10/15/2009, 00.00
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Mission, the light of Christ to bring hope to the world

by Bernardo Cervellera
The search for God and the Christian faith witness a rebirth in countries of atheism. The announcement to non-Christians is a force for progress and support for justice and peace. Even persecution and martyrdom do not stop evangelisation. A commentary on the Pope's Message for World Mission Day.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "The nations will walk in its light": this phrase from the Apocalypse of St. John is the leitmotif of the 2009 World Mission Day, which this year is celebrated on October 18. Benedict XVI has drafted a message that we have already highlighted (Pope: Mission ad gentes, the duty of all Christians, even in persecution). In it, he underscores the elements of the commitment and mission of the Church which, he says, " the widespread and profound changes in present-day society render ever more urgent " (n. 3).

Firstly there is the affirmation that that the "primary" commitment "anxiously" and "passionately" carried out is the call to "enlighten all peoples with the light of Christ" and "proclaim the Gospel", so as to render the mission ad gentes, to non-Christian peoples, "the priority of pastoral planning" of the Church itself.

This means that weariness, fears over a lack of clergy, the fatigue of organization, the (sometimes) meagre results must not become an obstacle, but rather be oriented to communicate "the light of Christ that shines on the face the Church ", well aware that" God has a great people in all cities, accompanied ... by the apostles of today. " The resurgence of religion in many societies once dominated by state atheism (Russia, China, Vietnam, ...) and the anxiety of many young Western materialistic societies proves the pontiff’s words.

Another factor emphasised by the Pope is that mission, by offering the light of Christ to the world, not only results in the measurable growth of the Church, but it has a positive impact on all societies. Quoting from Evangelii Nuntiandi, he says that announcing the Gospel "is a service not only to the Christian community, but also to all humanity" (EN, 1). The Church helps to recover the "ultimate realities" lost by men, to discover that there are spiritual needs, as well as material ones, but in just this way "we understand the true and authentic historical journey of mankind" (No. 2) . The Church, he says, "aims to transform the world with the proclamation of the Gospel of love." So the announcement of the Church becomes " a force for justice and peace, for true freedom and respect for the dignity of every human person"(No. 2); leaven "of progress, brotherhood, unity and peace" (No. 3). One has only to look at the many churches in Asia to realize the truth of these affirmations: preaching the gospel restores dignity to oppressed minorities, it creates development among the outcasts, greater unity in society, attention to the needs of the poorest, social reconciliation. A commitment to justice in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Korea who also share the same Christian commitment to the advancement of humanity.  

"The mission of the Church - says the pontiff - is to 'infect' all peoples with “hope”.  Indeed, it seems the more globalization has spread, the more problems interconnected with it have become difficult to resolve. The selfishness of governments (and nations) slows any agreed solution. The proclamation of the Gospel, looking at concrete man, can always find a way, giving us " the courage needed to keep living and working….to cause the light of God to enter into the world" (Deus Caritas Est, 39).

A very important point is that in which Pope Benedict XVI recalls the missionaries who bear witness "in situations of persecution, with forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to jail, torture and death." The pope immediately comments: participation in the mission of Christ means sharing in "the same fate as their Master." Martyrdom, persecution are elements of mission and not "obstacles" or misfortunes. For this, he recalls that even in suffering, the Church is "a witness and travelling companion of this humanity."

I will always remember what a girl from Beijing once told me, after reading an AsiaNews report on the persecution of Christians in other countries: "First I thought that I was misfortunate to have been  born in China. Now that I see what my brothers and sisters in faith in the world do, I realize that living in Beijing is a mission".

Dear friends, with the testimonies that we publish each day on our website and every month in our  magazine, AsiaNews aims to serve the Church's mission, by telling of persecution, but also of the hope that Christians "infect" the world with.

(Photo: CPP)



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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”