Pope Francis: All Christians are called to be missionaries

All Christians  - not just "the few" - are called to go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel,  Pope Francis said today in his address to more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, organised by the Italian Bishops Conference and Missio Foundation.

Pope Francis urged Christians “to go out and not to remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance we keep from the least among us.”

Christians, he said, must “be workers for peace, that peace which the Lord gives us each day and of which the world is very much in need.”

Calling Christians to live in hope, he said: “Missionaries never renounce the dream of peace, even when they live difficulties and persecution, which today has returned to make itself felt strongly.”

Pope Francis said being an outbound Church it “means to overcome the temptation to speak among ourselves, forgetting the many who wait for a word of mercy from us, a word of comfort, of hope.”

He called Christians to go out to the periphery, like Jesus, who lived “far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire…. He met the poor, the sick, the possessed, sinners, prostitutes, gathering around him a small number of disciples and some women who listened to him and served him.”

The Word of Jesus  “ was the beginning of a turning point in history, the beginning of a spiritual and human revolution, the Good News of a Lord, who died and rose for us,” he said.

Quotes from the text of Pope Francis' address provided by Vatican Radio  follow below: 

Dear brothers and sisters,

… The program for your conference takes inspiration from when the Lord said to the prophet Jonah: “Go to the great city of Nineveh.” Jonah, however, initially runs away. … But then he goes, and in Nineveh, everything changes: God shows his mercy and the city is converted. Mercy changes the story of individuals and even of peoples. … The invitation extended to Jonah is today extended to you. And this is important. Every generation is called to be missionary.

In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I spoke of an outbound Church. A missionary Church cannot but be outbound, unafraid of encountering, of discovering newness, of speaking of the joy of the Gospel. To all, without distinction. The diverse realities that you represent in the Church in Italy indicate that the spirit missio ad gentes must become the mission of the Church in the world: going out, listening to the cry of the poor and of those further afield, encountering all and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel.

I thank you for what you do in your various roles: as part of the offices of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as directors of diocesan offices, consecrated and lay people together. I ask you to commit yourselves with passion to keep this spirit alive. I see with joy many lay people together with bishops and priests. The mission is accomplished by all Christians, not just the few. Our Christian vocation asks us to be carriers of this missionary spirit so as to bring about a true “missionary conversion” of the whole Church, as I hoped for in Evangelii Gaudium.

The Church in Italy has given numerous priests and lay people fidei donum, who chose to spend their lives building the Church in the peripheries of the world, among the poor and the distant. This is a gift for the universal Church and for all peoples. I exhort you not to let yourselves be robbed of the hope and the dream of changing the world with the Gospel, starting with the human and existential peripheries. To go out means to overcome the temptation to speak among ourselves, forgetting the many who wait for a word of mercy from us, a word of comfort, of hope. The Gospel of Jesus is realized in history. Jesus himself was a man in the periphery, from Galilee, far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire and from Jerusalem. He met the poor, the sick, the possessed, sinners, prostitutes, gathering around him a small number of disciples and some women who listened to him and served him. And yet, his word was the beginning of a turning point in history, the beginning of a spiritual and human revolution, the Good News of a Lord, who died and rose for us.

Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to intensify the missionary spirit and enthusiasm for the mission and to hold high your commitment—in the dioceses, missionary institutes, communities, movements and associations—the spirit of Evangelii gaudium, without being discouraged by the difficulties, which are never lacking. Sometimes, even in the Church, we get caught by pessimism, which risks depriving many men and women of the proclamation of the Gospel. Let us go forward with hope! The many missionary martyrs of the faith and of charity show us that victory is only in love and in a life spent for the Lord and for neighbour, starting with the poor. The poor are the travel companions of an outbound Church because they are the first that we encounter. The poor are also your evangelizers because they indicate to you the peripheries where the Gospel is yet to be proclaimed and lived. To go out and not to remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance we keep from the least among us. To go out and to be workers for peace, that “peace” which the Lord gives us each day and of which the world is very much in need. Missionaries never renounce the dream of peace, even when they live difficulties and persecution, which today has returned to make itself felt strongly.

May the Lord make the passion for the mission grow within you and render you wherever witnesses of his love and mercy. And may the Holy Virgin, the Star of the New Evangelization, protect you and render you strong in the task that has been entrusted to you. I ask you to pray for me and I bless you from the heart.

Source: Vatican Radio/VIS

 

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