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World Mission Day a challenge to place truth before the eyes of the world

HONG KONG (SE): “Each community is mature when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the word of God endlessly, leaves its own place to take it to the peripheries, especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ,” Pope Francis says in his message for World Mission Day, which is celebrated this year on October 20.

He further describes the challenge of celebrating World Mission Day as having the entire Church renewing its awareness of its own presence in the contemporary world as a community of believers among the many nations and peoples.

The pope then stresses, “Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures and individuals, because the boundaries of faith do not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and woman.”

Scott Wright, from the Columban Centre for Advocacy and Outreach, writes of his experience visiting children in detention in El Paso, Texas, and meeting with women who had been trafficked through a dozen countries before seeking asylum when crossing the Mexican border into the United States of America.

“To see the world anew, from the eyes of these women and children, is to hear the call to mission and solidarity. We invite you to hear their cry,” he says.

To his list of young girls who are deprived of an education in Africa and Latin America, he adds young girls from Asia, who experience the violence of human trafficking, the women and children who are the first to be impacted upon by human greed in countries like the Union of Myanmar, where precious metals are valued more highly than human life.

International Christian Concern adds the names of 63 Christian pastors and Church leaders who remain locked up in deplorable conditions in prison camps around Vietnam to the list of concern for the missionary Church.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts, from Karachi in Pakistan, told Vatican Radio there is a growing anger among many Muslims in his country over the drone attacks launched by NATO Forces in Afghanistan.

“The problem is the increasing intolerance and the perception, in general among the Muslims, that the Christians are identified with the west,” he continues.

The Hong Kong Justice and Peace Commission requested the United Nations Periodic Review on Religious Freedom to look at China’s record in light of the bishops, priests and Christian people being held in prison, sometimes with their whereabouts unknown.

It points out that priests have been tortured and deprived of their freedom during long months of re-education programmes, with both their religious and civil liberties curtailed.

Wright calls for people to see the world from the eyes of those who are suffering and sensitise our ears to their cry of pain. International Christian Concern reminds us of the need for solidarity with those who share our faith under persecution and Archbishop Coutts is asking Christians to reconsider their decisions in the light of the innocent who suffer as a result of their actions.

The Justice and Peace Commission is bringing the plight of persecuted Christians to the attention of the world and asking its civic human rights bodies to intervene and use their influence to bring freedom to those fettered by injustice.

The list could go on, but this is what Pope Francis means by the renewal of awareness of the contemporary world in which baptised people, as a Church, live.

He asks every baptised person to broaden the boundaries of their faith and not only cross boundaries of places and of human traditions, but cross to the very hearts of each man and woman.

He states clearly that the mission of the Church is not a programme, but a paradigm that embraces every aspect of all life.

The pope says that for the Church to be a viable presence within the world, it must propose the truth of situations and of people to the consciences of those who oppress, steal, exploit, ignore or simply refuse to recognise the suffering and deprivation of others.

“Jesus came among us to show us the way to salvation and he entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all the ends of the earth. All too often we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are empathised and proposed,” he observes.

“It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the gospel and this from within the Church itself,” he continues, as it is not possible to announce the good news without the Church.

“The Church’s mission is not about proselytising, but the testimony of a life that illumines the path, which brings hope and love… (as) a community of people animated by the Holy Spirit,” he stresses.

He laments that the Church can also be its own worst enemy, by failing to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension. 

“The understanding of their missionary dimension is not complete unless it aims to bear witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples,” he notes.

He calls on pastors in parishes and bishops in dioceses to be more conscious of developing a sense of the missionary spirit in their faith communities, and make them a dynamic, outgoing force for good in society.

He concludes by thanking all who accept the Lord’s call and reminds Churches, both the young and the well established, that sending missionaries is never a loss, but always a gain.

 

He also highlights the role played by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are the beneficiaries of the Mission Sunday collection (which will be taken up in Hong Kong churches at the end of Mission Week—October 27) in animating and deepening the missionary consciousness of every baptised person.

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