Papal Message for World Mission Sunday 2007
"All the Churches for All the
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the
Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 81st World
Mission Sunday, to be celebrated Oct. 21.
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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE 81st WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2007
"All the Churches for all the world"
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to
invite the entire People of God -- Pastors, priests, men and women
religious and lay people -- to reflect together on the urgent need and
importance of the Church's missionary action, also in our time.
Indeed, the words with which the Crucified and Risen Jesus
entrusted the missionary mandate to the Apostles before ascending to
Heaven do not cease to ring out as a universal call and a heartfelt
appeal: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you". And he added,
"Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
In the demanding work of evangelization we are sustained
and accompanied by the certainty that he, the Lord of the harvest, is
with us and continues to guide his people. Christ is the inexhaustible
source of the Church's mission. This year, moreover, a further reason
impels us to renew our missionary commitment: the 50th anniversary of
the Encyclical of the Servant of God Pius XII, "Fidei Donum," which
promoted and encouraged cooperation between the Churches for the
mission ad gentes.
"All the Churches for all the world": this is the theme
chosen for the next World Mission Day. It invites the local Churches of
every continent to a shared awareness of the urgent need to relaunch
missionary action in the face of the many serious challenges of our
The conditions in which humanity lives have of course
changed and in recent decades, especially since the Second Vatican
Council, a great effort has been made to spread the Gospel.
However, much still remains to be done in order to respond
to the missionary call which the Lord never tires of addressing to
every one of the baptized. In the first place, he continues to call the
Churches of so-called "ancient tradition", which in the past provided
the missions with a consistent number of priests, men and women
religious and lay people as well as material means, giving life to an
effective cooperation between Christian communities.
This cooperation has yielded abundant apostolic fruit both
for the young Churches in mission lands as well as in the ecclesial
situations from which the missionaries came. In the face of the
secularized culture, which sometimes seems to be penetrating ever more
deeply into Western societies, considering in addition the crisis of
the family, the dwindling number of vocations and the progressive
ageing of the clergy, these Churches risk withdrawing into themselves
to view the future with ever less hope and weakening their missionary
Yet, this is the very time for opening oneself with trust
to the Providence of God, who never abandons his People and who, with
the power of the Holy Spirit, guides them toward the fulfilment of his
eternal design of salvation.
The Good Shepherd also invites the recently evangelized
Churches to dedicate themselves generously to the missio ad gentes.
Despite the many difficulties and obstacles they encounter in their
development, these communities are constantly growing. Fortunately,
some of them have a large number of priests and consecrated persons,
many of whom, although there are so many needs in loco, are
nevertheless sent to carry out their pastoral ministry and apostolic
service elsewhere, even in lands evangelized long ago.
Thus, we are witnessing a providential "exchange of gifts"
which redounds to the benefit of the entire Mystical Body of Christ.
I warmly hope that missionary cooperation will be
intensified and that the most will be made of the potential and
charisms of each one. I also hope that World Mission Day will
contribute to making all the Christian communities and every baptized
person ever more aware that Christ's call to spread his Kingdom to the
very ends of the earth is universal.
"The Church is missionary by her very nature", John Paul
II wrote in his Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio," "for Christ's mandate
is not something contingent or external, but reaches the very heart of
the Church. It follows that the universal Church and each individual
Church is sent forth to the nations.... It is highly appropriate that
young Churches "should share as soon as possible in the universal
missionary work of the Church. They should themselves send missionaries
to proclaim the Gospel all over the world, even though they are
suffering from a shortage of clergy'" (n. 62).
Fifty years after the historical appeal for cooperation
between the Churches at the service of the mission of my Predecessor,
Pius XII, with his Encyclical "Fidei Donum," I would like to reaffirm
that the Gospel proclamation continues to be timely and urgent.
In the Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" cited above, Pope
John Paul II, for his part, recognized that "the Church's mission is
wider than the "communion among the Churches'; it ought to be directed
not only to aiding re-evangelization but also and primarily to
missionary activity as such" (n. 64).
Therefore, as has often been said, missionary commitment
remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity today to
guide and evangelize the cultural, social and ethical transformations;
to offer Christ's salvation to the people of our time in so many parts
of the world who are humiliated and oppressed by endemic poverty,
violence and the systematic denial of human rights.
The Church cannot shirk this universal mission; for her it
has a binding force. Since Christ first entrusted the missionary
mandate to Peter and to the Apostles, today it is primarily the
responsibility of the Successor of Peter whom divine Providence has
chosen as a visible foundation of the Church's unity, and of the
Bishops directly responsible for evangelization, both as members of the
Episcopal College and as Pastors of the particular Churches (cf.
"Redemptoris Missio," n. 63).
I am thus addressing the Pastors of all the Churches
chosen by the Lord to guide his one flock so that they may share in the
pressing concern to proclaim and spread the Gospel.
It was precisely this concern that 50 years ago impelled
the Servant of God Pius XII to bring missionary cooperation more up to
date with the times.
With particular concern for the future of evangelization
he asked the "long established" Churches to send priests to support the
recently founded Churches.
Thus, he gave life to a new "subject of mission" which
took the name of "Fidei Donum" precisely from the first words of the
Of it he wrote: "As We direct our thoughts, on the one
hand, to the countless multitudes of Our sons who have a share in the
blessings of divine faith, especially in countries that have a long
Christian tradition, and on the other hand, as We consider the far more
numerous throngs of those who are still waiting for the day of
salvation to be proclaimed to them, We are filled with a great desire
to exhort you again and again, Venerable Brethren, to support with
zealous interest the most holy cause of bringing the Church to all the
world". He added: "Please God, may it come to pass that Our admonitions
will arouse a keener interest in the missionary apostolate among your
priests and through them set the hearts of the faithful on fire!" (cf.
"Fidei Donum," n. 4).
Let us give thanks to the Lord for the abundant fruits
obtained by this missionary cooperation in Africa and in other regions
of the earth.
Throngs of priests, after leaving their native
communities, have devoted their apostolic energy to the service of
communities which have sometimes only recently come into being in poor
and developing areas. Among these priests are many martyrs who have
combined with the witness of their words and apostolic dedication the
sacrifice of their lives.
Nor can we forget the many men and women religious and lay
volunteers who, together with the priests, spared no effort to spread
the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. May World Mission Day be an
opportunity to remember in prayer these brothers and sisters of ours in
the faith and all who continue to work in the vast field of the mission.
Let us ask God that their example may everywhere inspire
new vocations and a renewed mission awareness in the Christian people.
Indeed, every Christian community is born missionary, and it is
precisely on the basis of the courage to evangelize that the love of
believers for their Lord is measured.
Consequently, we could say that for the individual members
of the faithful it is no longer merely a matter of collaborating in
evangelizing work but of feeling that they themselves are protagonists
and corresponsible. This corresponsibility entails the growth of
communion between the communities and increases reciprocal help with
regard to the personnel (priests, men and women religious and lay
volunteers) and the use of the means necessary for evangelization today.
Dear brothers and sisters, the missionary mandate
entrusted by Christ to the Apostles truly involves us all. May World
Mission Day therefore be a favourable opportunity to acquire a deeper
awareness and to work out together appropriate spiritual and formative
itineraries which encourage inter-Church cooperation and the training
of new missionaries to spread the Gospel in our time.
However, let it not be forgotten that the first and
priority contribution that we are called to offer to the missionary
action of the Church is prayer. "The harvest is plentiful, but the
labourers are few", the Lord said; "pray therefore the Lord of the
harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2).
"First of all, therefore", Pope Pius XII of venerable
memory wrote 50 years ago, "Venerable Brethren, We trust that more
continuous and fervent prayers will be raised to God for this cause"
("Fidei Donum," n. 49). Remember the immense spiritual needs of the
numerous populations who are far from the true faith or who stand in
such great need of the means of perseverance (cf. n. 55). And he urged
the faithful to increase the number of Masses offered for the missions,
saying that "this is in accordance with the prayers of Our Lord who
loves his Church and wishes her to flourish and enlarge her borders
throughout the whole world" (ibid., n. 52).
Dear brothers and sisters, I also renew this invitation,
which is more timely than ever. May the unanimous invocation of the
"Our Father who art in Heaven" be extended in every community, so that
his Kingdom will come on earth.
I appeal in particular to children and young people, who
are always ready and generous in their missionary outreach. I address
the sick and the suffering, recalling the value of their mysterious and
indispensable collaboration in the work of salvation. I ask consecrated
people, especially those in cloistered monasteries, to intensify their
prayers for the missions.
Thanks to the commitment of every believer, the spiritual
network of prayer and support for evangelization is being extended
throughout the Church. May the Virgin Mary who accompanied with
motherly solicitude the development of the newborn Church, also guide
our footsteps in our time and obtain for us a new Pentecost of love.
May she especially make us all aware of being missionaries, that is,
those who have been sent out by the Lord to be his witnesses at every
moment of our life.
I assure my daily remembrance in prayer to the fidei donum
priests, to the men and women religious and lay volunteers working on
the frontiers of evangelization as well as to all who in their various
capacities are dedicated to Gospel proclamation, as with affection I
impart my Apostolic Blessing to all.
From the Vatican, 27 May 2007, the Solemnity of Pentecost.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI