Pope: the Church is 'all missionary' and every Christian is called to bear witness to Jesus

Francis' message for World Mission Day revolves around "three key phrases that synthesize the three foundations of the life and mission of every disciple: “You shall be my witnesses”, “to the ends of the earth” and “you shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit”. "In evangelization, then, the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other. They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary.."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Church is "all missionary", lives by the witness of Christians and, thanks to the strength given by the Holy Spirit, wants to reach "the ends of the earth". Entitled "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8), Pope Francis' message for World Mission Day to be celebrated on October 23, 2022, published today.

Francis articulates the message on "three key phrases that synthesize the three foundations of the life and mission of every disciple: “You shall be my witnesses”, “to the ends of the earth” and “you shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit".

The first expression - "To me you will be witnesses" - is meant to indicate that all Christians are called to witness to Christ. "TheThe plural form of the verb emphasizes the communitarian and ecclesial nature of the disciples’ missionary vocation. Each baptized person is called to mission, in the Church and by the mandate of the Church: consequently, mission is carried out together, not individually, in communion with the ecclesial community, and not on one’s own initiative." The witness of Christians therefore has a "primarily communal character."

"The essence of mission," Francis goes on to write, "is to bear witness to Christ, that is, his life, passion, death, and resurrection for love of the Father and humanity. Still on the subject of witness, Francis recalls the statement of Paul VI: "Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers he does so because they are witnesses" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). Therefore," he adds, "the witness of the evangelical life of Christians is fundamental for the transmission of the faith. On the other hand, the task of proclaiming his person and his message remains equally necessary." "In evangelization, therefore, the example of Christian life and the proclamation of Christ go together. The one serves the other. They are the two lungs with which every community must breathe in order to be missionary."

Of particular importance in the testimony is that of Christians who are victims of religious persecution and situations of war and violence. "e are grateful to these brothers and sisters who do not remain locked in their own suffering but bear witness to Christ and to the love of God in the countries that accept them. Hence, Saint Paul VI encouraged them to recognize the “responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21). More and more, we are seeing how the presence of faithful of various nationalities enriches the face of parishes and makes them more universal, more Catholic. Consequently, the pastoral care of migrants should be valued as an important missionary activity that can also help the local faithful to rediscover the joy of the Christian faith they have received".

The theme of migrants is linked to the second point, the sending of the disciples "to the ends of the earth." "THere we clearly see the universal character of the disciples’ mission. We also see the “centrifugal” geographical expansion, as if in concentric circles, of the mission, beginning with Jerusalem, which Jewish tradition considered the centre of the world, to Judea and Samaria and to “the ends of the earth”. The disciples are sent not to proselytize, but to proclaim; the Christian does not proselytize. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this missionary expansion and provide a striking image of the Church “going forth” in fidelity to her call to bear witness to Christ the Lord and guided by divine providence in the concrete conditions of her life."

Going out to the ends of the earth, writes Francis, is an indication that "will have to question the disciples of Jesus in every age", because the Church was, is and will always be "going out" towards new geographical, social and existential horizons, towards "borderline" places and human situations, to bear witness to Christ and his love for all men and women of every people, culture and social status.

In mission, Christians know that they have "the power of the Spirit" with them. "TAll Christ’s missionary disciples are called to recognize the essential importance of the Spirit’s work, to dwell in his presence daily and to receive his unfailing strength and guidance. Indeed, it is precisely when we feel tired, unmotivated or confused that we should remember to have recourse to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Let me emphasize once again that prayer plays a fundamental role in the missionary life, for it allows us to be refreshed and strengthened by the Spirit as the inexhaustible divine source of renewed energy and joy in sharing Christ’s life with others.."

And "The Spirit, then, is the true protagonist of mission. It is he who gives us the right word, at the right time, and in the right way.It is in the light of the action of the Holy Spirit that we also want to read the missionary anniversaries of this 2022". The institution of the Sacred Congregation de propaganda fide, in 1622, and that of three missionary works recognized as 'pontifical' one hundred years ago. They are the Work of the Holy Childhood, begun by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson; the Work of St. Peter the Apostle founded by Jeanne Bigard to support seminarians and priests in mission lands; and the Association for the Propagation of the Faith founded 200 years ago by Pauline Jaricot whose beatification will be celebrated in this jubilee year. (FP)