Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "For almost a century, the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) have been an instrument of the Pope for the benefit of the Churches in mission territories. We know that there is an impact of this crisis worldwide, and it will be even stronger in countries with fragile economies, societies or health systems. Some have already turned to the PMS for help. Our intervention framework remains the institutional one: helping and strengthening young Churches, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania, in their pastoral activity, tragically marked and challenged by the Covid19 emergency": with these words, in an interview with Agenzia Fides, Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, illustrates the source, the reasons and the objectives of the special "Emergency Fund" established by the Pope at the Pontifical Mission Societies. The Fund, with an initial allocation of 750 thousand US dollars, intends to accompany and support the communities affected by the spread of coronavirus in the so-called "mission countries", through the structures and institutions of the local Churches. This is the text of the interview released to Agenzia Fides.
- Excellency, how does this time of pandemic question the mission of the Church?
An upheaval of this kind questions first of all every man about his being in the world, about his relationship with the other, about the priorities of his life, about his relationship with God. We have heard it in many experiences in these weeks: illness makes us suffer and scales things down, it does not leave us indifferent and equal. Therefore the Church is also questioned, so that she can help every person, in all its dimensions, to face this new situation. I believe that the Holy Father’s reflection on Friday 27 March, in an empty St. Peter's square, touched these different dimensions in a masterly way. Among many things, I would like to highlight the issue of precariousness: man, not only as an individual - this happens frequently - but as a people, this time finds himself faced with his insufficiency. As a Church we must ask ourselves what answer we give to the man who today finds himself dramatically faced with his precariousness in existing.
- At what level does the reflection specifically affect the "missio ad gentes"?
It is precisely here that the specific response of the Church is placed: to encourage the bewildered man to find hope in the God whom Jesus revealed to us. Finding out that God loves man and does not leave him alone, because God loves everything he created, as the Scripture reminds us. The "missio ad gentes" is the manifestation of this in words, works and Sacraments. The Church announces that even death - that death that frightens us so much and that frighteningly has been knocking on our door in these weeks - becomes an experience of a God who rises from the cross and opens us to eternal life.
- The response of believers and of many Churches, in the various continents, is characterized by the unconditional gift of oneself and authentic outbursts of charity: what relationship do charity and evangelization have at this particular juncture?
We are near Easter. Again Christ gives himself completely to us. The whole mystery of Christ is the gift of himself to every man. The Church does nothing but continue, in history, this gift of Christ to man. Because it is a community of concrete people who live from the experience of Christ. Also in this moment we bring Christ: his word of consolation, his charity that vibrates in the face of human misery, his revelation of a God who is Father. Even in these days the proclamation of the Gospel and charity meet and become one: we proclaim a God who gave himself the name of charity.
- With what spirit did the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) propose the institution of the special Emergency Fund for coronavirus victims in "mission territories" to the Pope?
The Pontifical Mission Societies have been pontifical for almost a century because they are an instrument of the Pope for the benefit of the Churches in mission territories. Being his instrument, it seemed evident that, at this juncture, we had to show a sign that we are at the Pope's disposal. Furthermore, I would like to underline that we have received requests in this sense also from some PMS National Directors. The awareness that we are "of the Pope" is alive in the PMS. We also know that there is an impact of this crisis worldwide, and it will be stronger in countries with fragile economies, societies or health systems. Some have already turned to the PMS for help. However, we want to reiterate that our intervention framework, through the special Covid-19 Emergency Fund, remains the institutional one: helping and strengthening young Churches, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania, in their pastoral activity, tragically marked and challenged by the covid-19 emergency.
- Does this not seem a "crisis like others", like the many crises that have gone through the history of the last decades. What "lesson" can be drawn from it? What new paradigms for the future of evangelization?
Maybe we are at the beginning of a process that will have profound social and cultural consequences. However, it seems too early to formulate sufficiently lucid analyzes. Certainly a lesson that we have already learned is that we are all tied to the same thread, wherever we live on the planet, we all belong to the same human family. Perhaps we have also understood that we need each other and being together in the family, even forcibly, tells us that we need "home". I also believe that we have experienced, with greater awareness, that we need prayer: where man experiences his limits, God appears in all his strength, because, paraphrasing the Canticle of Canticles, God of Love is stronger than death .
(Agenzia Fides 8/4/2020)