Osma-Soria (Fides Service) – On June 28th the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, in St Peter’s Basilica in the presence of many of the Bishops of Europe, Pope John Paul II promulgated an important Church document on the “old continent”, the post synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Europa. Fides Service asked Bishop Francisco Perez of Osma-Soria National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Spain, a country which has given and continues to provide many missionaries for the Church, to comment on the missionary aspect of the exhortation. Here is our English translation of the comment which was in Spanish.
“If there ever existed an opportune time for mission, this is it. This is why Pope John Paul II devoted a whole section (64) to mission ad gentes in his Ecclesia in Europa exhortation. The entire document speaks of hope and hope is the door for mission. It is impossible to evangelise unless there is animation which opens to hope, unless there is Christian hope. To go on mission we must have a large dose of dedication, which becomes a gift to the men and women whom the Gospel must be carried with simplicity and in such a way as to be truly credible.
Authentic evangelisation in Europe will be impossible without the missionary ardour which must animate the Church in Europe today. “The decrease in the numbers of priests and of consecrated men and women in some countries must not prevent any Particular Church from making its own the needs of the universal Church” (Ecclesia in Europa 64). This is a wise and farsighted warning which the Pope makes to help us to open up and not to close ourselves in are concentric circles, at times of serious vocation crisis. God is very generous, in fact those who give always receives in return far more than they have given. The Church is universal and each of us has the duty to sustain it.
Spain is a very missionary nation. Its more than 20,000 missionaries render the Church credible because it is works and not ideas which bring her to light. Despite many difficulties we have faced in the past and which we will face in the future, today we have more missionaries than at times of greater splendour, not in absolute numbers but in relative numbers. In proportion to the number of Spanish priests and consecrated persons today the number of Spanish missionaries is much higher than at any previous time in history. If to this we add the interest manifested among the laity we can say that we are certainly not renouncing our history.
The Pope’s exhortation Ecclesia in Europa marks a new era, because previous schemas must be put aside and we are called to set to work so that – starting out with hope – we may continue to proclaim the Gospel to European so they may open to the needs of the world”. Bishop Francisco Perez. (Fides Service 8/7/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 425)