Benin city (Agenzia Fides) - The Extraordinary Missionary Month that the Church is experiencing in this October 2019 is not only a celebration, but must a starting point, so that our Churches assume the missionary mandate ever more consciously in the day-to-day ecclesial life: is what Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) said on October 25th at the National Missionary Congress of Nigeria, in Benin city, whose theme is "The Church of Christ in Mission in Nigeria" (see Fides, 24/10/2019). "We cannot remain indifferent - he continued - in the face of a changing world and of so many people who ask for light and hope. Above all, we cannot forget the reason why we exist as a Church, as a Christian community: ‘Go and proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’."
The organization of the Extraordinary Missionary Month was entrusted by the Pope to the Pontifical Mission Societies and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. "Our Pontifical Mission Societies have a precise significance, because they share and support this mission of the Church", said the Archbishop. Even the Second Vatican Council and the Popes after the Council emphasized the importance of the Pontifical Mission Societies. In the message for this year’s World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father defines the PMS as "a global network of support for the Pope in his missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable offerings from Christians throughout the world".
In his speech the President of the PMS, on his first visit to Nigeria, focused on the meaning of the mission, which is rooted in the mandate of Jesus, and which for the Church, the mission is not simply an option among many, but belongs to her nature insofar as she is sent by Christ; that is, the mission reflects and realizes what the Church is. One must pay careful attention - he warned – mission it is not about spreading an ideology, or a culture, or a new morality, but to ensure that every person may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: from the personal encounter with Christ who frees us and saves us. "That is why - he added - in the tradition of the Church, the proclamation of the Gospel is always accompanied by the sacrament that realizes existentially in us that which the Gospel announces and promises".
At the heart of the mission, therefore, there is the proclamation of the dead and risen Christ, the kerygma, both subject and object of our mission, as it is He who sends us and it is He whom we announce, the Archbishop reiterated. Quoting Pope Francis, Mgr. Dal Toso stressed that the kerygma must be continually deepened, and, therefore, it must be announced also to those who are already baptized and need to strengthen, consolidate, mature their faith in Christ.
Focusing on the theme of implantatio Ecclesiae and inculturation, Mgr. Dal Toso explained that one of the fundamental elements is the creation of a Christian culture, understood as a concrete way of life, manifested in the thought and customs of a people. "It is not just about the problem of how the Gospel should adapt to the culture, but also of how the culture should adapt to the Gospel and of how the Gospel produces a new culture, as it has always done in history since the time of the Fathers of the Church".
There are many fields of social life that must be evangelized thanks to the witness and work of Christians, especially lay people, called to be the evangelical leaven in the environment in which they live, work, to transform it into the light of the Gospel. Thus Mgr. Dal Toso focused attention on the family: "We must evangelize the family, so that families may in turn become evangelizer". In this regard he cited the PMS initiative in Paraguay, the "Familias misioneras" (Missionary Families), born about 10 years ago, when some families started visiting other families to bring them the Good News of the Gospel. Currently there are more than 5,000 families that have started their mission in other Latin American countries. Then the President of the PMS proposed to Catholic families to read the Gospel every day together, as a form of common prayer, useful to deepen the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to create bonds of true communion. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 26/10/2019)