Vatican City (Fides Service) – Pope John Paul II addressed a Message to Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, Archbishop of Guatemala, President of the Second American Mission Congress taking place in Guatemala City 25 to 30 November. Here is our English translation.
“The Second American Mission Congress being held in Guatemala City on the theme “Church in America, your life is mission”, offers me the opportunity to greet with sincere affection all those taking part and to recall with deep gratitude the warm welcome I received as a pilgrim of love and hope on my last visit to that part of America when I had the joy of canonising Brother Pedro de San José Betancurt.
The canonisation of this outstanding missionary was, in a way, a prelude to the Congress. His powerful intercession and the testimony of his holiness will guide this Assembly from which with trepidation the universal Church expects abundant fruits of faith, holiness and missionary generosity.
First of all I greet Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno Archbishop of Guatemala and numerous Brother Bishops gathered in this continental missionary “Upper Room”. I also greet affectionately those who helped prepare the Congress and the individual participants: priests Religious men and women, lay faithful, especially the young people and the children. My Special Envoy, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, carries to you my spiritual closeness and interest for this important event.
I address in particular those of you called by the Lord to proclaim Him ad gentes, a vocation of commitment and holiness which leads you to serve all men and women and all the peoples of the earth. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good new, who announces salvation, who tells Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ ”! (Is 52,7). The history of evangelisation on the American continent, dear Brothers and Sisters, reveals the intimate link between holiness and mission. Considering this missionary activity from a historical point of view it is truly pleasing to see the great impact of the Gospel of the Christian life of the early communities and the testimony of numerous missionary saints born of these communities.
Since the beginning of evangelisation and all through its history, in these blessed lands the Spirit of the Lord has fostered magnificent fruits of holiness in men and women faithful to the Lord’s missionary command who dedicated their lives to proclaiming the Christian message even in heroic conditions and circumstances. At the basis of this marvellous missionary dynamism there was undoubtedly their personal holiness and holiness of their communities. New impulse to mission ad gentes in America and from America, calls also today for holy missionaries and holy ecclesial communities.
The call to mission is one with the call to holiness which is a “fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church.” (Redemptoris Missio, 90). In the face of this universal calling we must be aware of our responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. In this regard cooperation with mission ad gentes must be a sign of mature faith and Christian life which bears fruit so that Particular Churches most in need receive impulse, human and spiritual support, to help them to walk with their Pastors.
Therefore “It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organise and coordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith. What is needed is the encouragement of a new "ardour for holiness" among missionaries and throughout the Christian community, especially among those who work most closely with missionaries (ib).
My pastoral journeys to different countries– some where the Gospel has only just been proclaimed – have led me to the profound conviction that humanity awaits, ever more expectantly, “the full manifestation of the Son of God ” (Rom 8,19). In fact many desire to encounter the mystery of holiness and communion which is fundamental in the Church and is also a manifestation of “that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit which Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5), to make us all "one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).(Novo Millennio ineunte, 42)
Millions of men and women who still do not know Christ, or know him only superficially, live with the hope, at times unconscious, of discovering the truth about mankind and about God, on the path that leads to liberation from sin and death. For this part of humanity which longs for the beauty of Christ, for his bright and serene light to shine on the face of the earth, the proclamation of the Good News is a vital and mandatory task
This Congress is oriented towards this task. Respond therefore promptly to the Lord’s call. Manifest the desire to be joyful witness and enthusiastic apostles of the Gospel to the far ends of the earth, through the witness of a holy life!
The joyful experience of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 indicated the path to holiness as the foundation on which to base pastoral planning in every Particular Church. It is a question of “re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living” (Novo Millennio ineunte, 31). This, dear Brothers and Sisters, calls for patient and adequate pastoral pedagogy – pedagogy of holiness – which must be marked by primacy given to the person of Jesus Christ, to heeding and proclaiming his Word, to full and active participation in the sacraments, to cultivating prayer as a personal encounter with the Lord.
All pastoral activity must have its centre in Christian initiation and formation which, by helping to mature and strengthen the faith of those who have already embraced it or drawing those still far away, is the best guarantee to ensure that the Particular Churches of America engage in missionary cooperation and animation. This must be in fact “a key element in the normal pastoral activity ” (RM 83).
Animated by the Holy Spirit and by the testimony of an increasing number of missionaries ad gentes coming from your countries, I wish to reaffirm to this great Assembly, -a sign of the unity of the peoples of the continent – something I wrote in the post synodal apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America when I addressed your communities: “the particular Churches in America are called to extend their missionary efforts beyond the bounds of the continent. They cannot keep for themselves the immense riches of their Christian heritage. They must take this heritage to the whole world and share it with those who do not yet know it. Here it is a question of many millions of men and women who, without faith, suffer the most serious kind of poverty. Faced with this poverty, it would be a mistake not to encourage an evangelising effort beyond the continent with the excuse that there is still much to do in America or to wait until the Church in America reaches the point, basically utopian, of full maturity” (Ecclesia in America, 74).
Great is the responsibility of your Particular Churches in the work of evangelising the world today. Great is the fruit they can offer in this new missionary springtime “if all Christians, and missionaries and young churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time. ” (RM 92).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, it is for me a motive of great joy to know that Congress, for which you have prepared at length during the Holy Missionary Year will heed this call and identify effective and concrete responses to the Gospel command to mission which is life for the Church in America.
As on previous American Mission Congresses, I ask the Lord to grant that you may live an intense experience of communion and that Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and evangeliser of America, “model of that maternal love which should inspire all who cooperate in the Church's apostolic mission for the rebirth of humanity ” (RM 92), may accompany you with her tenderness and protect you with her powerful intercession. Encouraging each and all of you to live in your respective Particular Churches in a spirit of communion and service, I repeat my call to fulfil the missionary commandment in the world today and for this I gladly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 25 October 2003
John Paul II
PS (Fides Service 26/11/2003 – lines 101; words 1.447)