Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Today June 3, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS). Here below is the full text of the Speech:
Mr Cardinal, dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you with joy at the end of your General Assembly and I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for his words. With him I greet all the Superiors, the General Secretaries, the National Directors and all of you here.
You are well aware of my concern about the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are far too often reduced to an organization that collects and distributes, on behalf of the Pope, economic aid for the neediest Churches. I know that you are looking for new ways, more appropriate, more ecclesial ways to carry out your service regarding the universal mission of the Church. May the holy martyrs Carlo Lwanga and his companions never cease to pray to God for all of us, His missionaries.
To renew the ardor and passion, the spiritual engine of the apostolic activity of innumerable saints and missionary martyrs, I very much welcomed your proposal, realized with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to announce an extraordinary time of prayer and reflection on the Ad gentes mission. I will ask the whole Church to dedicate the month of October 2019 to this end, because it also coincides with the centenary of Maximum Illud, the Apostolic Letter issued by Benedict XV on 30 November 1919 on the missionary activity of the Church. In this very important document of his Magisterium on the mission, the Pope recalls how necessary the holiness of life is to the efficacy of the apostolate, he recommends, therefore, an ever-stronger union with Christ and a more convinced and joyful involvement in his divine passion for announcing the Gospel to all, loving and employing mercy towards everyone. Men and women, ‘distinguished by zeal and holiness’, are increasingly necessary to the Church and to the mission. ‘May he who preaches God be a man of God’, exhorted Benedict XV (cf. Apostolic Letter Maximum illud, 30 November 1919; AAS XI , 449).
This renewal requires a personal conversion, living the mission as a permanent opportunity to announce Christ, meeting him and helping others to have a personal encounter with him too. I hope your material and spiritual assistance to churches around the world will make the churches more and more based on the Gospel and on the baptismal involvement of all the faithful, laymen and clerics, in the Church's only mission: to make God’s love close to every man, especially to those most in need of his mercy. The Extraordinary Month of Prayer and reflection on mission as first evangelization will serve this renewal of ecclesial faith so that the Easter of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, Lord and Spouse of his Church, will always and ever work.
The preparation of this extraordinary time dedicated to the first proclamation of the Gospel helps us to be more and more Church in mission, according to the words of Blessed Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 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 Pt 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, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel» (No. 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. (Agenzia Fides 3/6/2017)