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Pope Francis: letter to Card. Filoni on World Mission Sunday

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, on occasion of the 2017 iteration of World Mission Sunday. In the letter, the Holy Father reflects on the upcoming centenary of the great missionary charter of the 20th century, the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, promulgated on November 30th, 1919.

Below, please find the full text of the letter in its official English translation

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To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal Fernando Filoni
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

On 30 November 2019, we will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, with which Pope Benedict XV sought to give new impetus to the missionary task of proclaiming the Gospel.  In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict that he himself called a “useless slaughter,”[1] the Pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous.  “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,”[2] he wrote, firmly calling for the rejection of any form of particular interest, inasmuch as the proclamation and the love of the Lord Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works, are the sole purpose of missionary activity.  Benedict XV thus laid special emphasis on the missio ad gentes, employing the concepts and language of the time, in an effort to revive, particularly among the clergy, a sense of duty towards the missions.

That duty is a response to Jesus’ perennial command to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  Obeying this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church: in the words of the Second Vatican Council, it is her “essential task,”[3] for the Church is “missionary by nature.”[4]  “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelize.”[5]  The Council went on to say that, if the Church is to remain faithful to herself and to preach Jesus crucified and risen for all, the living and merciful Saviour, then “prompted by the Holy Spirit, she must walk the same path Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice.”[6]  In this way, she will effectively proclaim the Lord, “model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which all aspire.”[7]

 What Pope Benedict XV so greatly desired almost a century ago, and the Council reiterated some fifty years ago, remains timely.  Even now, as in the past, “the Church, sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, is aware that there still remains an enormous missionary task for her to accomplish.”[8]  In this regard, Saint John Paul II noted that “the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion,” and indeed, “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.”[9]  As a result, in words that I would now draw once more to everyone’s attention, Saint John Paul exhorted the Church to undertake a “renewed missionary commitment”, in the conviction that missionary activity “renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive.  Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!  It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support.”[10]

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, drawing from the proceedings of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met to reflect on the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, I once more set this urgent summons before the whole Church.  There I wrote, “John Paul II asked us to recognize that ‘there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel’ to those who are far from Christ, ‘because this is the first task of the Church.’  Indeed, ‘today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church’ and ‘the missionary task must remain foremost.’ What would happen if we were to take these words seriously?  We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity.”[11] 

I am convinced that this challenge remains as urgent as ever. “[It] has a programmatic significance and important consequences.  I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion that cannot leave things as they presently are.  ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.  Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’”[12]  Let us not fear to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, “a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.  The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself.  As John Paul II told the Bishops of Oceania, ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’”[13]

The Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.  May the approaching centenary of that Letter serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past.  Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel.  In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict, may the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear, be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervour, and instil trust and hope in everyone.

In the light of this, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.  The Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal.  May the love for the Church’s mission, which is “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,”[14] grow ever stronger!

I entrust you, venerable Brother, the Congregation which you head, and the Pontifical Missionary Societies with the work of preparing for this event, especially by raising awareness among the particular Churches, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and among associations, movements, communities and other ecclesial bodies.  May the Extraordinary Missionary Month prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.  May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.[15]

From the Vatican, 22 October 2017
XXIX Sunday of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint John Paul II
World Mission Sunday

[1] Letter to the Leaders of the Warring Peoples, 1 August 1917: AAS IX (1917), 421-423.

[2] Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, 30 November 1919: AAS 11 (1919), 445.

[3] Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 7 December 1965, 7: AAS 58 (1966), 955.

[4] Ibid., 2: AAS 58 (1966), 948.

[5] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 14: AAS 68 (1976), 13.

[6] Decree Ad Gentes, 5: AAS 58 (1966), 952.

[7] Ibid., 8: AAS 58 (1966), 956-957.

[8] Ibid., 10: AAS 58 (1966), 959.

[9] Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, 1: AAS 83 (1991), 249.

[10] Ibid., 2: AAS 83 (1991), 250-251.

[11] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 15: AAS 105 (2013), 1026.

[12] Ibid., 25: AAS 105 (2013), 1030.

[13] Ibid., 27: AAS 105 (2013), 1031.

[14] Ibid., 268: AAS 105 (2013), 1128.

[15] Ibid., 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.

Pope meets Brazilian student priests of Rome

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday reminded Brazilian priests studying in Rome that they were first of all priests and pastors of the people of God before being teachers and doctors.  While many Brazilians back home seem to have “lost hope in a better future because of enormous social problems and scandalous corruption,” the Pope said, the nation “needs its priests be a sign of hope.” 

The Holy Father made the remarks to some 100 Brazilian student priests and staff of the Pontifical Pio Brazilian College of Rome who met him in the Vatican. Most Pontifical Colleges in Rome are hostels where priests from various nations reside while pursuing ecclesiastical studies in various pontifical universities in the city.

Four pillars of priest's life

Pope Francis advised Brazilian student priests to watch out against the dangers caused by an imbalance among their spiritual, academic, human and pastoral dimensions - the four pillars of a priest’s life.  As students, he said, they should not disregard the other three dimensions.

Spiritual life, he said, must be nurtured through daily Mass, prayer, ‘lectio divina’, personal encounter with the Lord and the rosary.  The pastoral dimension must be maintained, if possible through some apostolic activity.  With regard to the human dimension, the Pope noted that amid a certain void created by solitude, being away from the people of God of their diocese, one  could lose the ecclesial and missionary perspective of studies. 

“Diseases”

Neglecting these dimensions as student priests, can lead to “diseases” such as “academicism” and the temptation to use studies only as a means to assert oneself, both of which, the Pope said, suffocate the faith instead of safeguarding the mission.  “Please don't forget that before being teachers and doctors you are and must remain priests and pastors f the people of God,” the Pope urged.

Priestly fraternity

Insisting on the importance of maintaining priestly fraternity, the Holy Father said, it is derived from and based on the ‎one priesthood of Christ that creates a true family, elevating our ‎human, psychological and affective relations.  These relations take concrete forms such as praying together, sharing the joys and challenges of academic ‎life, helping those suffering nostalgia, taking a walk together, being brothers in a ‎family without however leaving aside no one, even those with unpleasant ‎attitudes.

“Brazilians,” he said, “need to see a clergy that is united, fraternal and mutually supportive, where priests face obstacles together, without giving in to the temptations of attracting attention or making a career.” With Brazil facing religious and social challenges, the Pope said, their people back home want and need to see them love one another and live like brothers.  

Pope Francis to participants in conference on disabled persons

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received participants in a major international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: a necessary engagement in the pastoral life of the Church was the title of the conference, which was held in the Vatican.

Time for persons with disabilities to become catechists

Pope Francis met the conference participants on Saturday morning and told them it is time that people with disabilities themselves became catechists, helping to communicate the Faith more effectively “through their own witness”.

Click below to hear our report

Following an introduction by the President of the Vatican Dicastery, Archibishop Rino Fischella, the Pope spoke of the great developments in the field of stimulating awareness and promoting the dignity of persons with disabilities, but he also criticized what he called an often “narcissistic and utilitarian” view that fails to recognize the “human and spiritual wealth” that people with disabilities possess and are ready to offer.

Below is our translation from Italian of the full text of the Pope’s discourse.

Awareness and inclusion

We know the great developments that have taken place in the field of disability over the last decades. The growth in awareness of the dignity of every person, especially the weakest, and how they have led to taking courageous positions to ensure the inclusion of those who live with different forms of handicap, so that no one should feel a stranger in their own home.

Enduring marginalization

Still, at a cultural level there are still expressions that offend the dignity of the person and that maintain a false concept of life. An often narcissistic and utilitarian view, unfortunately, leads several to consider people with disabilities as marginal, without seeing in them the multifaceted human and spiritual wealth that they possess. There is still a strong attitude of rejection of this condition in the collective mentality, as though it prevented the individual from being happy and self-fulfilled.

Proof of this is the eugenic tendency to eliminate the unborn child that shows some form of imperfection. In fact, we all know many people who, even in their fragility and with great effort, have found the way to live a good life and richly meaningful life. On the other hand, we know people who are apparently perfect, yet desperate! It is dangerously deceptive to think we are invulnerable. As a girl I met on my recent trip to Colombia said: vulnerability is part of what it means to be human.

The role of respectful love

The response is love: not the false, deceitful and pious kind, but true, concrete, and respectful love. To the extent that we are welcomed and loved, included in the community and accompanied to look to the future with confidence, the true path of life develops and we experience lasting happiness. This – as we know - applies to everyone, but those who are most fragile people are the proof of it. Faith is a great companion of life when it allows us to experience the presence of a Father who never abandons his creatures, whatever their condition of their life.

A vocal Church and a courageous Community

The Church cannot be "voiceless" or "tone-deaf" in defending and promoting people with disabilities. Being close to families helps them overcome the solitude into which they risk closing themselves because of lack of attention and support. This is even more true in terms of the responsibility of the Church to inspire and form a Christian life. The community cannot be lacking in words and gestures, especially, in reaching out and welcoming people with disabilities.

The Sunday Liturgy, in particular, must include them, because the encounter with the Risen Lord and with the Community itself can be a source of hope and courage along life’s difficult journey.

Grace and Encounter

In a special way, catechesis needs to discover and develop coherent ways to ensure that every person, with his or her gifts, limitations and disabilities, however serious, may encounter Jesus on their life’s journey and abandon themselves to him in faith. No physical or mental limitation can ever hinder this encounter, because Christ's face shines in the intimacy of every person. We need to also pay special attention to the ministers of Christ’s Grace and not fall into the neo-Pelagian error of failing to recognize the need for the power of the Grace that comes from the sacraments of Christian initiation.

Catechists through example

Let us learn to overcome the embarrassment and fear we sometimes experience when we meet people with disabilities. Let us learn to seek, and even to create with intelligence, adequate means to ensure no one lacks the support of Grace. Let us train catechists - first and foremost through example! - who are more and more able to accompany these people so that they may grow in faith and offer their genuine and original contribution to the life of the Church. Finally, I hope that more and more people with disabilities can become catechists themselves in their communities, offering their own witness and helping to communicate the faith more effectively.

Pope Francis at Angelus: on being Christian in the world

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Addressing them ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis shared a reflection on the Reading from the Sunday Gospel, which this week came from St. Matthew and contains the maxim, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

Pope Francis explained that the episode teaches us both the legitimacy of earthly authority and the primacy of God in human affairs and over all the universe.

“The Christian is called to be concretely committed in human and social realities,” said Pope Francis, “without putting God and ‘Caesar’ in contraposition.” He said that counterposing God and Caesar would be, “a fundamentalist attitude.”

“The Christian,” Pope Francis continued, “is called upon to engage concretely in earthly realities, but enlightening them with the light that comes from God. Entrusting oneself to God in the first, and placing one’s hope in Him, do not require us to escape from reality, but rather to work diligently to render unto Him, all that it His. That is why the believer looks to future reality, to that of God: that he might live his earthly life in fullness, and respond with courage to its challenges.”

Pope Francis at Angelus: Church's mission entrusted to Pope St. John Paul II

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has proclaimed October, 2019 an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” to be marked and celebrated in the whole Church throughout the world, and entrusted the mission of the Church in the world especially to Pope St. John Paul II.

The Holy Father recalled his intention to celebrate the Extraordinary Missionary Month on Sunday – World Mission Sunday – during the course of remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, to pray the traditional Angelus with him at noon.

“Today,” said Pope Francis, “World Mission Day is celebrated, on the theme: Mission at the heart of the Christian faith. I urge everyone to live the joy of mission by witnessing the Gospel in the environs where each one lives and works.”

The Holy Father went on to say, “At the same time, we are called upon to support with affection, concrete help, and prayer, the missionaries who have gone out to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know Him.”

“I also recall,” he continued, “that I intend to promote an Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019, in order to nourish the ardor of the evangelizing activity of the Church ad gentes. On the day of the liturgical memory of Saint John Paul II, missionary Pope, we entrust to his intercession the mission of the Church in the world.”

Pope Francis: appeals for peace in world, calm in Kenya

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in the world on Sunday, asking all the faithful to join him in prayer for that specific intention, and in particular for Kenya, where tensions are high in the wake of a contested and inconclusive presidential election that is scheduled to be re-run on October 26th.

“I ask you to join my prayer for peace in the world,” Pope Francis said to pilgrims and tourists gathered for the Sunday Angelus prayer. “I am paying close attention in these days to Kenya, which I visited in 2015, and for which I pray, that the whole country might be able to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the search for the common good.”

The crisis in Kenya reached stalemate after the country’s Supreme Court annulled the results of the presidential election held on August 8 of this year, citing “irregularities” and “illegalities” in the process.

More than 15 million people cast ballots in that poll, with 54% of them going to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. Opposition leader Raila Odinga – Kenyatta’s principal challenger – has pulled out of the race and called for mass protests on the day of the scheduled re-run.

Rights monitors say as many as 70 people have been killed in protests since the August vote.

After disputed elections in 2007, at least 1200 people were killed.

Pope’s condolence for assassination of Maltese reporter

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has expressed his condolence for the killing of a Maltese journalist, who was investigating corruption among leading politicians in the tiny Mediterranean island nation.  “Saddened by the tragic death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for her eternal rest, and asks you kindly to convey his condolences to her family,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf to Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.  “The Holy Father also assures you of his spiritual closeness to the Maltese people at this difficult moment, and implores God’s blessings upon the nation,” the cardinal wrote.

Investigating corruption

A well-known blogger and fierce critic of the government and the opposition, Caruana Galizia was killed on Monday in a powerful blast that wrecked her car as she was leaving her house in the rural north of the overwhelmingly Catholic nation. Maltese police said on Thursday they believe Caruana Galizia was killed by a remotely-controlled bomb attached under her car.

The assassination of the 53-year-old journalist has shocked the nation and her three sons have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.  Caruana Galizia was one of Muscat's harshest critics, revealing connections by his wife and members of his government to shell companies in Panama, allegations which the Muscats have denied.

The European Union, of which Malta is a member, as well a group of U.N. human rights experts have demanded a prompt, independent investigation into the murder. 

Pope urges for ethics in the service of man and environment

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged for an ethics that is friendly to man and the environment, where fundamental values are not “sacrificed on the altar of efficiency”.  The Pope was speaking to participants in a workshop organized in the Vatican by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in collaboration with the Organization of Catholic Universities in Latin America and the Caribbean (ODUCAL).  The Oct. 19-21 workshop is discussing “Changing relations among market, state and civil society.” 

Inequalities and exploitation of planet

In line with their discussions, the Pope stressed on two specific causes that fuel “exclusion and existential peripheries”.  The first is the “endemic and systemic increase in inequalities and the exploitation of the planet.”  Besides depending on individual behavior, inequality and exploitation also depend on economic rules that society adopts, the Pope pointed out.  The way sectors such as energy, labor, banking, welfare, tax and school are designed, depends on how income and wealth are shared among those who have contributed to producing them.  But “if profit prevails, democracy tends to become a ‎plutocracy in which inequalities and the exploitation of the planet grow,” the Pope warned.

Labour

The other cause of exclusion the Pope pointed out is work that is unworthy of the human person.   Besides providing a just wage to the worker, he said, the entire production process should be adapted “to the needs of the person and to his way of life,” while at the same time respect “creation, our common home”.  This calls for the need to “get rid of the pressures of the public and private lobbyists who defend sectoral ‎interests.”  “Political action must be placed ‎in the service of the human person, the common good, and respect for nature,” the Pope stressed. 

Civilizing the market

The market must not only be efficient in creating wealth and ensuring sustainable growth, ‎but it must also be at the service of integral human development, the Pope said. “We cannot sacrifice on the altar of ‎efficiency - the "golden calf" of our times - fundamental values such as democracy, justice, freedom, ‎family, creation.”  In essence, we must aim at "civilizing the market" in the perspective of a friendly ‎ethics of man and his environment.‎

Reminding the workshop participants about the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity of the Church’s social doctrine, Pope said the state cannot conceive itself as the sole and exclusive holder of the common good but by not allowing ‎the intermediate bodies of civil society to freely express their full potential.  The challenge here is how to connect individual rights with the common good.‎

Pope at Mass: hypocrisy and trickery are bad for us

(Vatican Radio) May God grant us the grace of interior truth, rather than living a life of hypocrisy and trickery. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to those gathered for morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta chapel.

Listen to our report: 

Reflecting on the first reading of the day from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, the pope explained that God’s pardon is always freely given and not earned by what we do.

The work we do, he continued, is our response to this gratuitous love and forgiveness of God, who took away original sin and who pardons our sins every time we turn to Him.

Hypocrities try to appear virtuous

In the passage from St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis said, we read about another way that people seek justification, by trying to appear righteous and saintly. They are the hypocrites, he said, whose lives are filthy inside, but on the outside they try to appear virtuous and holy by showing how they fast and pray or give to charity.

Jesus asks us to be truthful

In their hearts, the pope said, there is no substance, but they live by deception and theirs is a life of trickery. Jesus always asks us to be truthful in our hearts: that’s why he tells us to pray out of sight, to hide the weakness we feel when we fast, and to conceal our almsgiving, so that the left hand does not know what the right one is doing.

Falsehood is very bad for us

Jesus asks us to live coherently, Pope Francis insisted, because falsehood and hypocrisy are very bad for us. In today’s psalm, he said, we ask the Lord for the grace of truth, saying “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not”. We confess our faults to the Lord  and He takes away the our sin and guilt.

Truth is always before God

We must always be truthful with God, the pope concluded, so let us learn not to accuse others, but rather to accuse ourselves, without trying to hide our sins from the Lord.

Vatican Weekend for October 22nd, 2017

Vatican Weekend for October 22nd, 2017 features our weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading, “There’s more in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye,” plus we find out more about a special Church-sponsored program that helps couples whose marriage is heading for the rocks.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges: