Vatican City (Fides Service) – “Living with many people who do not know Christ convinces us ever more of the need for the missionary apostolate. The radical newness of life brought by Christ and lived by his followers awakens in us the urgency of missionary activity. This demands an explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord: a bold testimony founded on his command…”. Pope John Paul II said when he received the Indian Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, for their ad limina visit on 3 July in the Vatican.
“The call for a new evangelisation and renewed missionary commitment which I have addressed to the whole Church resounds just as clearly for your ancient Christian communities as it does for your newest – the Pope said, adding - While the initial evangelisation of non-Christians and the continuing proclamation of Jesus to the baptised will highlight differing aspects of the same Good News, both stem from a firm commitment to make Christ ever more known and loved”. The Holy Father then underlined the need for “correct understanding of the relationship between culture and Christian faith” indispensable for effective evangelisation in India so rich in religious and philosophical traditions: “Any theology of mission that omits the call to a radical conversion to Christ and denies the cultural transformation which such conversion will entail necessarily misrepresents the reality of our faith, which is always a new beginning in the life of him who alone is
The Holy Father also stressed that “interreligious dialogue does not replace the missio ad gentes but rather forms a part of it . Similarly, it must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart…An even greater misrepresentation of our faith occurs when relativism leads to syncretism”. Among the positive signs of missionary activity in India the Pope mentioned numerous adult baptisms, high percentage of Sunday Mass attendance, growing number of laity taking an active part in the liturgy. The challenges mentioned by the Pope included deeper appreciation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, adequate preparation for the Sacrament of Matrimony. With regard to popular piety the Pope said: “festivities and devotions associated with the many shrines dedicated to Our Lady in your areas, while attracting thousands of followers from other religions, must be soundly incorporated within the liturgical life of the Church if they are to become a gateway to authentic Christian experience.” Lastly the Pope thanked God for the selfless dedication of the priests, religious men and women, catechists and laity who help the growth of the Church, and he encouraged the Bishops to continue to provide the structures necessary for promoting local evangelisation. SL (Fides Service 4/7/2003 EM lines 28 Words: 403)