“Throughout the world, let us be permanently in a state of mission.” Speaking to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Pope Francis stressed this, urging, that this ‘going forth’ is innate in our Baptism, and the mission’s ‘boundaries’ are those of the world.
Francis encouraged the assembly of some 160 participants who have been considering the “missio ad gentes” in the light of the Conciliar decree “Ad gentes” and St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Redemptoris mission,” to continue to work so “that the spirit of the ‘missio ad gentes’ may inspire the journey of the Church, so that she may always know how to listen to the cry of the poor and the distant, to meet all and to announce the joy of the Gospel.”
Recalling his recent Apostolic Visit to Africa, which took him to the capitals of Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic, the Pontiff applauded the spiritual and pastoral dynamism of the continent’s many young Churches, and lamented the serious challenges experienced by a large part of the population.
“I saw that where there is the need, the Church is almost always present to heal the wounds of those most in need, in whom She recognises the afflicted and crucified body of the Lord Jesus,” he said. “How many works of charity, of human promotion! How many anonymous good Samaritans work every day in the missions!”
The Holy Father thanked those gathered for their work in missionary inspiration and cooperation, adding that “all Churches, if constricted to their own horizons, run the risk of atrophy.” He also pointed out that the Church lives and grows when it is outbound, takes the initiative and goes out to the people.
Francis also made a clarification that the Church is at the service of the mission, and that it is not the Church who makes the mission, but the mission that makes the Church. Given this, he said, “the mission is not a tool, but rather a starting point and aim.”
“In many paths of the ‘missio ad gentes,'” he said, “the dawn of a new day is already visible, as is shown by the fact that the young Churches know how to give, not only to receive. The first fruits are their willingness to grant their priests to sister Churches of the same nation, the same continent, or to serve Churches in need in other regions of the world.
Cooperation, he continued, is not only ‘along the north-south axis,’ saying, “There is also a movement in the other direction, of giving back the good received from the first missionaries.” He noted that these, too, are signs of maturity.
Pope Francis concluded by asking all present to pray and work so that the Church may always follow the model of the Acts of the Apostles, and praying, “Let us be inspired by the strength of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit; let us come out of our narrow enclosures and emigrate from the territories where we are are at times tempted to close ourselves.”