Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – During the general Wednesday Audience on 2 December, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke about his pastoral visit to Africa, from which he just returned , devoting part of his address to missionaries. Here is what Pope Francis said: “I would like to mention our missionaries. Men and women who leave their homeland, leave everything, … setting out in their youth to a live a life of fatigue, even sleeping on the ground at times. In Bangui I met a Sister, she was Italian. You could see she was elderly: “How old are you?”, I asked. “81” – “Oh, not so old, two years older than me”. – The nun had been there since she was 23-24: her whole life! and so many more like her. She had with her a little girl. And the child called her granny, in Italian “Nonna”. But the Sister told me: “I am not from here actually I come from Congo next door; I came here by canoe with this little girl”. This is how missionaries are: courageous. “And Sister, tell me what do you do?” – “Well I am a nurse and I studied to become a midwife and helped to bring 3,280 babies into this world”. This is what she told me. An entire life devoted to life, to the lives of others. And there are many, many more like her: many Sisters, many priests, many religious who dedicate their life to announcing Jesus Christ. It is marvellous to see this. Just marvellous.
I would like to say a few words to the young people here today, but there are not many, in Europe it would seem, children are a luxury : no babies , birth rate 1%. But to young people I say: think about what you want to do with your life. Think about this Sister, and many more like her, who have spent their lives there and many have lost their lives there. Being a missionary does not mean proselytising: this Sister told me that Muslim women turn to Christian sisters because they know they are good nurses, they care for people, help them recover, and they don’t recite the catechism to convert them! They bear witness with their life; and then if people ask they explain the faith to them with catechesis. But bearing witness with lifestyle: this is the Church’s great and heroic missionary activity. Talking about Jesus Christ through your life! I appeal to young people: think about what you want to do with your life. This is the time to think and to ask the Lord to let you know his will for you. But, please, don’t exclude the possibility of becoming a missionary to carry love, humanity and faith to other countries. Not to proselytise : no. This is done by people with something else in mind. Our faith is preached, first of all by life-witness and only then by word. And slowly”. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 3/12/2015)