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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Encouragement for the Mission

AT 11:00am today, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies.


Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Pontifical Mission Societies

Your Eminence,
Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you with joy at the conclusion of your General Assembly and I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for his words.  With him, I greet all the Superiors, the Secretaries General, the National Directors and all of you who are present.

You are well aware of my preoccupation with the Pontifical Mission Societies, very often reduced to an organization that collects and distributes - in the name of the Pope - economic assistance for the Churches that are most in need.  I know that you are looking for new, more appropriate ways, more ecclesiastical methods to develop your service to the universal mission of the Church.  In this process of urgent reform, let us count on the support of the intercession of Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions - the Ugandan martyrs - whose liturgical memorial is being observed today.

To renew both ardour and passion, the spiritual engine that powered the apostolic activity of countless missionary saints and martyrs, I have gratefully accepted your proposal - advanced by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples - to set aside some time for prayer and reflection on the mission ad gentes.  I will ask the entire Church to devote the month of October 2019 to this purpose, for in that year we will be celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud penned by Pope Benedict XV.  In this most important document of his Magisterium on the mission, the Pope recalled how necessary the virtue of holiness of life is in order for an apostle's life to be efficacious; I recommend, therefore, an ever stronger union between the gospel and all peoples.  This is more essential for our world, even today.   Men and women distinguished by their zeal and holiness, are increasingly needed for the Church and for her mission.  Whoever preaches God, is a man of God, exhorted Benedict XV (cf Apostolic Letter Maximum illud, 30 November 1919.

Renewing oneself requires conversion, and it requires living mission as an ongoing opportunity to proclaim Christ, to let Him be encountered by bearing witness and making others participants in our personal encounter with Him. I hope that your spiritual and material assistance to the Church makes it increasingly based upon the Gospel and the baptismal involvement of all the faithful, lay and clerical, in the single mission of the Church: bringing God’s love to every man, especially those most in need of His mercy. The extraordinary month of prayer and reflection on the mission as first evangelization will serve for this renewal of ecclesial faith, so that the Easter of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, Lord and bridegroom of His Church, always be and remain in her heart.

May the preparation for this extraordinary time dedicated to the first proclamation of the Gospel help us always to be a Church increasingly in mission, following the words of Blessed Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, the magna carta of the post-Conciliar missionary effort. Pope Montini wrote: The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the ‘mighty works of God’ (cf Acts 2:11; 1 Peter 2:9) which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by Him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel (EN, 15).

In the spirit of the teaching of Blessed Paul VI, it is my wish that the celebration of the centenary of Maximum illud, in the month of October 2019, be a favourable time for prayer, the witness of many saints and martyrs of the mission, biblical and theological reflection, catechesis and missionary charity to contribute to evangelizing, first and foremost, the Church, so that having rediscovered the freshness and zeal of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord, she may evangelize the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy.

I bless you all in this day before the Solemnity of Pentecost. I ask the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of the Church, always to inspire us with the testimony of her faith and the reassuring guarantee of her motherly intercession. May the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, the holy martyrs Carlo Lwanga and his companions, and Blessed Paolo Manna never cease to pray to God for all of us, His missionaries.
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