VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to directors of the Pontifical Missionary Works.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I address to you all my cordial greeting, beginning with the Lord Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his kind expressions and for the information about the activity of the Pontifical Missionary Works. I extend my grateful thought to the Secretary, Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, to the Assistant Secretary, Monsignor Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, President of the Pontifical Missionary Works, to the National Directors and to all the collaborators, as well as to those who give their generous service in the Dicastery. My thoughts and those of all of you go at this time to Father Massimo Cenci, Under-Secretary, who died suddenly. May the Lord reward him for all the work he carried out on mission and at the service of the Holy See.
Today’s meeting takes place in the context of the annual Assembly of the Higher Council of the Pontifical Missionary Works, to which is entrusted the missionary cooperation of all the Churches worldwide.
The evangelization, which always has a character of urgency, in these times drives the Church to step with an even faster pace on the roads of the world, to bring every man to knowledge of Christ. In fact only in the Truth, which is Christ himself, can humanity discover the meaning of its existence, find salvation, and grow in justice and peace. Every man and every people has a right to receive the Gospel of truth. In this perspective, your commitment to celebrate the Year of Faith, now imminent, takes on a particular meaning: to reinforce the commitment to spread the Kingdom of God and knowledge of the Christian faith. On the part of those who have already encountered Jesus Christ, this calls for “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world.” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei,6). The Christian communities “need to hear anew the voice of the Bridegroom, who invites them to conversion, spurs them on to bold new undertakings and calls forth their commitment to the great task of the “new evangelization”. (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa,23). Jesus, the incarnate Word, is always the center of the proclamation, the point of reference for the following and for the methodology itself of the evangelizing mission, because He is the human face of God who wishes to encounter every man and every woman to make them enter into communion with Him, in his love. To go through the roads of the world to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples of the earth and to guide them to the encounter with the Lord (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, 7), calls then for the herald to have a personal and daily relationship with Christ, that he know Him and love Him profoundly.
The mission today needs renewal of trust in God’s action; it needs more intense prayer so that his Kingdom will come, so that his will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. It is necessary to invoke the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, and to commit oneself with determination and generosity to inaugurate, in a certain sense, a “new era of proclamation of the Gospel is essential not only because, after two millennia, a major part of the human family still does not acknowledge Christ, but also because the situation in which the Church and the world find themselves [...] is particularly challenging for religious belief” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 29). Hence, I am very happy to encourage the project of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Missionary Works, in support of the Year of Faith. This project foresees a worldwide campaign that, through the prayer of the Holy Rosary, will accompany the work of evangelization in the world and for many of the baptized the rediscovery and deepening of the faith.
Dear friends, you know well that the proclamation of the Gospel not infrequently entails difficulties and sufferings; in fact, the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world not rarely comes at the price of the blood of its servants. In this phase of economic, cultural and political changes, where often the human being feels alone, a prey to anguish and despair, the messengers of the Gospel, also if they are heralds of hope and peace, continue to be persecuted like their Teacher and Lord. However, despite the problems and the tragic reality of persecution, the Church is not discouraged, she remains faithful to her Lord’s mandate, in the awareness that “throughout Christian history, martyrs, that is, "witnesses," have always been numerous and indispensable to the spread of the Gospel” (John Paul II,Redemptoris missio, 45). Christ’s message, today as yesterday, cannot adapt itself to the logic of this world, because it is prophecy and liberation, it is seed of a new humanity that grows, and only at the end of time will have its full realization.
Entrusted to you, in a particular way, is the task of supporting the ministers of the Gospel, helping them to “preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). Your particular commitment is also that of keeping alive the missionary vocation of all the disciples of Christ, so that each one, according to the charism received from the Holy Spirit, is able to take part in the universal mission consigned by the Risen One to his Church. Your work of missionary animation and formation is part of the soul of pastoral care, because the missio ad gentes constitutes the paradigm of the whole apostolic action of the Church. Be increasingly the visible and concrete expression of the communion of persons and of the means between the Churches that, as communicating vessels, live the same missionary vocation and tension, and in every corner of the earth work to sow the Word of Truth in all peoples and cultures. I am certain that you will continue to be committed, so that the local Churches assume, ever more generously, their part of responsibility in the universal mission of the Church.
May the Virgin Most Holy, Queen of the Missions accompany you and sustain your every effort in promoting missionary awareness and collaboration. With this hope, which I always have present in my prayer, I thank you and all those who cooperate in the cause of evangelization, and I impart to each from my heart the Apostolic Blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]