Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Pontifical Mission Societies (POM), like all Christians, have a duty to bring the Gospel to those who do not know it because "the Church's life and mission" is and must continue to be the promotion of a "universal missionary spirit" in the service of communion between Churches, with "special attention to the young Churches, which often operate in a climate of difficulty, discrimination, and persecution, so that they might be sustained and assisted in witnessing the Gospel in word and in deed."
As he spoke to the participants of the General Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Pope Francis centred his address on spreading the "missionary spirit".
For the pontiff, the Pontifical Missionary Societies "are entirely relevant; even more, they are still necessary today because there are so many peoples who have still not known and met Christ and it is urgent to find new forms and new ways that God's grace might touch the heart of each man and each woman and bring them to him. All of us are his plain yet important instruments. We received the gift of faith, not to hide it but to spread it so that it might enlighten the path of many brothers and sisters."
"Of course, a difficult mission awaits us ahead, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it becomes an exciting mission. All of us experience our poverty, and weakness in bringing to the world the precious treasure of the Gospel, but we must constantly repeat Saint Paul's words, 'But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us' (2 Cor, 4:7). This must always give us courage, knowing that the power of evangelisation comes from God, and belongs to Him. We are called to open ourselves more and more to the Holy Spirit, to offer all our willingness to be instruments of God's mercy, his tenderness, his love for every man and every woman, especially for the poor, the excluded, the distant. For every Christian, for the whole Church, the mission is not optional, but is essential. As Saint Paul said, 'If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it' (1 Cor, 9:16). God's salvation is for everyone."
In his address to POM national directors, the pope in particular repeated the invitation that Paul VI had given them 50 years before, namely "to safeguard zealously the universal scope of the Missionary Societies. [. . .] Never tire of educating every Christian, from childhood, to have a genuinely universal and missionary spirit, and to raise awareness in the entire community about the need to support and help the missions according to the needs of each (see conc. Ecumenical Council, Decr. Ad Gentes, 38)." Make sure that POM can "continue, in the path of their centuries-old tradition, to give life and education to the Churches, opening them to the broad dimension of the mission of evangelisation."
"The POM," he said, "also properly belong to the concerns of the bishops so that they might be rooted in the life of particular Churches (Pontifical Mission Societies, Statutes, 17). They must truly become the privileged instrument of education towards a universal missionary spirit and an ever-greater communion between Churches to proclaim the Gospel to the world. Faced with the temptation of communal self-centredness, worried about your own problems, your job is to recall the 'missio ad gentes', to bear witness prophetically that the life of the Church and the Churches is the mission, a universal mission."
"The Episcopal ministry and all ministries are certainly geared towards the growth of the Christian community, but they are also at the service of communion between Churches for the mission of evangelisation. In this context, I invite you to pay special attention to the young Churches, which often operate in a climate of difficulty, discrimination, and persecution, so that they might be sustained and assisted in witnessing the Gospel in word and in deed."
Finally, the pope concluded encouraging those present "to continue your work so that local Churches may ever more generously assume their share of responsibility in the Church's universal mission.
Invoking Mary, Star of evangelisation, Pope Francis cited Paul VI, who said, "May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelisers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world (Evangelii nuntiandi, 80)".