Mission More Crucial Than Ever, Says Holy Father

During Visit to Tomb of the Apostle Paul

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ROME, APRIL 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI reaffirmed the Church’s evangelizing endeavor, stressing that «Christ’s missionary mandate is more important than ever.»

During his first official visit outside the Vatican, to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Pope said Monday that he is confident of a «new flowering of the Church» thanks to the blood shed by many Christians of the 20th century.

In an unusual gesture, on the day after the solemn inauguration of his pontificate, the Holy Father went to pray to the tomb of the Apostle Paul «to express the inseparable bond of the Church of Rome with the Apostle to the Gentiles,» explained the Holy See.

After visiting the sepulcher and reading from the beginning of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the new Pontiff, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, delivered a homily focused on the passion that every Christian should feel for the proclamation of Christ.

The pilgrims who crowded the basilica interrupted him with applause, especially when he mentioned «the example of my beloved and venerated predecessor John Paul II, a missionary Pope whose activity understood in this way, witnessed in more than 100 apostolic trips beyond the confines of Italy, is truly inimitable.»

«May the Lord also infuse such a love in me so that I will not remain calm in face of the urgencies of the Gospel proclamation in today’s world,» he said.

Benedict XVI added that «the Church is by her nature missionary; her primary task is evangelization. … At the beginning of the third millennium, she feels with renewed force that Christ’s missionary mandate is more important than ever.»

After mentioning that the Jubilee of the Year 2000 led the Church to «start afresh from Christ,» he recalled the motto St. Benedict proposed in Chapter 4of his Rule, exhorting his monks «not to prefer anything to the love of Christ.»

The Holy Father highlighted the fact that the century that just ended «was a time of martyrdom,» and concluded by saying «that if the blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians, at the beginning of the third millennium it is right to expect a new flowering of the Church, especially there where she has suffered most for the faith and the testimony of the Gospel.»

At the end of the celebration, animated by the singing of the basilica’s Benedictine monks, the Pope left in procession, greeting some of those present with his hand and imparting the gesture of blessing. He paused once to embrace a child.

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