» 10/22/2012, 00.00
John Paul II, the pope of the mission ad gentes
With the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, the Polish pope returned mission to non-Christians to the center of the Church's life. He re-launched the conciliar Ad Gentes document boosting it in urgency and quality. Meanwhile, the Catholic mission slid towards short-sighted commitments: weapons, water, debt ... fruits of a crisis of faith. A witness of the Council and of mission speaks (Part VI).
Rome (AsiaNews) - In 1990,
twenty-five years after the approval of the Conciliar Decree Ad Gentes in 1965,
John Paul II issued the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" (RM), which was
disputed by many in the Vatican Curia before it was published. They
said: "The encyclical is too solemn" an "apostolic letter" would suffice,
just as for the anniversary of other conciliar texts." Instead
the Pope wanted an encyclical to fill a void and authoritatively confirm Ad
void was this: the Ad Gentes, considered secondary in the context of Vatican II
(it risked being abolished, as I wrote), lacked time to allow for ample discussion
or to respond to all requests the Council Fathers from the missions: it is a beautiful
text, but rushed, incomplete.
The R.M. has
been underestimated in the Church, by theologians, missiologists, missionary
magazines, because it is considered as a confirmation of Ad Gentes, so, they concluded,
ads nothing new nor "does it have the charm of earlier documents." In
fact, RM, certainly wanted to confirm Ad Gentes, but also, according to the
will of Pope John Paul II (and I can confirm having met the Pope several times
while preparing the three drafts of the document, from October to December
1989, March and July
1990), intended to deal with issues that had been hastily examined or even
ignored during Vatican II: for example, "The mission has only just begun
to direct our attention to the South and the East" (n. 40),
Gospel into the cultures of peoples "(Nos. 52-54),"Dialogue with our
brothers from other religions "(one theme, for example, that is missing in
" Evangelii Nuntiandi ", nn. 55-57)," promoting
development by forming consciences "(Nos. 58.-59, the text is totally new
and revolutionary in addressing the topic" Gospel and development
")," diocesan priests for the universal mission "(Nos. 67-68),"
Not only giving
to mission but also receiving" (No. 85)," God is preparing a new
springtime of the Gospel "(No. 86), The" young churches are the (missionary)
hope of the universal Church "(n. 91), the Treaty on
"missionary spirituality" (Part VIII, nos. 87-91), etc..
Mission ad gentes once again at the centre
Paul II at the beginning of the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio"
(1990) affirms that he wants to re-launch mission to the peoples, while noting
the positive effects of the Council on missionary activity (No. 2): " The Council has already borne much fruit in the
realm of missionary activity. There has been an increase of local churches with
their own bishops, clergy and workers in the apostolate. The presence of
Christian communities is more evident in the life of nations, and communion
between the churches has led to a lively exchange of spiritual benefits and
gifts. The commitment of the laity to the work of evangelization is changing
ecclesial life, while particular churches are more willing to meet with the members
of other Christian churches and other religions, and to enter into dialogue and
cooperation with them. Above all, there is a new awareness that missionary
activity is a matter for all Christians, for all dioceses and parishes,
Church institutions and associations. "
But then the Pope continues
noting that many missionaries in the field complain, often with acute suffering
(no. 2): "Nevertheless,
in this "new springtime" of Christianity there is an undeniable
negative tendency, and the present document is meant to help overcome it. Missionary
activity specifically directed "to the nations" (ad gentes)
appears to be waning, and this tendency is certainly not in line with the
directives of the Council and of subsequent statements of the Magisterium. Difficulties
both internal and external have weakened the Church's missionary thrust toward
non-Christians, a fact which must arouse concern among all who believe in
Christ. For in the Church's history, missionary drive has always been a sign of
vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith. "
Crisis of faith
are the "internal and external difficulties" that have slowed the
missionary outreach of the Church? Many
and varied: the closure of several countries to foreign missionaries, the
strengthening of nationalism, religion and non-Christian cultures, wars,
guerrilla warfare and anti-Christian persecutions, a deepening of the gap (or
abyss) between Christian and non-Christian peoples (North and South the
world); difficulty in integration between bishops, priests, local and foreign
missionaries; new priorities that have replaced the first announcement: human
development of peoples, interfaith dialogue, etc.. In
Italy, in my experience, the loss of the missionary ideal is not only due to
the crisis of faith and Christian life, the loss of identity of the
"mission to the nations" and the consequent confusion of voices in Catholic
and missionary theological production and publications.
"Redemptoris Missio" sums up this period of terminological and
conceptual confusion (No. 32): " The so-called
return or "repatriation" of the missions into the Church's
mission, the insertion of missiology into ecclesiology, and the
integration of both areas into the Trinitarian plan of salvation, have given a
fresh impetus to missionary activity itself, which is not considered a marginal
task for the Church but is situated at the centre of her life, as a fundamental
commitment of the whole People of God. Nevertheless, care must be taken to
avoid the risk of putting very different situations on the same level and of
reducing, or even eliminating, the Church's mission and missionaries ad
gentes. To say that the whole Church is missionary does not preclude the
existencec of a specific mission ad gentes, just as saying that all
Catholics must be missionaries not only does not exclude, but actually requires
that there be persons who have a specific vocation to be "life-long
missionaries ad gentes".
The Pope and the Italian Church
John Paul II's pontificate was oriented towards the whole world, as he wrote
himself (RM 1): "From the beginning of my Pontificate I have chosen to
travel to the ends of the earth to show this missionary concern and their
direct contact with
people who do not know Christ to me even more convinced of the urgency of this
activity, to whom I dedicate this encyclical. "
the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) gave strong directives to dioceses and
parishes to promote a missionary commitment. I
would like to recall some of significant texts produced during the Pontificate
of John Paul II:
"The Italian Church's missionary committement " (25 March 1982), 25
years after the Fidei Donum: the first, great Directory for the diocese and diocesan
"The missionary zeal of Italian diocesan priests" (21 April 1982),
pastoral note on Italian "Fidei Donum priests" (then 1200).
"Communion and missionary community" (22 June 1986) after the
Congress of Loreto in 1985, to promote the "new mission" and guide
the choices of the diocese towards universal mission.
"Missionary institutes in the dynamism of the Italian Church" (10 February
1987), which reaffirms the validity of the missionary institutes and religious
congregations with missions, a beautiful text and proper recognition of the
missionary forces that carried out the mission to the nations well before the
"Fidei Donum ".
"The laity in the mission ad gentes and cooperation between peoples"
(25 January 1990) to guide the increased presence of Italian laity in the missions
and missionary cooperation (in the mid-eighties were cica 1800).
"The love of Christ impels us - Letter to the Christian communities for a
renewed missionary commitment" (4 April 1999), I think the best document
of the CEI on the mission to the Gentiles.
Missionaries or social workers and
looking at magazines and books, conferences, campaigns, organizations and
missionary organizations, sometimes one wonders if people know about the document
at all. Let's
face it: the serious decline in missionary vocations in Italy comes from the
decay of the family and of Italian society and is parallel to the crisis of
priestly and religious vocations of which all complain, but also depends on how
the figure of the missionary and "mission to the Nations "is presented. Thirty
years ago there were missionary vigils and marches where the missionaries in
the field spoke, asking God for more vocations for the mission to the people
and provoking young people into giving their lives for missions. Today
the prevailing mobilization is on issues such as arms sales to poor countries,
the collection of signatures against the external debt of African countries, water
as a public good, deforestation, etc.. When
issues such as these gain the most weight in the "missionary activities",
it is inevitable that the missionary ad gentes gradually becomes little more
than a social worker and politician. In
a town in Lombardy, in 2006 on the even of World Mission Sunday consisted of a
march from the city center to a weapons factory in the suburbs, to protest
against the national industry; Is this really an issue for mission to the nations?
missionary activities (commitments of groups, books, magazines) are dominated
by the reports, denunciations , criticism and protest at the expense of
personal witness of values such as the gift of life for the Gospel and,
because of that, the commitment for a more just and human
The missionary horizon darkens
Missio reads (n. 79): "Promoting such vocations is at the heart of missionary cooperation. Preaching
the Gospel requires preachers; the harvest needs laborers. The mission is
carried out above all by men and women who are consecrated for life to the work
of the Gospel and are prepared to go forth into the whole world to bring
salvation. " I
ask: How will a young boy or a girl ever feel attracted to become missionaries,
if they are educated only to denounce, complain, protest, to collect signatures
against weapons or foreign debt? For
more missionary vocations we must attract young people to the Gospel and to the
missionary life, helping them fall in love with Jesus Christ, the only wealth
we have. Everything
else is of no consequence.
Italy, the religious horizon of mission is obscured, in favor of a social,
cultural and political horizon. It
is the Word of God that saves, not our human 'projects', not our ideology, not
money or protest against injustice or any political project of 'revolution' to
bring peace and justice. It
is not enough to change the law (it must be done, but it is not enough!), You
must change the heart of man, from egotist to altruist: this is the Christian
project of liberation: creating a '"new man" according to the model
of Jesus. The Conference of
the Latin American bishops at Puebla (1979) stated: "The best service to
our brother is evangelization, which helps him to live as a child of God, free
from injustices and helps his integral development." This
is also the experience of missionaries in the field and the young Churches. The
missionary institutions and the various agencies and missionary groups are
mandated by the Church to proclaim Christ, convert hearts with the grace of
God, to bring the "revolution of the Gospel" that develops man and
human society. The
more they remain faithful to their
charism, the more they are credible and evangelize, the further they drift from
the perspective of a supernatural salvation, marrying ideologies and human
projects, the more they become spiritually barren.
John Paul II, the missionary Pope
With Pope Francis, the mission ad gentes renews the Church
The pontiff begins with the proclamation of Christ and with young churches in order to give new impetus to the older ones that are perhaps moored too much to old patterns. The missionary spirit can teach a lot even to those who, like us, are rich in spirituality, theology, law, liturgical rites, and pastoral experiences. . . . The apostles themselves did not remain in Jerusalem, but gave breath and universal consistency to Catholicism by "going into the whole world."
Paul VI: The return to mission, after ideological inebriation and charity without proclamation
The mission ad gentes, revived by Vatican II, suffered the violent Marxist ideological interpretations and sociological reductions. Pope Paul VI always took the right direction, indicating where "true liberation" is found and that Jesus Christ is the centre of the missionary commitment. A witness of the Council and of mission speaks (Part V).
Mission after the Council: Contention and Third-worldism
The Second Vatican Council ended with many promises and hopes. But within a few years everything was turned upside down: criticism of “colonialism” of foreign missionaries; the exaltation of salvation in other religious traditions; the reduction of Christianity to a religion of "values". The hopes of the poor placed in Marxism. A Council witness speaks (Part IV).
Pope’s Message for the 2007 World Mission Day
This year’s theme is “All the Churches for all the world.” In remembering the Encyclical ‘Fidei donum,’ Benedict XVI urges established Churches, wearied by a shrinking clergy, and young Churches, tried by inadequate means, to engage in the ‘missio ad gentes.’ The missionary commitment is the Church’s “primary service” to transform today’s humanity.
The tears of Chinese bishops. A portrait of Msgr. Zhuang, bishop of Shantou
A priest of the official Church, recalls the 88 year old bishop that the Vatican wants to replace with an illegitimate bishop, to please the regime. Mons. Zhuang Jianjian became an underground bishop at the behest of the Vatican in 2006. Card. Zen and Msgr. Zhuang, image of the faithful Church, "which provokes an immense sadness and a sense of impotence". The hopes of card. Parolin to console "the past and present sufferings of Chinese Catholics".
CHINA - VATICAN - HONG KONG
Card. Zen on the bishops of Shantou and Mindong
Card. Joseph Zen
The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong confirms the information published in recent days by AsiaNews and reveals details of his conversation with Pope Francis on these topics: "Do not create another Mindszenty case", the primate of Hungary whom the Vatican forced to leave the country, appointing a successor in Budapest, at the will of the communist government of the time.
14/02/2018 SINGAPORE - VATICAN
AsiaNews IS ALSO A MONTHLY!
AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.