05/03/2013, 00.00
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PIME mission, in the footsteps of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis

by Bernardo Cervellera
The PIME Annual General Meeting will discuss the mission ad gentes and "new evangelization"; missionary revival for the older Churches (Italy, USA, Latin America), and the communications media. But above all, the awakening of faith, according to the teaching of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis’ call to "go out to the geographical and existential outskirts".

Rome (AsiaNews) - From May 5 to 29 the PIME General Assembly will be held, a meeting that takes place every six years, aimed at electing a new leadership for the institute and building visions for the future. The Assembly will be opened with a prayer vigil open to the public in the PIME chapel, in Rome, in via FD Guerrazzi 11, at 6pm on Sunday, May 5. An audience with Pope Francis is also scheduled before the end of the meeting.

Starting May 5, and for at least three to four weeks, the CIAM, or PIME General Assembly (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) will be held.   The gathering brings together the general direction, the missions superiors and the delegates elected by individual communities : in total nearly fifty people who will have the important task of electing the new superior general and his four advisers who will guide PIME over the next six years.

But above all, the gathering is a kind of Last Supper (or a small conclave) in which priests and consecrated lay people from Asia, Africa, America speak about what is taking place in their geographical areas from the point of view of mission and try to draw conclusions in order to understand the signs of the times and how to best act upon them.

What are these signs of the times? First, the historical situation: an institution born 163 years ago with different faces of mission: there are the "older" missions, such as China, India, Myanmar, which have generated dioceses, missionary vocations and in turn, missionaries; there are the new PIME missions, such as Mexico and Algeria; communities in countries marked by the growing Islamic fundamentalism, or in those victim to economic globalization; in secularized countries (Italy? United States?) and in countries of fervent religiosity.

In all of these realities, PIME aims to show that Jesus Christ is the savior of man, without whom dignity and progress cannot grow, proclaiming Him to non-Christians and awakening established churches to mission, helping them to go outside, beyond their geographical and cultural boundaries.

Almost certainly the General Assembly will discuss the mission ad gentes, to non-Christians, abroad and the "new evangelization" in countries of origin; of the attempt to reawaken particular churches to universal mission - such as those in Latin American - rich in vocations, but hesitant in embracing evangelization to the ends of the world, as far as Asia. For PIME, in fact, Asia is a "preferential option" given that more than 80% of the world's non-Christians live on this continent.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that missionary impulse is in crisis or is slowing down: the demographic winter in Western countries, the "jealousy" of many families and bishops to "keep" their children or priests to themselves, has led to a decrease in the number of our missionaries. In addition, the economic crisis has enveloped the world makes it more difficult to find funds to support the missions to build and maintain leper hospitals, schools, catechism classes, chapels, means of communication.

But, thank God, this "crisis" is crossed by two other "signs of the times." The first is the Year of Faith that we are celebrating as a witness of  our love for Christ and to the mission that Benedict XVI gave with his retirement from the pontificate. In fact, in proclaiming the Year of Faith, he said: " It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied"(Porta Fidei, no. 2). If we want to reawaken mission, we must first reawaken the faith, not as an object of things to believe in, but as a living encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ from whom all life and mission comes. Our encounter with Him and His friendship lived within the Church embrace and render fruitful great and small moments, successes and failures, results and the lack thereof.

The other "sign of the times" is Pope Francis, who with his witness of sincere and authentic faith draws the Church (Christ) closer to people who had grown distant, oblivious or even former enemies. He, who came from the "ends of the world", before being elected, proposed a little reflection to his fellow cardinals. In it he stated that evangelization is "the raison d'etre of the Church ... Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery".

And he added: " When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick. (cf. The deformed woman of the Gospel). The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in self-referentiality and a kind of theological narcissism". Even Pope Francis, like Benedict, exhorts the Church (and PIME) not to close in on itself, but to look more at Who in habits our life, the only secure foundation for optimism.

From reflection and prayer on these "signs of the times" indications for mission that we carry out here at AsiaNews will also emerge, so that it may become an increasingly incisive instrument to help nourish sympathy for the Church "teacher of humanity" and impassion churches throughout the world for mission in Asia.

Dear friends, accompany us in this task with your prayers.


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