Papal Message for
World Mission Sunday 2008
"Servants and Apostles of Christ Jesus"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 24, 2008 - Here is Benedict XVI's message for
the 82nd World Mission Sunday, to be celebrated Oct. 19.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to invite
reflect on the continuing urgency to proclaim the Gospel also in our
times. The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for
all baptized persons who are called to be "servants and apostles of
Christ Jesus" at the beginning of this millennium. My venerable
Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, already stated in the
Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi": "Evangelizing is in fact
the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity" (n.
14). As a model of this apostolic commitment, I would like to point to
St Paul in particular, the Apostle of the nations, because this year we
are celebrating a special Jubilee dedicated to him. It is the Pauline
Year which offers us the opportunity to become familiar with this
famous Apostle who received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel to the
Gentiles, according to what the Lord had announced to him: "Go, I shall
send you far away to the Gentiles" (Acts 22: 21). How can we not take
the opportunity that this special Jubilee offers to the local Churches,
the Christian communities and the individual faithful to propagate the
proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the world, the power of God
for the salvation of everyone who believes (Cf. Rm 1: 16)?
Humanity is in need of liberation
Humanity needs to be liberated and redeemed. Creation itself - as
Paul says - suffers and nurtures the hope that it will share in the
freedom of the children of God (cf. Rm 8: 19-22). These words are true
in today's world too. Creation is suffering. Creation is suffering and
waiting for real freedom; it is waiting for a different, better world;
it is waiting for "redemption". And deep down it knows that this new
world that is awaited supposes a new man; it supposes "children of God".
Let us take a closer look at the situation of today's world.
the one hand, the international panorama presents prospects for
promising economic and social development, on the other it brings some
great concerns to our attention about the very future of man. Violence,
in many cases, marks the relations between persons and peoples. Poverty
oppresses millions of inhabitants. Discrimination and sometimes even
persecution for racial, cultural and religious reasons drive many
people to flee from their own countries in order to seek refuge and
protection elsewhere. Technological progress, when it is not aimed at
the dignity and good of man or directed towards solidarity-based
development, loses its potentiality as a factor of hope and runs the
risk, on the contrary, of increasing already existing imbalances and
injustices. There is, moreover, a constant threat regarding the
man-environment relation due to the indiscriminate use of resources,
with repercussions on the physical and mental health of human beings.
Humanity's future is also put at risk by the attempts on his life,
which take on various forms and means.
Before this scenario, "buffeted between hope and anxiety... and
burdened down with uneasiness" ("Gaudium et Spes", n. 4), with concern
we ask ourselves: What will become of humanity and creation? Is there
hope for the future, or rather, is there a future for humanity? And
what will this future be like? The answer to these questions comes to
those of us who believe from the Gospel. Christ is our future, and as I
wrote in the Encyclical Letter "Spe Salvi", his Gospel is a
"life-changing" communication that gives hope, throws open the dark
door of time and illuminates the future of humanity and the university
(cf. n. 2).
St Paul had understood well that only in Christ can humanity find
redemption and hope. Therefore, he perceived that the mission was
pressing and urgent to proclaim "the promise of life in Christ Jesus"
(2 Tm 1: 1), "our hope" (1 Tm 1: 1), so that all peoples could be
co-heirs and co-partners in the promise through the Gospel (cf. Eph 3:
6). He was aware that without Christ humanity is "without hope and
without God in the world" (Eph 2: 12) - "without hope because they were
without God" ("Spe Salvi," n. 3). In fact, "anyone who does not know
God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately
without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life
(cf. Eph 2: 12)" (ibid., n. 27).
The Mission is a question of love
It is therefore an urgent duty for everyone to proclaim Christ and
saving message. St Paul said, "Woe to me if I do not preach it [the
Gospel]!" (1 Cor 9: 16). On the way to Damascus he had experienced and
understood that the redemption and the mission are the work of God and
his love. Love of Christ led him to travel over the roads of the Roman
Empire as a herald, an apostle, a preacher and a teacher of the Gospel
of which he declared himself to be an "ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:
20). Divine charity made him "all things to all, to save at least some"
(1 Cor 9: 22). By looking at St Paul's experience, we understand that
missionary activity is a response to the love with which God loves us.
His love redeems us and prods us to the missio ad gentes. It is the
spiritual energy that can make the harmony, justice and communion grow
among persons, races and peoples to which everyone aspires (cf. "Deus
Caritas Est", n. 12). So it is God, who is Love, who leads the Church
towards the frontiers of humanity and calls the evangelizers to drink
"from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced
heart flows the love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est", n. 7). Only from this
source can care, tenderness, compassion, hospitality, availability and
interest in people's problems be drawn, as well as the other virtues
necessary for the messengers of the Gospel to leave everything and
dedicate themselves completely and unconditionally to spreading the
perfume of Christ's charity around the world.
While the first evangelization continues to be necessary and
many regions of the world, today a shortage of clergy and a lack of
vocations afflict various Dioceses and Institutes of consecrated life.
It is important to reaffirm that even in the presence of growing
difficulties, Christ's command to evangelize all peoples continues to
be a priority. No reason can justify its slackening or stagnation
because "the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential
mission of the Church" (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii
Nuntiandi", n. 14). It is a mission that "is still only beginning and
we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service" (John Paul II,
Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", n. 1). How can we not think here of
the Macedonian who appeared to Paul in a dream and cried, "Will you
come by to Macedonia to help us?". Today there are countless people who
are waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel, those who are thirsting
for hope and love. There are so many who let themselves be questioned
deeply by this request for aid that rises up from humanity, who leave
everything for Christ and transmit faith and love for Him to people!
(cf. "Spe Salvi", n. 8).
Woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Cor 9: 16)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, "duc in altum"! Let us set sail in the
sea of the world and, following Jesus' invitation, let us cast our nets
without fear, confident in his constant aid. St Paul reminds us that to
preach the Gospel is no reason to boast (cf. 1 Cor 9: 16), but rather a
duty and a joy. Dear brother Bishops, following Paul's example, many
each one feel like "a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles" (Eph 3: 1),
knowing that you can count on the strength that comes to us from him in
difficulties and trials. A Bishop is consecrated not only for his
diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world (cf. Encyclical
"Redemptoris Missio", n. 63). Like the Apostle Paul, a Bishop is called
to reach out to those who are far away and do not know Christ yet or
have still not experienced his liberating love. A Bishop's commitment
is to make the whole diocesan community missionary by contributing
willingly, according to the possibilities, to sending priests and
laypersons to other Churches for the evangelization service. In this
way, the missio ad gentes becomes the unifying and converging principle
of its entire pastoral and charitable activity.
You, dear priests, the Bishops' first collaborators, be generous
pastors and enthusiastic evangelizers! Many of you in these past
decades have gone to the mission territories following the Encyclical
"Fidei Donum" whose 50th anniversary we celebrated recently, and with
which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII, gave an
impulse to cooperation between the Churches. I am confident that this
missionary tension in the local Churches will not be lacking, despite
the lack of clergy that afflicts many of them.
And you, dear men and women religious, whose vocation is marked by
strong missionary connotation, bring the proclamation of the Gospel to
everyone, especially those who are far away, through consistent witness
to Christ and radical following of his Gospel. Dear faithful laity, you
who act in the different areas of society are all called to take part
in an increasingly important way in spreading the Gospel. A complex and
multiform areopagus thus opens up before you to be evangelized: the
world. Give witness with your lives that Christians "belong to a new
society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is
anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage" ("Spe Salvi", n. 4).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the celebration of World Mission
encourage everyone to take renewed awareness of the urgent need to
proclaim the Gospel. I cannot fail to point out with sincere
appreciation the contribution of the Pontifical Mission Societies to
the Church's evangelizing activity. I thank them for the support they
offer to all the Communities, especially the young ones. They are a
valid instrument for animating and forming the People of God from a
missionary viewpoint, and they nurture the communion of persons and
goods between the different parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. May
the collection that is taken in all the parishes on World Mission Day
be a sign of communion and mutual concern among the Churches. Lastly,
may prayer be intensified ever more in the Christian people, the
essential spiritual means for spreading among all peoples the light of
Christ, the "light par excellence" that illuminates "the darkness of
history" ("Spe Salvi", n. 49). As I entrust to the Lord the apostolic
work of the missionaries, the Churches all over the world and the
faithful involved in various missionary activities and invoke the
intercession of the Apostle Paul and Holy Mary, "the living Ark of the
Covenant", the Star of evangelization and hope, I impart my Apostolic
Blessing to everyone.
From the Vatican, 11 May 2008
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI