Papal Words to Pontifical Missionary Societies

«New Problems and New Forms of Slavery … Emerge in Our Time»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in an audience with participants in the ordinary assembly of the High Council of the Pontifical Missionary Societies.

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Your Eminence, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood, dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would first of all like to address my cordial greetings to the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who I thank very much for the words he addressed to me on behalf of everyone.

To this I add my earnest wishes for a fruitful ministry. At the same time, I express deep gratitude to Cardinal Ivan Dias for his generous and exemplary service that he gave to the missionary Congregation and the universal Church over the years. May the Lord continue to lead with his light these faithful laborers in His vineyard.

I greet the Secretary Mgr. Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the Secretary Adjunct Mgr.Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the National Directors and staff of the Congregation of the Pontifical Mission Societies, convened in Rome from the various particular Churches for the Annual Ordinary Assembly Meeting of the Superior Council. A warm welcome to all.

Dear friends, with your valuable work of missionary animation and cooperation to the People of God «the necessity for our time is a firm commitment to the mission ad gentes» («Verbum Domini,» No. 95), to announce the «big Hope,» «the God who has a human face and who loved us to the end, each person and mankind as a whole» («Spe Salvi,» No. 31). New problems and new forms of slavery, in fact, emerge in our time, both in the so-called first world, wealthy and rich but uncertain about its future, both in emerging countries, where, even as a result of globalization often characterized by profit, they end up increasing the poor masses, the immigrants and the oppressed, in which dims the light of hope. The Church must constantly renew its commitment to bring Christ, to prolong his messianic mission for the coming of the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice, peace, freedom, love.

To transform the world according to God’s plan with the renewing power of the Gospel, «so that God may be all in all» (1 Corinthians 15:28) is the task of all the People of God. Therefore it is necessary to continue to work with renewed enthusiasm the mission of evangelization, the joyful proclamation of the Kingdom of God, came to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead people to true freedom of God’s children against all forms of slavery. It is necessary to cast the nets of the Gospel in the sea of history so as to lead people to the Land of God

«The mission of proclaiming the Word of God is the duty of all disciples of Christ, as a result of their baptism» («Verbum Domini,» No. 94). But for there to be a strong commitment to evangelization, it is necessary that both individual Christians as the communities really believe that «the Word of God is the saving truth of which every man in every time needs» (ibid., No. 95). If this conviction of faith is not deeply rooted in our lives, we will not be able to feel the passion and beauty to announce it. In fact, every Christian should do his work for the urgency of building the kingdom of God. Everything in the Church is all in the service of evangelization: every sector of its activity and every person, in the various tasks they are called to carry out. Everyone must be involved in the missio ad gentes: Bishops, priests, religious and laity. «No believer in Christ can feel a stranger to this responsibility that comes from belonging to the sacramental Body of Christ» (ibid., No. 94). Therefore special attention must be paid to ensure that all areas of pastoral care, catechesis, charity are characterized by the missionary dimension: the Church is mission.

A fundamental condition for preaching is to completely allow yourself to be grabbed by Christ, the Word of God incarnated, because only those who listen attentively to the Word made flesh, who is closely united with him, may become preachers (cf. ibid., Nos. 51, 91). The messenger of the Gospel must remain under the rule of the Word and must feed himself from the Sacraments: this is the lifeblood that his existence depend on and his missionary ministry depend on. Only deeply rooted in Christ and his Word one is able not to fall in temptation to reduce evangelization to a purely human, social project , hiding or concealing the transcendent dimension of salvation offered by God in Christ. It is a word that should be witnessed and proclaimed explicitly, because without consistent witness it is less understandable and believable. Even if we often feel inadequate, poor, unable, we must retain confidence in the power of God, who puts his treasure “in jars of clay” because it is He who appears to act through us.

The ministry of evangelization is exciting and demanding: it requires love for the proclamation and witness, a love so complete that it can also be marked by martyrdom. The Church cannot fail in its mission to bring the light of Christ, to proclaim the glad tidings of the Gospel, even if it means persecution (cf. «Verbum Domini,» No. 95). It is part of its own life, as it was for Jesus, Christians must not be afraid, even if «they are currently the religious group that suffers the greatest number of persecutions because of their faith» (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, No. 1). St. Paul says “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8.38-39).

Dear friends, thank you for the work of missionary animation and formation that the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies carry out in your local Churches. The Pontifical Mission Societies, which my predecessors and the Second Vatican Council promoted and encouraged (cf. «Ad Gentes,» No. 38) remain a preferred means of missionary cooperation and successful sharing of personnel and financial resources between the Churches. But neither should we forget the support that the Pontifical Mission societies offer to the Pontifical Colleges, here in Rome, where priests, religious and laity are formed and are chosen and sent by their Bishops, for the local Churches in mission territories.

Your work is valuable for the edification of the Church, destined to become the «common house» of all humanity. May the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the Mission, guide us and sustain us always, through the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of the Apostles. To all of you and your staff I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.

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