Bishop Felix Machado led the inaugural Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Papdy. The “Pope warned us that we should never impose the faith of the Church on anyone," he said, for “people are drawn by Jesus, not proselytising”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The extraordinary missionary month is "a gift and a time of grace", said Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai, speaking to AsiaNews after he opened it yesterday in a big celebration at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Papdy.
Noting that most Catholics in his archdiocese are tribal, he stressed the value of the Maximum Illud, which inspired Pope Francis’s missionary month. Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter, he said, sought "to reignite the spirit of the Universal Church for the missio ad gentes". In his view, “people are drawn by Jesus, not proselytising. We have to propose the Good News."
The opening ceremony of the missionary month drew more than 5,000 people. This period is meant to give Catholics a new impetus to proclaim the Gospel by renewing the sense of responsibility that comes with baptism. The event was preceded by missionary vigils in the archdiocese’s five deaneries.
“In today’s world, we have to proclaim the Good News, through witness, in our homes, communities, societies, and our places at work,” said Archbishop Machado in his homily.
In fact, “We have to share our faith to attract people to Jesus Christ. This is especially true for the laity, who are bridges in the world, living in the market square. Their lives and witness must attract people to Jesus.”
With respect to the laity, the archbishop explained that the spiritual training of catechumens is entrusted to them, through the Rite of Christian initiation of adults (RCIA) courses and programmes. the
“I am personally involved with the RCIA programme, guiding, encouraging our educators, etc., but the laity is the main protagonist of sharing the Good News. Priests help, but it is the laity who teach RCIA” courses in the Archdiocese’s ten districts where “Many of our original inhabitants live”.
As “a time of Grace, the extraordinary missionary month awakens the missionary zeal of our people, the original inhabitants, to the Good News and deepens their faith.” They heed “the Pope Francis’s theme ‘Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” This is “our missio ad gentes; not only in Vasai but in the whole state.”
“Though the command of Jesus ‘to preach the Gospel’ always remains as the first mission of the Church, the Pope warned us that we should never impose the faith of the Church on anyone.
Yet, “the revelation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the invaluable treasure entrusted to us that needs to be shared, communicated and proclaimed, so that others may also receive the true light of Christ.”
Lastly, the prelate mentioned some events associated with the month. In addition to the missionary vigil and the inauguration, he calls on the faithful to recite the Rosary at home every day. He urges each parish to organise a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine or the tomb of a saint or martyr. Schools and parishes should dedicate catechism courses to the lives of saints and martyrs, whilst children and youth can collect offers and newspapers to raise funds for missions.