Tag - Francis

Pope Francis: homily for World Day of the Poor



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. Below, please find the full text of his homily on the occasion, in its official English translation

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We have the joy of breaking the bread of God’s word, and shortly, we will have the joy of breaking and receiving the Bread of the Eucharist, food for life’s journey. All of us, none excluded, need this, for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.

The Gospel parable speaks of gifts. It tells us that we have received talents from God, “according to ability of each” (Mt 25:15). Before all else, let us realize this: we do have talents; in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God, who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children. And God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission.

Indeed, as the loving and demanding Father that he is, he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But whereas the first two servants do what they are charged, the third does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says – and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (v. 25). As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground. But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans (cf. v. 14). It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).

The unworthy servant, despite receiving a talent from the Master who loves to share and multiply his gifts, guarded it jealously; he was content to keep it safe. But someone concerned only to preserve and maintain the treasures of the past is not being faithful to God. Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right “omission”.

Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.

How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell. God greatly appreciates the attitude described in today’s first reading that of the “good wife”, who “opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:10.20). Here we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.

There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.

And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?” In fleeting riches, with which the world is never satisfied, or in the wealth bestowed by God, who gives eternal life? This is the choice before us: to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven. Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give, for “those who store up treasures for themselves, do not grow rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21).

So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us. May the Lord, who has compassion for our poverty and needs, and bestows his talents upon us, grant us the wisdom to seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis: Cultural colonization ends in persecution



(Vatican Radio) Cultural and ideological colonization does not tolerate differences and makes everything the same, resulting in the persecution even of believers. Those were Pope Francis’ reflections in his homily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, which centered on the martyrdom of Eleazar, narrated in the book of Maccabees from the First Reading (Maccabees 6: 18-31).

The Pope noted that there are three main types of persecution: a purely religious persecution; a “mixed” persecution that has both religious and political motivations, like the Thirty Years War or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre”; and a kind of cultural persecution, when a new culture comes in wanting “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything: the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.” It is this last type of persecution that led to the martyrdom of Eleazar.

The account of this persecution began in the reading from Monday’s liturgy. Some of the Jewish people, seeing the power and the magnificent beauty of Antiochus Ephiphanes (a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire), wanted to make an alliance with him. They wanted to be up-to-date and modern, and so they approached the king and asked him to allow them “to introduce the pagan institutions of other nations” among their own people. Not necessarily the ideas or gods of those nations, the Pope noted, but the institutions. In this way, this people brought in a new culture, “new institutions” in order to make a clean break with everything: their “culture, religion, law.” This modernizing, this renewal of everything, the Pope emphasized, is a true ideological colonization that wanted to impose on the people of Israel “this unique practice,” according to which everything was done in a particular way, and there was no freedom for other things. Some people accepted it because it seemed good to be like the others; and so the traditions were left aside, and the people begin to live in a different way.

But to defend the “true traditions” of the people, a resistance rose up, like that of Eleazar, who was very dignified, and respected by all. The book of Maccabees, the Pope said, tells the story of these martyrs, these heroes. A persecution born of ideological colonization always proceeds in the same way: destroying, attempting to make everyone the same. Such persecutions are incapable of tolerating differences.

The key word highlighted by the Pope, beginning with Monday’s reading is “perverse root” – that is Antiochus Epifanes: the root that came to introduce into the people of God, “with power,” these new, pagan, worldly” customs:

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too. But we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the last century, which was a new cultural thing: [Trying to make] everyone equal; [so that] there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God. It is the perverse root. Faced with this cultural colonization, which arises from the perversity of an ideological root, Eleazar himself has become [a contrary] root.

In fact, Eleazar dies thinking of the young people, leaving them a noble example. “He gives [his] life; for love of God and of the law he is made a root for the future.” So, in the face of that perverse root that produces this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives [his] life for the future to grow.”

What had come from the kingdom of Antioch was a novelty. But not all new things are bad, the Pope said: just think of the Gospel of Jesus, which was a novelty. When it comes to novelties, the Pope said, one has to be able to make distinctions:

“There is a need to discern ‘the new things’: Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root? But before, [for example] yes, it was a sin to kill children; but today it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty. Yesterday, the differences were clear, as God made it, creation was respected; but today [people say] we are a little modern… you act… you understand … things are not so different … and things are mixed together.”

 The “new things” of God, on the other hand, never makes “a negotiation” but grows and looks at the future:

“Ideological and cultural colonizations only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything. And with this attitude of making everyone equal and cancelling out differences, they commit, they make an particularly ugly blasphemy against God the Creator. Every time a cultural and ideological colonization comes along, it sins against God the Creator because it wants to change Creation as it was made by Him. And against this fact that has occurred so often in history, there is only one medicine: bearing witness; that is, martyrdom.

Eleazar, in fact, gives the witness by giving his life, considering the inheritance he will leave by his example: “I have lived thus. Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God.” Eleazar does not think about leaving behind money or anything of that kind, but looks to the future, “the legacy of his testimony,” to that testimony that would be “a promise of fruitfulness for the young.” It becomes, therefore, a root to give life to others. And the Pope concludes with the hope that that example “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis to lead Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and DRC



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 23rd in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30pm Rome time.

Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, has organized the Prayer and confirmed that when Pope Francis heard of the initiative he made it known that he wanted to be personally involved. 

Christians across the world are invited to pray together on that day and time for Peace in the world, and above all in South Sudan and in DRC, two conflict ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of terrible humanitarian crises.

Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico, the Associate Executive Director of Solidarity in Rome, told journalists that the main thing people ask her to do when she travels to South Sudan, is to tell the world what is happening in their country.

The world’s newest country spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, causing one fourth of the 15 million-strong population to flee their homes.

Sister Yudith described the continuing violence and abuse taking place in South Sudan as “Silent Genocide”.

She told Linda Bordoni what it means for the suffering people of South Sudan to know that the Pope and Christians across the world are praying for them:

Listen:

Sister Yudith said that for them, to know that people outside of South Sudan, in Rome, and in other places are praying for them, is to know that “we have the world with us”.

“For them it a source of strength and hope for the future to feel that they are not alone, and this is important because otherwise where can they find the courage to resist what they are enduring now as refugees, victims…” she said.

And highlighting the many abuses the most vulnerable people are enduring including the use of rape as a weapon of war, Sr Yudith said “to know that people are talking about this means that they too, as human beings count”.

“They feel they don’t count for anybody: for politicians they don’t count, they don’t exist – they are only fighting for power and for money.”

She says most people don’t even know where South Sudan is or the fact that it is the newt country.

To acknowledge and to pray for them, she said, is to give them dignity and saying “we are with you”.

She said that notwithstanding the terrible events that caused the new nation to disintegrate into conflict the people still want to be one.

She explained that they came from 20 years of war, they did not have a national identity, and while the warmongers are vying for power and control the new generations, the women and all ordinary people are convinced they can all live together peacefully.

Sr Yudith also spoke of Pope Francis’ interest in the nation and of how it has positively impacted the desire to set in motion some kind of peace process.

“He is waiting for them to begin something so he can come and lend his support, but they have to begin…” she said.
       

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis sends message to conference on Paul VI



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to participants at a conference taking place in Rome on the theme ‘Pope Paul VI, the pope of modernity”.

In the message Pope Francis notes that the conference is taking place 50 years after the publication of his predecessor’s encyclical ‘Popolorum Progressio’, often described as one of the key Catholic Social Teaching documents.

Listen to our report:



That encyclical, he said, sought to be a “solemn appeal for concerted action in favour of integral human development”. The appeal remains just as urgent today, Pope Francis said, as poverty increases and peace is threatened on a daily basis in different parts of the world.

In order to build peace, he continued,Pope we must eliminate the causes of discord, starting with injustice, since peace is the work of justice. Thus, he said, the conference reflections focused on ‘justice among peoples’ is particularly topical,  inspired by a sense of ‘The Gospel in motion’, bringing Christian faith, hope and charity to the men and women of today.

Finally, Pope Francis noted that the conference is also exploring the theme of Paul VI’s love for Italy. He emphasized the fact that the soul of the Italian people bears witness to a genuine solidarity which is at the basis of all our human communities. We must never tire of promoting this witness of authentic humanism, he said, without which our dignity is at risk.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis at General Audience: English Summary



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has begun a new series of catecheses focussing on the Eucharist. He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience.

Please find below the English Summary of the Pope’s cathechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Today begins a new series of catecheses devoted to the Eucharist.  The Mass is the very “heart” of the Church and the source of her life.  How many martyrs have died to defend the Eucharist!  Their witness confirms our Lord’s promise that by partaking of his body and blood we pass with him from death to life (cf. Jn 6:54).  At every celebration of Mass, our lives, offered in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, become, in him, an offering of praise and thanksgiving pleasing to the Father, for the salvation of the world.  The liturgical renewal called for by Second Vatican Council sought to help the faithful understand more fully and share more fruitfully in the Eucharist.  At Mass, Jesus becomes truly present and allows us in some way, like the Apostle Thomas, to touch his flesh and renew our faith in him.   In coming weeks, we will seek to grow in our appreciation of this great gift, so as to share more fully in its spiritual riches and beauty, which give ultimate meaning and direction to our lives.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis meets ‘The Elders’ to discuss global concerns



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had a private meeting at Santa Marta on Monday afternoon with members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights around the world.

The Elders was established 10 years ago by former South African President Nelson Mandela and is currently marking the group’s 10th anniversary with a campaign called “Walk Together”  – continuing Mandela’s long walk to freedom.

Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to two of the founding members of The Elders, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, former Irish President, former UN high commissioner for human rights and, more recently, UN envoy on climate change. Philippa began by asking Kofi Annan about the issues they were able to discuss during their papal audience…

Listen:



The former UN leader says it was important for four representatives of the group to come to the Vatican because they share many common interests and values. He says they wanted to engage with Pope Francis and “discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues”.

Peace, migration, climate change, gender equality

Among the areas of discussion, he continues, were the questions of migration, nuclear weapons peace, mediation and conflicts, as well as climate change and gender equality, that is “the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role”. He adds “I hope this will be the first of many meetings”.

Shared efforts to be a voice for marginalised

Former Irish President Mary Robinson says the group came to express “an appreciation for the role he is playing and the fact that he, like The Elders, is trying to be a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, trying to deal with the most difficult areas of conflict.

She says they also spoke about countries including Venezuela and Congo, as well as focusing on climate change, all issues, she notes, where “the pope has given leadership”.

Common values, common sense of purpose

Robinson says she was also struck by the “warmth and affection and humour” in their meeting. “I was very struck by how relaxed the pope was with us, how much he joked”, she says, adding that Pope Francis seemed to “feel at home” as they discussed “common values, a common moral purpose, common problems”

I think he could be a future ‘Elder’, Annan says and Robinson quips, “I think he’s a Super Elder”.

Over the coming days we will be featuring further excerpts from this interview, as Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson discuss the COP23 climate conference, gender equality in politics, the role of diplomacy and peacemaking, migration and refugees, as well as the situation in Myanmar as Pope Francis prepares to travel there at the end of November.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis warns warmongers: the only fruit of war is death



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of All Souls Day on Thursday commemorating all those who have died in war, reminding humanity not to forget past lessons and warning that the only fruit yielded by conflict is death. 

His words of warning and his powerful condemnation of warmongers came during his homily at the Sicily-Rome American War Cemetery some 50 kilometers south of Rome.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:



Taking the occasion to reiterate his deep conviction that “wars produce nothing more than cemeteries and death” the Pope said he chose to visit a war cemetery as a sign “in a moment when our humanity seems not to have learned the lesson, or doesn’t want to learn it.” 

The Nettuno US War Cemetery and Memorial is the final resting place for thousands of men who died during military operations carried out to liberate Italy –  from Sicily to Rome – from Nazi Germany.  Its chapel contains a list of the 3095 missing.

Pope Francis arrived at the War Cemetery early in the afternoon so that he could spend time reflecting and paying his personal respects to the 7,860 – mostly young – soldiers who gave their lives in the name of freedom and respect for humanity.

Walking in poignant silence between the rows and rows of tombstones, Pope Francis bowed to read some of the names and dates inscribed in the white marble: stark reminders of the fact – as he stated during his homily – that the only fruit of war is death.

Please God: no more war

To the somber congregation gathered on this holy day to honour all those who have died, Pope Francis said he chose to come to a place where thousands died in bloody combat, to appeal to the Lord – yet again “Please God: stop them. No more war. No more useless carnage.”

The Pope delivered his off-the-cuff homily with an emotion charged by the dramatic setting provided by hundreds of thousands of graves of young men whose hopes – he said – were cruelly severed, at a time in which the world is again at war and is even preparing to step-up war.

“Please God – he prayed – everything is lost with war”

There are men today who are doing everything to declare war and step up conflict

“There are men, Francis said, who are doing everything to declare war and to enter into conflict. They end up destroying themselves and everything.”

Remarking on the fact that today is a day of hope, but also of tears, he said that the tears wept by those who have lost husbands, sons and friends at war should never be forgotten.

Humanity does not seem to want to learn the lesson

“But humanity, the Pope continued, has not learnt the lesson and seems not to want to learn the lesson”.

Let us pray, he said, in a special way for all those young people caught up in conflict, “many of whom are dying every day in this piecemeal war”.

And he remembered the thousands of innocent children who are also paying the price of war.

“Let us ask the Lord, Pope Francis concluded, to give us the grace to weep”.        

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis prays for terror attack victims



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, during his Angelus address on the feast of All Saints on Wednesday, expressed his deep sorrow following recent terrorist attacks in Somalia, Afghanistan and on Tuesday in New York.

Speaking from the window of his studio in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father deplored such acts of violence, adding, “I pray for the deceased, for the wounded and their family members. We ask the Lord to convert the hearts of terrorists and free the world from hatred and homicidal folly that abuses the name of God spreading death.”

Following the recitation of the Marian Prayer, the Pope had a special greeting for participants of the Race of the Saints mini marathon which was run in celebration of this feast day.

Before concluding his address, the Pope reminded the faithful that he would be travelling to the American Cemetery of Nettuno, South of Rome and then to the Fosse Ardeatine National Monument on November 2nd to mark the feast on Feast of all Souls. Pope Francis, said,” I ask you to accompany me with prayer in these two stages of memory and suffrage for the victims of war and violence. Wars produce nothing but cemeteries and death: that is why I wanted to give this sign at a time when our humanity seems not to have learned the lesson or does not want to learn it.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis tells Canadian youth in video message to ‘build bridges’



(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a video message to the young people of Canada gathered in preparation for the Synod of Bishops 2018.

The Holy Father invited them to build bridges through social communications, without letting their youthful enthusiasm for the Gospel be snuffed out.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:



In his video message to the young people of Canada, Pope Francis reflected on the “marvels of technology” which now allow “encounters and exchanges that were unthinkable until a short while ago.”

He invited them to use new channels of communication positively and “not to let them be ruined by those bent only on exploiting and destroying them”.

Spread youthful joy of Gospel

Rather, the Pope told them to flood the places they live “with the joy and enthusiasm” typical of their age and “to water the world and history with the joy of the Gospel”.

He said this is possible only through an encounter with Jesus, “who has intrigued you and drawn you to be with him”, he said.

“Don’t let your youth be stolen from you,” Pope Francis told the young people of Canada.

“Don’t build walls of division. Build bridges, like this one which you are crossing and which allows you to communicate from the shores of two oceans.”

Ever-present call to discipleship

Pope Francis went on to remind them that Jesus’ call to discipleship can never be drowned out by the noise of modern communications.

“Jesus turns his gaze to you and invites you to come to him… Have you heard his voice?… I’m sure that, even though din and daze seem to reign in the world, this call continues to sound in your being, calling you to open up to the fullness of joy.”

This, he said, is possible only when they have sought out expert spiritual guides “to discover God’s project” for their life.

Courageous young people

Pope Francis also told the young people that the Church needs courageous young people.

“The world and the Church need courageous young people, who are not afraid of adversity, who confront any difficulty, keeping their eyes and heart open to reality, so that no one may be rejected, fall victim to injustice or violence, or be deprived of their dignity as a human person.”

The Holy Father said he had no doubt their “young hearts” would remain open to the cry for help of their age mates, “who seek freedom, work, studies, and the possibility to give meaning to their lives.”

Open to Christ

Finally, Pope Francis invited them to open themselves to Christ.

“Let him speak to you, embrace you, console you, heal your wounds, and dissolve your doubts and fears. Thus you will be ready for the fascinating adventure of life.”

Jesus, he said, “is with you and awaits from you a resounding ‘Here I am’.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis: letter to Card. Filoni on World Mission Sunday



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, on occasion of the 2017 iteration of World Mission Sunday. In the letter, the Holy Father reflects on the upcoming centenary of the great missionary charter of the 20th century, the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, promulgated on November 30th, 1919.

Below, please find the full text of the letter in its official English translation

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To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal Fernando Filoni
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

On 30 November 2019, we will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, with which Pope Benedict XV sought to give new impetus to the missionary task of proclaiming the Gospel.  In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict that he himself called a “useless slaughter,”[1] the Pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous.  “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,”[2] he wrote, firmly calling for the rejection of any form of particular interest, inasmuch as the proclamation and the love of the Lord Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works, are the sole purpose of missionary activity.  Benedict XV thus laid special emphasis on the missio ad gentes, employing the concepts and language of the time, in an effort to revive, particularly among the clergy, a sense of duty towards the missions.

That duty is a response to Jesus’ perennial command to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  Obeying this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church: in the words of the Second Vatican Council, it is her “essential task,”[3] for the Church is “missionary by nature.”[4]  “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelize.”[5]  The Council went on to say that, if the Church is to remain faithful to herself and to preach Jesus crucified and risen for all, the living and merciful Saviour, then “prompted by the Holy Spirit, she must walk the same path Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice.”[6]  In this way, she will effectively proclaim the Lord, “model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which all aspire.”[7]

 What Pope Benedict XV so greatly desired almost a century ago, and the Council reiterated some fifty years ago, remains timely.  Even now, as in the past, “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 an enormous missionary task for her to accomplish.”[8]  In this regard, Saint John Paul II noted that “the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion,” and indeed, “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.”[9]  As a result, in words that I would now draw once more to everyone’s attention, Saint John Paul exhorted the Church to undertake a “renewed missionary commitment”, in the conviction that missionary activity “renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive.  Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!  It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support.”[10]

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, drawing from the proceedings of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met to reflect on the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, I once more set this urgent summons before the whole Church.  There I wrote, “John Paul II asked us to recognize that ‘there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel’ to those who are far from Christ, ‘because this is the first task of the Church.’  Indeed, ‘today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church’ and ‘the missionary task must remain foremost.’ What would happen if we were to take these words seriously?  We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity.”[11] 

I am convinced that this challenge remains as urgent as ever. “[It] has a programmatic significance and important consequences.  I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion that cannot leave things as they presently are.  ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.  Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’”[12]  Let us not fear to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, “a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.  The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself.  As John Paul II told the Bishops of Oceania, ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’”[13]

The Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.  May the approaching centenary of that Letter serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past.  Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel.  In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict, may the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear, be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervour, and instil trust and hope in everyone.

In the light of this, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.  The Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal.  May the love for the Church’s mission, which is “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,”[14] grow ever stronger!

I entrust you, venerable Brother, the Congregation which you head, and the Pontifical Missionary Societies with the work of preparing for this event, especially by raising awareness among the particular Churches, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and among associations, movements, communities and other ecclesial bodies.  May the Extraordinary Missionary Month prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.  May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.[15]

From the Vatican, 22 October 2017
XXIX Sunday of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint John Paul II
World Mission Sunday

[1] Letter to the Leaders of the Warring Peoples, 1 August 1917: AAS IX (1917), 421-423.

[2] Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, 30 November 1919: AAS 11 (1919), 445.

[3] Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 7 December 1965, 7: AAS 58 (1966), 955.

[4] Ibid., 2: AAS 58 (1966), 948.

[5] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 14: AAS 68 (1976), 13.

[6] Decree Ad Gentes, 5: AAS 58 (1966), 952.

[7] Ibid., 8: AAS 58 (1966), 956-957.

[8] Ibid., 10: AAS 58 (1966), 959.

[9] Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, 1: AAS 83 (1991), 249.

[10] Ibid., 2: AAS 83 (1991), 250-251.

[11] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 15: AAS 105 (2013), 1026.

[12] Ibid., 25: AAS 105 (2013), 1030.

[13] Ibid., 27: AAS 105 (2013), 1031.

[14] Ibid., 268: AAS 105 (2013), 1128.

[15] Ibid., 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.

(from Vatican Radio)



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