Ad gentes

Ad gentes is the Second Vatican Council's decree on missionary activity. The title is Latin for "To the Nations," and is from the first line of the decree, as is customary with Roman Catholic documents. It establishes evangelization as one of the fundamental missions of the Catholic Church and reaffirms the tie between evangelization and charity for the poor. Ad Gentes also calls for the formation of strong Christian communities as well as strong relations with other Christians. Finally, it lays out guidelines for the training and actions of the missionaries.[2]

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum  (Latin)
Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg
Saint Peter's Basilica
Venue of the Second Vatican Council
Date11 October 1962 (11 October 1962) – 8 December 1965 (8 December 1965)
Accepted byCatholic Church
Previous council
First Vatican Council
Convoked byPope John XXIII
PresidentPope John XXIII
Pope Paul VI
Attendanceup to 2,625[1]
TopicsThe Church in itself, its sole salvific role as the one, true and complete Christian faith, also in relation to ecumenism among other religions, in relation to the modern world, renewal of consecrated life, liturgical disciplines, etc.
Documents and statements
Four Constitutions:

Three Declarations:

Nine Decrees:

Chronological list of ecumenical councils

Conciliar voteEdit

Passed by assembled bishops by a vote of 2,394 to 5, it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965.


Ad gentes focused on the factors involved in mission work. It called for the continued development of missionary acculturation. It encourages missionaries to live with the people they are attempting to convert, to absorb their ways and culture. It encourages the coordination of mission work through agencies and the cooperation with other groups and organizations within the Catholic Church and other denominations.


The numbers given correspond to the section numbers within the text.

Preface (1)Edit

  • "Divinely sent to the nations of the world to be unto them “a universal sacrament of salvation,” the Church, driven by the inner necessity of her own catholicity, and obeying the mandate of her Founder (cf. Mark 16:16), strives ever to proclaim the Gospel to all men. The Apostles themselves, on whom the Church was founded, following in the footsteps of Christ, “preached the word of truth and begot churches.” It is the duty of their successors to make this task endure “so that the word of God may run and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1) and the kingdom of God be proclaimed and established throughout the world."

1. Principles of Doctrine (2-9)Edit

  • "The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father." (Para 2)
  • "The chief means of the planting referred to is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To preach this Gospel the Lord sent forth His disciples into the whole world, that being reborn by the word of God (cf. 1 Peter 1:23), men might be joined to the Church through baptism—that Church which, as the body of the Word Incarnate, is nourished and lives by the word of God and by the eucharistic bread (cf. Acts 2:43)" (6)
  • "And so the time for missionary activity extends between the first coming of the Lord and the second, in which latter the Church will be gathered from the four winds like a harvest into the kingdom of God. For the Gospel must be preached to all nations before the Lord shall come (cf. Mark 13:10)." (Para 9)

2. Mission Work Itself 10-18)Edit

"The Church, sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, is aware that there still remains a gigantic missionary task for her to accomplish." [3]

Christian Witness (11-12)Edit

Presenting the Gospel and Gathering Together the People of God (13-14)Edit

Forming a Christian Community (15-18)Edit

The Holy Spirit gathers the people of God to be "a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people" (1 Peter 2:9)).

Christian community is a sign of God's presence in the world.

Nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist, Christian community bears witness to Christ, walks in charity and is fervent with apostolic spirit.

Christian community exists in the context of family, parish and diocese as well as in the religious life.

3. Particular Churches (19-22)Edit

  • "The church has not been really founded, and is not yet fully alive, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ among men, unless there is a laity worthy of the name working along with the hierarchy." (21)

The church is not first the clergy; it is first of all the whole people of God. Believers share a oneness and a baptismal equality that precedes the distinctions among different roles in the community.[4]

4. Missionaries (23-27)Edit

5. Planning Missionary Activity (28-34)Edit

6. Cooperation (35-41)Edit

This chapter's asserts that every member of the Body of Christ has an obligation to help the body grow. Bishops (AG 38), priests (AG 39), religious (AG 40), and laity (AG 41) all play a role. [5]

Later documentsEdit

Since the time of the Council, there have been concerns of the part of Church authorities that the missional spirit of the Church has been fading away because of the acceptance of anonymous Christianity, a teaching of Karl Rahner that all human beings have an implicit knowledge of Jesus Christ. As a result, several Church documents have been written in order to encourage more evangelism.

Evangelii nuntiandi is an apostolic exhortation issued on 8 December 1975 by Pope Paul VI following the work of the synod on the theme (of 7 September 1974 to 26 October 1980) . It deals with evangelism, and affirms the role of every Christian (and not only ordained priests) in spreading the Catholic religion.

Redemptoris Missio, subtitled "On the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate", is a papal encyclical by Pope John Paul II published on 7 December 1990, devoted to the subject of "the urgency of missionary activity" and in which he wished "to invite the Church to renew her missionary commitment.

In 2007, the Holy See reaffirmed the duty of Catholics to evangelize members of other religions, and this was largely interpreted as a clarification of Lumen gentium, against the statements of liberals and others claiming that Christian proselytism had become historically and politically outmoded.[6]

In 2013, Pope Francis published Evangelii gaudium as an apostolic exhortation and challenged the faithful to live in accordance with "missionary impulse".[7]

The legacy of Lumen Gentium, Ad Gentes and later documents has been the Church initiative for New Evangelization in the Third Millennium.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cheney, David M. "Second Vatican Council". Catholic Hierarchy. Retrieved 18 May 2011.[self-published source]
  2. ^ "Ad Gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church)". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, Georgetown University. Archived from the original on 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  3. ^ Ad Gentes 10: Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1965
  4. ^ Hahnenberg, Edward P. . A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II (Kindle Locations 878-881). St. Anthony Messenger Press.
  5. ^ Hahnenberg, Edward P (2011). A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II. St. Anthony Messenger Press.
  6. ^ Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, The Vatican, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2007
  7. ^ A Summary of Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel): Pope Francis' First Apostolic Exhortation

External linksEdit