free us for a relationship with God and for victory over every sin because it is about accepting God’s power within us. That is why re-evangelization and evangelization are immensely important to humanity. Hagiotherapy is, I have already said, preparation for evangelization and re-evangelization. For, man can heal himself to some extent, he can become noble and decide for the good. St. Paul tells us that it is up to man to decide not to do evil, but it is not up to him to carry it out. It is, therefore, a matter of two stages, and I, therefore, believe that today both the world and the Church first need hagiotherapy as a precondition for us to understand and begin evangelization. Because with it we realize, we begin to do so, we see our limits then we merge with what we still have, and we have immense possibilities.

Finally, I believe that we need to study Jesus Christ thoroughly and scientifically.

And hagiotherapy emphasizes that God and Jesus Christ can also be known scientifically, regardless of the Church, sacraments and rites because we can see Jesus Christ as a genius historical figure, a sage, and we can study his deeds and words and thus be in contact with him. So there are two ways to get in touch with Jesus. One is through the Church, his Body and the sacraments, and the other is through studying his person and seeing that it pays to be like him and become good. Whoever encounters Jesus Christ changes. And for the Church to evangelize, to witness to people about Christ, she must have Christ, Christ must be in her whole being.

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Prethodni članakThe meaning and the essence of New Evangelization
Sljedeći članakThe experience of the Holy Spirit…
Tomislav Ivančić (EJ)
He was born in Davor in 1938. After studying philosophy and theology in Zagreb and Rome, he was ordained a priest of the Zagreb Archdiocese in 1966. After achieving a master's degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he returned to Zagreb in 1971, where he became a professor at the Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb. He is the head of the Chair of Fundamental Theology, and was one of the editors of the Theological Review. Areas of his scientific work are philosophy, theology and literature. He explores the relationship between philosophy and theology, faith and science, atheism and religiosity, revelation and faith, the Church and ecclesial communities, Christianity and religion, the phenomenon of sects and issues of theological epistemology. His special field of interest is the study of man's existential-spiritual dimension, where he discovers the way of modern evangelization and the necessity of the development of spiritual medicine, which, along with somatic and psychological, is indispensable in the complete healing of man, especially in the healing of spiritual diseases and addictions. For this purpose, he developed the method of hagiotherapy and founded in 1990 in Zagreb the Center for Spiritual Help, of which he is the head. From 1971, in addition to working at the faculty, he was a student religious teacher in Zagreb, the initiator of the prayer movement within the Church of the Croats, the founder of a religious society called the Prayer and Word Community(MiR), and the leader of numerous seminars for spiritual renewal and evangelization at home and abroad. After completing his studies and scientific doctorate in fundamental theology at ... (Read more at https://hagio.hr/tomislav-ivancic/).