VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged the urban mission under way in Vienna, the first in a series of unprecedented evangelization initiatives in Europe.
In a letter addressed to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, the Pope requests the new “missionaries,” the majority of whom are laymen, “to give a clear and attractive testimony of the strength and beauty of the Catholic faith.”
The Austrian capital is the first of a series of innovative international congresses for evangelization, which will be held eventually in Paris (Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2004), in Lisbon, Portugal (in 2005), and in Brussels, Belgium (in 2006). The Vienna mission runs until Sunday.
The idea came from the cardinal-archbishops of these cities: Cardinals Schönborn, Godfried Danneels of Malines-Brussels, Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, and Jose da Cruz Policarpo, patriarch of Lisbon.
In the letter sent on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope expresses the hope that “these population centers important for their countries and for the whole of Europe will shine with a new radiance in their efforts toward holiness and the love of their inhabitants for God and men.”
The Holy Father asks the missionaries to “have a profound love for the people and families they will meet. Humanity has need of God, of his love and of his forgiveness, which he offers us in Jesus Christ.”
In particular, John Paul II recommends that they be close to “families that must face difficulties, either in the area of faith, in their life as a couple, or in their existence crucified by suffering.”
“Each family must recognize in your deeds and words a sign of the nearness of divine mercy,” he concluded.
The Vienna mission seeks to invite residents to rediscover the Catholic faith in streets, schools and stores, thanks to activities planned by Catholics in Vienna, and by 400 Catholics who have arrived from elsewhere in Europe.
Coordinated by the Emmanuel Community and by the Katholische Aktion of Vienna, the mission’s motto is “Open the Doors to Christ.”