Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to participants in the General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus.
* * *
I greet you cordially, beginning with the Superior General. This [meeting] takes place in the context of your General Chapter and it offers me the occasion to express to you and to the entire Institute the gratitude of the Church for your generous service to the Gospel.
You call yourselves and you are! Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. I would like to reflect on these words with you, which are your name and your identity.
Missionaries. You are servants and messengers of the Gospel, especially for those who do not know it or who have forgotten it. There is a gift at the origin of your mission: it is the free initiative of the love of God who has addressed a double call to you: to be with Him and to go and preach (cf. Mark 3:14). At the base of everything is the personal relation with Christ, rooted in Baptism and, for some, reinforced by Ordination, so that with the Apostle Paul we can say: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This living with Christ determines all our being and all our acting, and it is lived and nourished above all in prayer, in staying close to the Lord, in Adoration, in a heart to heart conversation with Him.
It is in fact in this praying space that the true “treasure” is found (Luke 12:34), which is to be given to brothers through the proclamation. The missionary, in fact, makes himself servant of the God-that-speaks, who wants to speak to the men and women of today, as Jesus spoke to those of his time, and he won the heart of the people who came from everywhere to hear him (cf. Mark 1:45), and who marvelled hearing his teachings (cf. Mark 6:2). This relation of the mission ad gentes with the Word of God is not so much in the order of “doing” as in that of “being.” To be genuine, the mission must refer to and put at the center the grace of Christ that flows from the Cross: believing in Him one can transmit the Word of God, which encourages, sustains and makes fruitful the missionary’s commitment. Therefore, dear Brothers, we must always nourish ourselves with the World of God, to be its faithful echo; to receive it with the joy of the Spirit, to internalize it and make it flesh of our flesh as Mary did (cf. Luke 2:19). In the Word of God there is wisdom that comes from above, and which enables one to find languages, attitudes, and appropriate instruments to respond to the challenges of a changing humanity.
In as much as you are Comboni [Missionaries] of the Heart of Jesus, you contribute joyfully to the mission of the Church, witnessing the charism of Saint Daniel Comboni, which finds a qualifying point in the merciful love of the Heart of Christ for vulnerable men. In this Heart is the source of mercy that saves and generates hope. Therefore, as consecrated [persons] to God for the mission, you are called to imitate the merciful and meek Jesus, to live your service with a humble heart, taking care of the most abandoned of our time. Do not cease to ask the Sacred Heart for the meekness that, as a daughter of charity, is patient, excuses everything, hopes for everything, endures everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is the meekness of Jesus’ glance when he looked at Peter on the night of Holy Thursday (cf. Luke 22:61), or when he invited the incredulous Thomas to put his hand near his pierced Heart (cf. John 20:27). There, in that heart, one learns the necessary meekness to address apostolic action also in difficult and hostile contexts.
That Heart, which has so loved men, drives you to the fringes of society to witness the perseverance of patient and faithful love. From contemplation of the wounded Heart of Jesus the passion can be renewed in you for the men of our time, which is expressed with free love in the commitment of solidarity, especially towards the weakest and the poor. Thus you will be able to continue to promote justice and peace, respect and dignity for every person.
Dear Brothers, I hope that the deepened reflection on the topics of the Chapter, to which you dedicated yourselves during these days, will illumine the path of your Institute in the coming years, helping you to rediscover always better your great patrimony of spirituality and missionary activity. Thus you will be able to continue with confidence your appreciated collaboration in the mission of the Church. May the example of so many fellow Brothers, who offered their life for the cause of the Gospel, prepared to give the supreme witness of blood, be of stimulus and encouragement to you. Noted, in fact, is that the history of the Comboni Institute is marked by an uninterrupted chain of martyrs, which comes down to our days. They are fecund seeds in the spread of the Kingdom and protectors of your apostolic commitment.
I invoke upon you and upon all the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of missionaries.
And before imparting the blessing, I would like to say something that is not written here, but it is something I feel: I have always, always had great admiration for you, for the work you do, for the risks you face ... I have always felt this great admiration. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]