Pope Benedict's Message for
Mission Sunday October 22, 2006
"Charity, Soul of the Mission"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of
Benedict XVI's message, written for the 80th World Mission Sunday, with
the theme "Charity, Soul of the Mission." Mission Sunday will be
observed Oct. 22.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
World Mission Day which we will celebrate Sunday, Oct. 22, offers an
opportunity this year to reflect on the theme: "Charity, Soul of
Unless mission is animated by charity, that is, unless it flows from a
profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to a mere
philanthropic and social action. The love which God has for each single
person constitutes, in fact, the very core of living and preaching the
Gospel, and all who hear it in turn, become witnesses.
The love of God which gives life to the world is the love which has
been given us in Jesus, the word of salvation, perfect icon of the
mercy of our heavenly Father. The message of salvation can be summed up
then in the words of St. John the Evangelist: "In this is manifest the
love of God for us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we may
have life in him" (1 John 4:9). The mandate to spread the message of
love was entrusted to the apostles by Jesus after his resurrection, and
the apostles, inwardly transformed on the day of Pentecost by the power
of the Holy Spirit, began to bear witness to the Lord's death and
resurrection. From that time on the Church continues this same mission
which constitutes for all believers an indispensable and permanent duty.
Every Christian community is called, then, to make God known, who is
love. On this fundamental mystery of our faith I desired to pause and
reflect on the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love). With his
love God permeates all creation and the history of humanity. In the
beginning man came forth from the hands of the creator as the fruit of
his own loving initiative.
Sin darkened the divine imprint. Deceived by the devil our first
parents, Adam and Eve, lost their relationship of trust with their
Lord, giving way to the temptation of the evil one who persuaded them
that God was a rival and wanted to limit their freedom. Thus, they
preferred themselves to the divine gratuitous love, convinced in that
way to affirm their own free will.
As a consequence they forfeited their original happiness and tasted the
bitterness and sadness of sin and death. However, God did not abandon
them and promised salvation to them and to their descendants: He
foretold the coming of his only Son, Jesus, who in the fullness of time
would reveal to them his Father's love, a love capable of redeeming
every single human creature from the slavery of evil and death.
In Christ therefore, we have received immortal life, the very life of
the Trinity. Thanks to Christ, the good shepherd who never abandons the
lost sheep, to all people of all times has been given the possibility
of entering into communion with God, our merciful Father who is ready
to welcome home his prodigal son. The astounding sign of such a love is
In my encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est," I wrote that "his death on
the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in
which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is
love in its most radical form. It is there that this truth can be
contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin.
In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his
life and love must move" (No. 12).
On the eve of his passion, Jesus left as his last will to his
disciples, gathered in the upper room to celebrate the Passover, the
"new commandment of love -- 'mandatum novum'": "This I command you:
Love one another" (John 15:17). The fraternal love which the Lord asks
of his "friends" has its source in the paternal love of God. John the
apostle remarks: "He who loves comes from God and knows God" (1 John
Therefore, to love according to God, we must live in him and of him:
The first "home" of man is God and only he who lives in God, burns with
the fire of divine charity which can "enkindle" the world. Is this not
the mission of the Church in all times? Then it is not difficult to
understand that authentic missionary concern, the first duty of the
ecclesial community, is linked to faithfulness to the divine love. This
is true for every Christian, for every local community, for the
particular Churches and for the entire people of God.
Precisely, because of this awareness of their common mission, the
disciples of Christ find strength in responding generously to carry out
works of human and spiritual promotion which, as our beloved John Paul
II wrote in his encyclical "Redemptoris Missio," bear witness to "the
soul of all missionary activity: Love which has been and remains the
driving force of mission and is also the sole criterion for judging
what is to be done or not done, changed or not changed. It is the
principle which must direct every action and end to which that action
must be directed. When we act with a view to charity, or are inspired
by charity, nothing is unseemly and everything is good" (No. 60).
To be missionaries then means to love God with all one's heart, even to
the point of giving one's life for him. How many priests, men and women
religious and laity, even in our time, have rendered supreme witness of
their love for him by their martyrdom!
To be missionaries, is to tend, like the good Samaritan, to the needs
of all, particularly those of the poor and the needy, because he who
loves with the heart of Christ, searches not for his own interest but
only for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor. In this lies
the secret of the apostolic fruitfulness in missionary work which
crosses frontiers and cultures, reaches all peoples and spreads to the
utmost ends of the world.
My dear brothers and sisters, World Mission Day is an appropriate
occasion for better understanding that witness of love, soul of the
mission, concerns everyone. Indeed to serve the Gospel can never be
considered a solitary adventure, but a binding duty for every community.
Along with all those who operate on the front line of evangelization --
and here I remember with gratitude all missionaries -- I also think of
many others, children, young and old who by their prayers and
cooperation in many ways contribute to the spreading of the kingdom of
God on earth.
My wish is that this participation may always increase through the
contribution of all. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to
the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and to the
Pontifical Missionary Societies. They coordinate with dedication the
worldwide efforts of all who contribute to the work of those in the
front line of missionary activities.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who with her presence beside the Cross and
her prayer in the upper room collaborated actively at the beginning of
the ecclesial mission, strengthen their work and help believers in
Christ to be evermore capable of true love, so that, in a world which
is ever more spiritually thirsty, they may become fountains of living
For this I wish and pray with all my heart, while I impart upon all of
you my blessing.
Given at the Vatican, April 29, 2006
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
[Translation of Italian original issued by Fides]