This morning, Pope Francis received in audience — in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace –, the participants in the meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies, and gave them the address which we translate below.
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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and the collaborators of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni and all of you, who work at the service of the mission of the Church to take the Gospel to people everywhere in the world.
With the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, I wished to invite all the faithful to a new evangelizing season; and in our time also the missio ad gentes is the drawing force of this fundamental dynamism of the Church. The desire to evangelize to the outermost “boundaries,” attested by holy and generous missionaries, helps the whole community to undertake an extroverted and effective pastoral, a renewal of the structures and the works. The missionary action is paradigm of every endeavor of the Church (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 15).
To evangelize, in this time of great social transformations, requires a wholly outgoing Church, capable of working with discernment to address the different cultures and visions of man. For a world in transformation there is need of a renewed and transformed Church by contemplation and personal contact with Christ, by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is the source of renewal, which makes us find new ways, new creative methods, different forms of expression for the evangelization of the present-day world. He it is who gives the strength to undertake the missionary endeavor and the joy of the proclamation, so that the light of Christ will illumine all those who do not yet know him or have rejected him. Required for this is the courage to “reach all the fringes that are in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii gaudium, 21). Neither our weaknesses, nor our sins, nor the many impediments that are placed in our path can hold us back from witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel. It is the experience of the encounter with the Lord Jesus which drives us and gives us the joy of proclaiming Him to all peoples.
The Church, missionary by nature, has as her fundamental prerogative the service of charity to all. Universal fraternity and solidarity are innate to her life and her mission in the world and for the world. Evangelization, which must reach everyone, must begin, however, with the least, with the poor, with those whose back is bent from the weight and toil of life. By doing so the Church prolongs the mission of Christ himself, who “came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The Church is the people of the Beatitudes, the home of the poor, of the afflicted, of the excluded and of the persecuted, of those who have hunger and thirst for justice. You are asked to work so that the ecclesial communities will be able to receive the poor with preferential love, keeping the doors of the Church open so that all can enter and find refuge.
The Pontifical Mission Societies are the privileged instrument that revives and takes care generously of the missio ad gentes. This is why I turn to you as animators and formators of the missionary conscience of the local Churches: promote missionary co-responsibility with patient perseverance. There is such great need for priests, for consecrated persons and lay faithful that, gripped by the love of Christ and burning with passion for the Kingdom of God, who are willing to undertake the path of evangelization.
I thank you for your precious service, dedicated to spreading the Kingdom of God, to make the love and light of Christ reach all corners of the earth. May Mary, Mother of the living Gospel, accompany you always in your effort to support evangelization. Accompanying you also is my blessing for you and your collaborators.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]