Francis is again calling the faithful to be bold in proclaiming the Gospel, countering any claim that publicly witnessing to Christ is an assault on others’ freedom.
The Pope said this in his message for World Mission Day, which was released by the Vatican today.
World Mission Day falls this year on Oct. 20 and it will bring to a close the Year of Faith initiated by Benedict XVI.
In the message, Francis called faith “God’s precious gift” and said that it is “not reserved for a few but offered with generosity.”
“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation,” he said.
This gift cannot be kept to oneself, the Pontiff continued, saying that the “strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.”
“Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his ‘witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel,” the Pope stated.
Francis commented on an obstacle to evangelization that comes from the idea that “proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom.”
Quoting Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi, he said: “It would be … an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents … is a tribute to this freedom.”
Francis said we must always have “the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ.”
The Bishop of Rome also mentioned in his message those who “experience difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner.”
“They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses — even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries — who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution,” he said. “Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: “Take courage, I have overcome the world.'”
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