Pope Points to Francis Xavier's Missionary Example

Sends Message to Spanish Pilgrims

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PAMPLONA, Spain, MARCH 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging faithful going to the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier, patron of the missions, to make their pilgrimage a faith-filled event.

The Pope affirmed this in a message through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his secretary of state, addressed to Archbishop Francisco Pérez González of Pamplona. The text was published in the Spanish magazine Ecclesia.

He encouraged the participants of the «Javieradas,» pilgrimages going to the saint’s birthplace according to the tradition held every year in early March, to «imitate this great missionary, who went across the world spreading the Gospel.»

The Pontiff noted that the pilgrimage must be lived «as an opportunity to strengthen the faith, to increase the commitment to be consistent with it at all times and to increase the generosity to proclaim it to others, as true witnesses of Christ before today’s world.»

Invoking the intercession of the Virgin, he said that, «with her maternal tenderness, she will prepare the hearts of all the participants to receive the grace of God with joy.» At the end of the message, the Holy Father imparted his apostolic blessing on the pilgrims.

The «Javieradas» are two pilgrimages undertaken on two consecutive Sundays around the Novena of Grace dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. This year they will take place on March 8 and 14.

This year, the archbishop of Pamplona dedicated his traditional message to a comparison between the evangelizing work of St. Francis Xavier and St. Paul, given the Pauline Jubilee Year, and invited the faithful «to take seriously the new evangelization» proclaimed by the recent popes.

The motto for this year’s pilgrimage is «Missionaries Like Paul and Xavier: Woe to Me If I Do Not Evangelize!»

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