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A month to get busy on mission

VATICAN (SE): Speaking on World Mission Sunday at the Vatican, Pope Francis said that he is promoting October 2019 as an Extraordinary Missionary Month “to nourish the ardour of the evangelising activity of the Church ad gentes (to the nations).”
Mission Sunday, which is celebrated on the second last Sunday of October each year and this year fell on October 22, will become the centre-point of a whole month that will be focussed on the work of missionaries throughout the world.
The year 2019 represents the centennial of the promulgation of an apostolic letter penned by Pope Benedict XV on the Propagation of the Faith throughout the World (Maximum illud), which was published on 30 November 1919.
In his landmark letter, Pope Benedict stresses the importance of the work of missionaries who had gone out to the many nations of the world where the faith was not known in order to give witness to the presence of God among peoples.
He especially promoted the role that all people can play through their prayer, making themselves familiar with the activities of missionaries in the field and promoting support for their work in their own environments.
He also stressed the important economic assistance that people on foreign mission need in order to offer the love of those in whose name they have been sent, as representatives of local Churches, to the people that they are serving.
In saying that the theme for the special month will be The Mission at the Heart of the Church, Pope Francis reiterated the call of Pope Benedict, saying that the times may have changed along with the means of being on mission to the nations, but the call of Christ that is being answered has not.
In announcing the Extraordinary Mission Month, the pope is reminding all Christians that they are called to engage directly and concretely in human and social realities, by shining the light that comes from God onto earthly realities.
In a letter to Fernando Cardinal Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who will be responsible for promoting the special month, Pope Francis reminded him of Pope Benedict’s stress on freeing the missionary Church from the colonial overtones that marred much of the work it had done in the previous centuries.
He quoted Pope Benedict as saying, “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,” so the Church must reject particular interest.
Pope Francis adds that a dynamic missionary spirit is necessary in the Church to counter the fatigue and formalism that has crept into many of its activities, as faith is strengthened when it is shared with others.
Then in repeating that missionary activity is the paradigm for all Church activity, he stresses that administration alone is not good enough, but Church customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures must always be being reviewed and channelled for outreach, rather than self-preservation.
He concludes by warning against nostalgia for the past, saying that it is not life giving and only leads to a stagnation which ultimately becomes suicidal.
“May the approaching centenary of that letter (of Pope Benedict) serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past,” Pope Francis prays.

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