On World Mission Sunday

«The Church Exists to Proclaim This Message of Hope»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, the third Sunday of October, we celebrate World Mission Day, which is a powerful reminder for every ecclesial community and for each Christian of the duty to proclaim and bear witness before all people to the Gospel, especially to those who do not yet know it. In the message that I wrote for this occasion, I was inspired by an expression in the Book of Revelation, which echoes the words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “The nations will walk in his light” (Revelation 21:24). The light that is spoken about is God’s light, revealed in the Messiah and reflected on the countenance of the Church, represented as the New Jerusalem, wondrous city in which the fullness of the glory of God shines forth. It is the light of the Gospel, which orients the path of the nations and guides them toward the realization of a great family, in justice and peace, under the paternity of the one God, who is good and merciful. 

The Church exists to proclaim this message of hope to all of humanity, which in our time has “experienced marvelous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself” (John Paul II, «Redemptoris Missio,» 2).

In the month of October, especially this Sunday, the universal Church highlights her missionary vocation. Led by the Holy Spirit, she knows that she is called to continue the work of Jesus himself, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which “is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). This Kingdom is already present in the world as the power of love, of freedom, of solidarity, of respect for the dignity of every man, and the ecclesial community feels the force in its heart of the urgency to work so that Christ’s sovereignty be fully realized. All its members and articulations cooperate in such a project, according to the different states of life and charisms. 

On this World Mission Day I would like to recall the missionaries — priests, men and women religious and lay volunteers — who consecrate their existence to bringing the Gospel into the world, even facing hardships and difficulties and sometimes real persecutions. 

I think, among others, of Father Ruggero Ruvoletto, a priest of the Donum Fidei missionaries, recently killed in Brazil; of Father Michael Sinnot, a religious, taken hostage a few days ago in the Philippines. 

And how can I not think of what is emerging from the synod of bishops of Africa in terms of extreme sacrifice and love for Christ and his Church? I thank the Pontifical Missionary Societies for the precious service that they give to missionary animation and formation. Furthermore, I invite all Christians to make a gesture of material and spiritual sharing to help the young Churches of the poorest countries.

Dear friends, today, Oct. 18, is also the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, who, along with the Gospel, wrote the Acts of the Apostle to narrate the expansion of the Christian message to the ends of the then known world. We invoke his intercession together with that of St. Francis Xavier and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, patrons of the missions, and of the Virgin Mary, that the Church may continue to spread the light of Christ among all the nations. I ask you, moreover, to pray for the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which is taking place this week here in the Vatican.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

I address a cordial greeting to the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, who have come for the closing of the 4th centenary of the death of their founder, St. Giovanni Leonardi. Dear brothers, together with you are also the students of all the Colleges of the Propaganda Fidei, accompanied by Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as representatives of pharmacists, whose patron is St. Giovanni Leonardi. 

I exhort all of you to follow him on the path of holiness and to imitate his missionary zeal. I welcome Italian-speaking pilgrims with affection, in particular the members of Comunità Cenacolo, who for many years have helped young people, especially those who have become addicted to drugs, to find the path of life again meeting Jesus Christ. I also greet the participants in the conference on the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” being held in Rome at the moment, the National Association of Small Communities of Italy, the musical band «Valletiberina» and the Pontedera section of the National Association of Carabinieri. I wish everyone a good Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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