Vatican (Agenzia Fides) - "A historic assembly", this is how Archbishop Dal Toso, President of the PMS, defined the General Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, underway in Lyon, in his introduction which in fact opened the works on Monday afternoon. It is defined historic for several reasons: the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the first Society; the centenary of the elevation of the first three Societies to the rank of Pontifical; the beatification of Pauline Marie Jaricot in Lyon, her hometown. "I feel, and I think I can say it on behalf of all of us gathered here - privileged to be able to attend this moment, because we are heirs of the great charism of Pauline who did so much good to the Church over two centuries", explained Msgr. Dal Toso, emphasizing that, beyond material aid to the Churches in mission lands, "the contribution of the PMS to the Church has been above all of a spiritual nature, because they were conceived as a great spiritual missionary movement to offer the faithful the possibility of living their faith more fully". The reflection of the president of the PMS was developed following three points: the lessons learned in recent years, the meaning of the presence in Lyon, the program of the Assembly with the invitation made to Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Legislative Texts, to reflect on the statutes and regulations of the National Directions. Regarding what recent experience has taught us, apart from the negative aspects related to the decrease in offerings, the Archbishop focused on what has emerged as positive, looking to the future, thanks to the adaptability of the various National Directions. "More specifically, we have learned to use more and better the different means offered by new technologies", underlined Msgr. Dal Toso, urging to follow this path already undertaken before the pandemic and to continue the initiatives of some National Directions to carry out projects with Missionary Childhood.
Another example mentioned by the prelate is the three-day retreat carried out on a digital platform by the directions of the Americas. "The use of the media should also motivate us to new forms of collection", explained the president, pointing out the difficulty of the faithful to attend mass and the increasing spread of new means of payment that unaccustom people to use cash. From this perspective, the use of the Internet does not contradict the charisma, but rather allows you to reach the younger segment of the population. Local media, such as radio and television, have been helped with subsidies from the PMS to reach as many of the faithful as possible, and the Archbishop expressed great appreciation for the intensification of collaboration between the national directions, citing in this context the fundraising commission thanking the work of deacon Martín Brunner, who has reached the end of his mandate, and the work of preparing the American Missionary Congress (CAM), the result of collaboration between the directors of the Americas, the National Direction and the Episcopal Conference of Puerto Rico. Msgr.Dal Toso mentioned among the initiatives of recent years, the application of the legislation on child abuse established by the respective episcopal conferences to projects, thanking the national directors who raised the issue and Sister Roberta Tremarelli who took charge of the realization of the goal. Finally, the president of the PMS recalled some activities of the Pontifical Missionary Union, in addition to welcoming its Secretary, Father Nguyen, at his first in-person General Assembly: the preparation of a volume on biblical texts on the mission; the publication in English of the 4 most fundamental interventions of the 2019 Congress on Maximum Illud, for which he thanked Monsignor Kieran Harrington for his collaboration; the publication of a text on mission in the Eastern tradition. This last publication was initiated by Father Meroni, whom the bishop thanked for his contribution as Secretary General of PMU and Director of Fides and CIAM. Regarding the second point, the meaning of the presence of the General Assembly in Lyon has a precise intention: "I think that the starting point for us is to rediscover the charism of the Societies: without knowing, studying, living the charism received from Pauline Jaricot, we cannot think of renewing ourselves", Monsignor Dal Toso underlined, relaunching Pope Francis' invitation to renew certain aspects of the PMS: "we must start again, with conviction, from what we are if we want to make an effective contribution to the Church today". Above all because "we cannot think of contributing to the life regardless of who we are, but we can contribute exactly because of who we are. Therefore, it is a matter of immersing ourselves, even physically, since we live in space and time, in the charism from which we come", as testified by the phrase published on the website about anniversaries: "the future in its roots". The reason for holding the assembly in Lyon, according to the Archbishop, "the real reason, to which the beatification is added, is that being here we can drink from the founding charism, get to know the places, the stories, the people who are at the origin of the Pontifical Mission Societies. We cannot promote the Societies without knowing what they wanted and who their founders were".
Expressing the desire for an ever greater spread of the cult of the future blessed, Archbishop Dal Toso highlighted her characteristics: "Pauline is an exemplary Christian even today for her intense life of prayer, for her creativity, for her love of evangelization of the world, even of the world then furthest from the Church, for their charity, for their resistance and patience. Regarding the task of the PMS, the President, referring to the conciliar decree Ad Gentes, underlined: "I believe that we are called to strengthen the local Churches so that they can announce the Gospel. This applies to the Churches of all latitudes: strengthen the Church with animation and material help, so that the Church finds strength and motivation to announce the Gospel. When I refer to the Church, I mean it as a community of faithful. In this sense, the new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia indicates in the PMS an instrument for keeping the missionary spirit alive in the faithful. On other occasions I have also said that our task is to help the faithful to live their faith in its missionary and universal characteristics", and he recalled three concepts of identity that he usually highlights: faith, mission and universality. As for faith, "without faith, one cannot speak of mission, because mission is the maturity of faith. The missionary commitment of the PMS arises from this awareness: without a gaze enlightened by the relationship with Christ, the mission becomes a strategy, or an ideology, or a humanitarianism. Instead, the mission aims to arouse faith", and citing the phrase from Redemptoris missio "Faith is strengthened by giving it", the Archbishop underlined: "committing oneself to the mission deepens faith. This happens through prayer, interest in the life of the Church and the offering of one's own sufferings. I also believe that the offering in money is a sign of personal involvement in the spread of the faith and can be a stimulus to discover the work of the Church, which in Christ desires to help every person". Regarding the mission, Msgr. Dal Toso, recalling the Message for Mission Sunday 2022 and the validity of the missio ad gentes reaffirmed in it, highlighted an important challenge: "to keep this missionary spirit alive in the Church, precisely in the meaning of a proclamation of the Gospel that should never be considered definitively accomplished. The Church can never be satisfied with herself, but she must always go beyond herself and, in this sense, be missionary towards those who do not know Christ. Precisely because of our charism, our task is to keep alive the missionary concern that Christ entrusted to his disciples. Recovering the enthusiasm for this missionary impulse through missionary animation is a challenge that deeply touches the Societies and helps the local Church to keep the dynamics of the mission alive". Finally, with regard to universality, quoting Blessed Paolo Manna, Msgr. Dal Toso underlined: "Universal openness, that is, a gaze without borders towards the entire world and towards all the people who await the gift of faith, is a characteristic of the PMS, which is given to us for the good of all. The PMS can help the local Churches to open up to what they really are, particular Churches within the universal Church, in a mutual exchange.
In fact, no one can live his faith alone". Precisely in reference to universality, the Archbishop underlined the meaning of the collection: "Certainly, promotion is usually motivated by linking the donation to a project, because today the donor wants to see where his money goes. But giving without knowing highlights an important aspect of giving in the Christian sense: gratuitousness, that is, giving without conditions, without personal compensation, without strings attached, simply because the gift is worthwhile in itself. This is an element that should not be overlooked in keeping the Christian spirit of giving alive. Together with the donation of money, prayer and information are the concrete ways in which our presence is expressed". (E.G.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/5/2022)