Papal Address to Bishops From Mission Territories

«Look upon today’s world with faith, to understand it in depth»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday when he received in audience recently appointed bishops heading Mission Territories, who took part in a course of formation organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Dear Brothers,

I am happy to meet with you, who are gathered in Rome for the course of formation for recently appointed bishops, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I cordially greet cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the dicastery, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me also in your name. I greet monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai and monsignor Protase Rugambwa, Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Congregation. To them and to all who contribute to the good outcome of the Seminary, I express my gratitude. This course is taking place in proximity of the Year of Faith, a precious gift of the Lord to his Church to help the baptized to be conscious of their faith and to communicate it to those who have yet to experienced its beauty.

The communities of which you are pastors in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania, although in difficult circumstances, are all involved in the first evangelization and in the endeavor of consolidating the faith. You perceive their joys and hopes, as well as their wounds and concerns, similarly to the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). And he added: “For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me” (v. 29). May trust in the Lord always be firm in your heart; the Church is his, and it is He that guides her in difficult moments and in serenity. Your communities are almost all of recent foundation, and they present the merits and weaknesses connected with their brief history. They reflect a shared and joyful, lively and creative faith, but often not yet rooted. In them enthusiasm and apostolic zeal alternate with moments of instability and inconsistency. Emerging here and there are frictions and abandonments. However, they are Churches that are maturing thanks to pastoral action, but also to the gift of that communio sanctorum, which makes possible a true and proper osmosis of grace between the Churches of ancient tradition and those of recent constitution, as well as, and foremost, between the heavenly and the pilgrim Church. Registered for some time is a decrease of missionaries, balanced, however, by the increase of the diocesan and Religious clergy. The numerical growth of native priests also produces a new form of missionary cooperation: some young Churches have begun to send their priests to sister Churches deprived of clergy in the same country or in nations of the same Continent. It is a communion that must always animate the evangelizing action.

Therefore, the young Churches are a sign of hope for the future of the universal Church. In this context, dear Brothers, I encourage you not to spare effort and courage for a diligent pastoral work, remembering the gift of grace that was sown in you in your episcopal ordination, and which can be summarized in the tria munera of teaching, sanctifying and governing. Have at heart the missio ad gentes, the inculturation of the faith, the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the care of the diocesan clergy, of men and women Religious, and of the laity. The Church is born from the mission and grows with the mission. Make your own the interior appeal of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Corinthians 5:14). A correct inculturation of the faith will help you to incarnate the Gospel in the cultures of the peoples and to assume the good that lives in them. It is a long and difficult process which in no way must compromise the specificity and integrity of the Christian faith (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, 52). The mission requires pastors configured to Christ by their sanctity of life, prudence and farsightedness, ready to spend themselves generously for the Gospel and to carry in their heart concern for all the Churches.

Watch over the flock, having a special attention for the priests. Guide them with your example, live in communion with them, be willing to listen to them and to receive them with paternal benevolence, appreciating their different capacities. Commit yourselves to ensuring to your priests specific and periodic meetings of formation. Make it so that the Eucharist is at the heart of their existence and the raison d’etre of their ministry. Look upon today’s world with faith, to understand it in depth, and have a generous heart, ready to enter into communion with the women and men of our time. Do not fail in your primary responsibility of men of God, called to prayer and to the service of his Word for the benefit of the flock. May it also be said of you what the priest Onias affirmed of the prophet Jeremiah: “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city” (2 Maccabees 15:14). Keep your sight fixed on Jesus, the Pastor of pastors: today’s world needs persons who speak to God to be able to speak of God. Only in this way will the Word bear fruit (cf. Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, October 15, 2011).

Dear Brothers, your Churches know well the context of instability that affects in a worrying way the daily life of the people. The food, health and educational emergencies challenge the ecclesial communities and involve them in a direct way. Indeed, their attention and work are appreciated and praised. Added to natural calamities are cultural and religious discriminations, intolerance and factiousness, fruit of fundamentalisms that reveal erroneous anthropological views that lead to underestimate, if not ignore, the right to religious liberty, respect of the weakest, especially children, women and bearers of handicaps. Heavy, finally, are the contrasts between ethnic groups and castes, which cause unjustifiable violence. Put your trust in the Gospel, in its renewing strength, in its capacity to reawaken consciences and to cause from within the rescue of persons and the creation of a new fraternity. The diffusion of the Word of the Lord makes the gift of reconciliation blossom and fosters the unity of peoples.

In the Message for the next World Mission Day I wish to remind that faith is a gift to be received in the heart and in life, and for which we must always thank the Lord. However faith is given so that it is shared; a talent given so that it bears fruit; a light which must not be kept hidden. Faith is the most important gift that has been given to us in life: we cannot keep it only for ourselves! “All have the right to know the value of such gift and to access it,” says John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptoris missio (11). Reaffirming the priority of evangelization, the Servant of God Paul VI said: “Men will be able to save themselves also by other paths, thanks to the mercy of God, even if we do not proclaim the Gospel to them; however, will we be able to be saved if, because of negligence, fear, shame or in consequence of false ideas, we neglect to proclaim it?” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). May this question resound in our heart as an appeal to feel the absolute priority  of the task of evangelization. Dear Brothers, I entrust you and your communities to Mary Most Holy, first disciple of the Lord and first evangelizer, having given to the world the Word of God made flesh. May she, the Star of evangelization, always guide your steps. In this connection, I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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