On the Mission of the Church

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

in the Creed, immediately after having professed faith in the Holy Spirit, we say: «I believe in the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic». There is a deep connection between these two realities of faith: it is the Holy Spirit that gives life to the Church, guiding its steps. Without the presence and the relentless action of the Holy Spirit, the Church would not be able to live and could not accomplish the task that the risen Jesus has entrusted it to go and make disciples of all peoples (cf. Mt 28:18). Evangelization is the Mission of the Church, not just some, but my, your, our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: «Woe to me if I do not announce the Gospel!» (1 Cor 9:16). Each of us must be an evangelizer, especially with our lives! Paul VI emphasised that «evangelizing … is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. It exists to evangelize» (Apost. ex. Evangelii nuntiandi, 14).

Who is the real engine of evangelization in our life and in the Church? As Paul VI expressed with clarity: «It is he, the Holy Spirit that, today as in the early Church, operates in every evangelizer who lets himself be possessed and lead by Him, that suggests the words that he alone would not have found, predisposing at the same time the mind of the listener to be open to receive the good news and the Kingdom announced» (ibid., 75). To evangelize, then, you must once again be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what he may ask and where he will lead us. Let us trust him! He will make us able to live and bear witness to our faith, and will illuminate the hearts of those we encounter. This was the experience at Pentecost: upon the Apostles, gathered with Mary in the upper room, «there appeared tongues as of fire, which parted, and rested upon each of them, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them the power to express itself» (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit, descending on the Apostles, makes them get out of the room in which they were closed for fear, it makes them go out from themselves, and transforms them into announcers and witnesses of the great works of God»(v. 11). And this transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit is reflected on the crowd gathered at the place and coming from every nation under heaven»(v. 5) because each one hears the words of the Apostles as if they were being spoken in their own language (v. 6).

Here is a first important effect of the action of the Holy Spirit that guides and animates the proclamation of the Gospel: unity, communion. In Babel, according to the biblical account, there began the dispersal of peoples and the confusion of tongues, fruit of that gesture of the haughtiness and pride of the man who wanted to build, with his own strength, without God, «a city and a tower whose top touches the sky» (Gen 11:4). At Pentecost, these divisions are overcome. There is no more pride towards God, nor the closure towards each other, but there is openness to God, there is the going out to announce his Word: a new language, that of love that the Holy Spirit pours into hearts (cf. Rom 5:5); a language that everyone can understand and that, when welcomed, can be expressed in every life and in every culture. The language of the Spirit, the Gospel language is the language of communion, which calls for overcoming closures and indifference, divisions and conflicts. We should ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my testimony of faith is a message of unity and communion? Do I carry the word of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel in the environments where I live? Sometimes it seems that there is being repeated today what happened in Babel: divisions, inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness. To bring the Gospel is to announce and live, ourselves first of all, the reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Remember Jesus’ words: «By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another» (Jn 13:34-35).

A second element: the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands «with the Eleven» and «in a loud voice» (Acts 2:14) and «with frankness» (v. 29) announces the Good News of Jesus, who gave his life for our salvation and whom God has raised him from the dead. Here is another effect of the action of the Holy Spirit: the courage to announce the news of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with frankness (parresia), aloud, in every time and in every place. And this happens even today for the Church and for all of us: from the fire of Pentecost, by the action of the Holy Spirit, ever new energies are unleashed, new ways in which to announce the message of salvation, new courage to evangelize. Let us never close ourselves to this action! Let us live the Gospel with humility and courage! Let us witness to the newness, the hope, the joy that the Lord brings in life. We hear within us «the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing» (Paul VI, Apost. ap. Evangelii nuntiandi, 80).

I will only briefly mention a third element, which is particularly important: a new evangelization, an evangelizing Church must start always from prayer, from asking, like the Apostles in the Upper room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only the loyal and intense relationship with God allows one to come out from one’s closures and announce the Gospel with parresia. Without prayer our activity becomes empty and our announcement doesn’t have soul, it is not animated by the Spirit.

Dear friends, as Benedict XVI affirmed, the Church today «feels above all the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path; and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on the way and we thank the Lord» (Words to the ordinary Assembly of the Synod of bishops, October 27, 2012). Every day let us renew renew our confidence in the action of the Holy Spirit, let us be guided by Him, let us be men and women of prayer, who bear witness to the Gospel with courage, becoming in our world instruments of the unity and communion of God. Thank you.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

* * *


Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now pass from the article on the Holy Spirit to that on the Church, «one, holy, catholic and apostolic». The Holy Spirit and the Church are in fact inseparable. The Spirit enlivens and guides the Church, and each of us within the Church, to carry out Christ’s mandate to make disciples of all peoples. He opens minds and hearts to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. The Spirit overcomes selfishness and division, creating unity, communion, reconciliation and love. The Spirit also instils the strength needed to bear courageous witness to the Risen Christ; he is the spirit of mission and evangelization. The fire of the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Apostles at Pentecost in answer to their fervent prayer; ardent prayer in the Spirit must always be the soul of new evangelization and the heart of our lives as Christians. Let us renew each day our trust in the working of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts to his inspiration and gifts, and strive to be signs of unity and communion with God in the midst of our human family.

Pope Francis (in Italian):

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I invite all of you to pray with me for the victims, especially the children, of the disaster in Oklahoma. May the Lord himself console everyone, in particular parents who have lost a child in such a tragic way. I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, India, Canada and the United States. My special greeting goes to the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Alumni Association of the Catholic University of America. In these days when the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I invoke upon you and your families his gifts of wisdom and peace. God bless you all

© Copyright 2012 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

* * *

I extend my cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I salute the Congregation of the Holy Family and the Daughters of Jesus who are celebrating their general chapter; the faithful of the Eparchy of Lungro, with Bishop Mons. Olivero, gathered at the Tomb of Peter on the occasion of the Year of Faith; the young people of the Focolare Movement gathered in the «Gen 3» International Congress, who, led by the motto «a heart in action», this year have followed the practice of performing the works of mercy. I greet the priests, the women religious – in particular the group of the Daughters of Charity -, the seminarians, the parochial groups and the numerous schoolchildren. I encourage everyone to listen in their conscience to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to make it operational in your lives in doing good and with charity, to be authentic disciples of Jesus!

Finally, an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Virgin Mary, dear young people, be a teacher of tenderness and love; may she sustain you, dear sick ones, especially the thalassemici italiani di Roma [the Rome chapter of an Italian association for the care of persons suffering from Talassemia, -ed.], in the hardest moments of solitude and suffering; and may she be an example for you, dear newlyweds, to live your marital relationship in unity and harmony.


Friday, May 24 is the day dedicated to the liturgical Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, help of Christians, venerated with great devotion at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

I invite all Catholics around the world to join in prayer with brothers and sisters who are in China to implore from God the grace to announce with humility and joy Christ who died and is risen, to be faithful to his Church and to the successor of Peter and to live daily life in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a manner consistent with the faith they profess.

Making our words of prayer to our Lady of Sheshan, I along with you invoke Mary thus: «Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain the commitment of those who in China, amid their daily labors, continue to believe, to hope, to love, so that they may never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus».

May Mary, the faithful Virgin, support the Chinese Catholics, making their difficult commitments increasingly precious in the sight of the Lord, and increase the Church in China’s affection for and participation in the journey of the universal Church.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation