Pope: "A missionary Church can only 'go out', without fear of meeting others, to discover new things"
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis spoke today to the participants in Italy's National Missionary Congress on the theme of 'Going to to the great city of Nineveh', namely about the need for a missionary Church, one that involves lay people as well as children.
In his address, the pontiff stressed that "A missionary Church can only 'go out' without fear of meeting others, to discover new things, and talk about the joy of the Gospel, to everyone without distinction, not proselytising, to tell others what we have and what we want to share without forcing anyone".
For the Holy Father, Christians must "go out and not remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance from children."
"The invitation extended to Jonah, who is afraid to go to that city," the pope said, "is today extended to you. And this is important. Every generation is called to be missionary."
"A missionary Church," Francis went on to say, "must go out. A missionary Church can only 'go out' without fear of meeting others, to discover new things, and talk about the joy of the Gospel, to everyone without distinction, not proselytising, to tell others what we have and what we want to share without forcing anyone, without distinction; going out, listening to the cry of the poor and of those who are far away, meeting everyone and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel."
"Churches in Italy, particular Churches in Italy, have done so much. Every morning, at Mass in Santa Marta, I find one, two, three [missionaries] who have come from afar. 'But I have been working in the Amazon for many years, in Africa . . . Many priests, so many nuns, many lay fidei donum. But you have this in your blood! It is God's grace. You must keep it, make it grow and pass it to future generations of Christians.
"Once an elderly priest came. . . . He was very old and a bit under the weather. 'I have been in the Amazon for 60 years'. This is great: leaving everything. Let me repeat what a Brazilian cardinal said: 'When I go to the Amazon . . . I visit the cemetery and see the graves of missionaries. There are so many. And I think: 'But these can be canonised right away!' This is the Church. These are the churches of Italy, you! Thank you! Thank you so much."
"The mission is accomplished by all Christians, not just the few," the pope said. "It is a task for children as well, right? In the pontifical missionary works, children's small gestures teach about the mission. Our Christian vocation calls upon us to bear this missionary spirit so that the whole Church can undergo real 'missionary conversion', as I advocate in Evangelii Gaudium."
"The Church in Italy has given numerous priests and lay fidei donum people, who chose to spend their lives building the Church on the edges of the world, among the poor and those who are afar. This is a gift for the universal Church and for all peoples. I exhort you not to let yourselves be robbed of the hope and the dream of changing the world with the Gospel, starting with the human and existential peripheries. To go out means to overcome the temptation to speak among ourselves, forgetting the many who wait for a word of mercy from us, a word of comfort, of hope.
"The Gospel of Jesus is realised in history. Jesus himself was a man on the peripheries, from Galilee, far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire and from Jerusalem. He met the poor, the sick, the possessed, sinners, prostitutes, gathering around him a small number of disciples and some women who listened to him and served him. And yet, his word was the beginning of a turning point in history, the beginning of a spiritual and human revolution, the Good News of a Lord, who died and rose for us. And we want to share this treasure."
"Sometimes, even in the Church, we get caught by pessimism, which risks depriving many men and women of the proclamation of the Gospel. Let us go forward with hope! The many missionary martyrs of the faith and of charity show us that victory is only in love and in a life spent for the Lord and for neighbour, starting with the poor. The poor are the travel companions of an outbound Church because they are the first that we encounter. The poor are also your evangelisers because they indicate to you the peripheries where the Gospel is yet to be proclaimed and lived.
"To go out and not remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance we keep from the least among us. To go out and to be workers for peace, that "peace" which the Lord gives us each day and of which the world is very much in need.
"Missionaries never renounce the dream of peace, even when they live difficulties and persecution, which today has returned to make itself felt strongly. A few days ago, I met the bishops of the Middle East, as well as parish priests from the towns most affected by the war in the Middle East. They were joyful to serve their people. They suffered for what happened, but had the joy of the Gospel."