Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "Today World Mission Day is celebrated, on the theme 'Mission at the Heart of the Church'. I urge everyone to live the joy of mission by witnessing the Gospel in the environs where each one lives and works". With these words, the Holy Father Francis recalled, during yesterday’s Angelus, the annual missionary celebration. "At the same time - he continued -, we are called upon to support with affection, concrete help, and prayer, the missionaries who have gone out to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know Him. I also recall that I intend to promote an Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019, in order to nourish the ardor of the evangelizing activity of the Church ad gentes. On the day of the liturgical memory of Saint John Paul II, missionary Pope, we entrust to his intercession the mission of the Church in the world".
In the context of World Mission Day, Pope Francis's letter to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was announced yesterday, on the occasion of the centenary of the letter "Maximum illud” with which Benedict XV gave new impetus to the missionary task in the world. "The Pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world - writes Francis -, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous. Benedict XV thus laid special emphasis on the missio ad gentes, employing the concepts and language of the time, in an effort to revive, particularly among the clergy, a sense of duty towards the".
The II Vatican Council, in the Ad Gentes decree, solemnly asserted that the Church "is missionary by nature".
"What Pope Benedict XV so greatly desired almost a century ago, and the Council reiterated some fifty years ago, remains timely", Pope Francis emphasized, recalling the words of St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio: "the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion", "an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service". "As a result, in words that I would now draw once more to everyone’s attention, Saint John Paul exhorted the Church to undertake a ‘renewed missionary commitment’, in the conviction that missionary activity ‘renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive’."
May the approaching centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud "serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past. Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel", says the Pope who, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, calls for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity".
The Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration "by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal". The Pope entrusts the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies with the work of preparing for this event, especially by raising awareness among the particular Churches, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and among associations, movements, communities and other ecclesial bodies. "May the Extraordinary Missionary Month prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity. May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us", concludes Pope Francis. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 23/10/2017)