Pope: All Catholics must be missionaries

| Cindy Wooden | October 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

Baptized and sent

By virtue of their baptism, all Catholics are called to be missionaries, sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus by their actions and their words, Pope Francis said.

“The importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ” is the focus of Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Sunday Oct. 20 and for the special celebration in 2019 of October as “Extraordinary Missionary Month.”

The pope’s message, “Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world,” was published by the Vatican June 9. On Oct. 1, Pope Francis opened the special month with a prayer vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He commissioned 10 special missionaries — five religious women, four religious men and a family — and presented them with a small wooden cross to wear around their neck as they go on missions in parts of Africa and Asia.

The special “Missionary Month” marks the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s 1919 apostolic letter “Maximum Illud” on the Church’s missionary activity.

The document, Pope Francis said, has two key messages that Catholics need to hear today: every Christian has a responsibility to share the Gospel; and the universality of salvation in Jesus means that all people are children of God and brothers and sisters to each other, which means rejecting “all forms of nationalism and ethnocentrism or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the economic and military interests of colonial powers.”

Baptism and membership in the Church go together and are essential for salvation, the pope said. And they also can contribute to peace and harmony in the world.

The mission of sharing the Gospel and offering them the gift of baptism “is part of our identity as Christians,” the pope said. “It makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to realize their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognize their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every human life, from conception until natural death.”

When God is rejected as the father of all, he wrote, people no longer recognize each other as brothers and sisters and no longer feel obligated to respect each other’s lives.

“Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race,” Pope Francis wrote.

As members of God’s family, he said, Catholics are called to leave behind “every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion,” valuing those things of their own culture that can reflect or amplify the Gospel but being always ready to step out of one’s comfort zone to share the faith.

The gift of faith and baptism, he said, “is not a product for sale — we do not practice proselytism — but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed.”

Pope Francis also used his message to praise the pontifical mission societies for raising awareness of and support for the Church’s missionary work.


COURTESY SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR

COURTESY SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR

SISTER DOROTHY STANG

The Pontifical Mission Societies — four organizations that support the pope’s missionary efforts around the world — are holding up the late Notre Dame de Namur Sister Dorothy Stang as an example for the faithful of a missionary witness in this “Extraordinary Missionary Month.”

Born in 1931 in Dayton, Ohio, Sister Stang joined the Sisters of Notre Dame at age 17 and one month, the earliest the congregation would accept her. She went on to serve in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil beginning in the 1960s, encouraging sustainable farming that presented a threat to loggers, land speculators and agribusiness. In the late 1990s, she was placed on a “death list” by power brokers of the area. On Feb. 12, 2005, two hired gunmen fired six shots and killed Sister Dorothy. Following her death, then-Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva put nearly 20,000 of the Amazon’s 1.6 million square miles under federal environmental protection.

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Category: World Mission Sunday