Pope Francis has begun the New Year by reconfirming his ‘dream of a completely missionary Church’.
Writing in his World Mission Day message for 2022, the Holy Father called for renewed efforts to spread the Gospel. He wrote:
‘Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities’.
We are the Missionary Church
World Mission Sunday was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926. It falls on the penultimate Sunday in October each year. This year it will be 23 October. It’s the one Sunday in the year when the entire global Church comes together to support mission. Every single donation from these worldwide Masses goes to support churches, hospitals, schools and vocations in countries where the Church is new, young or poor. As the Pope’s charity for World Mission, Missio coordinates World Mission Sunday. It provides mission dioceses with the essential support they need to become self-sufficient.
This year’s theme is ‘You shall be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). Pope Francis described Christ’s words in the Acts of the Apostles as ‘the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples’.
‘You shall be my witnesses’
In his message, Pope Francis emphasised that every member of the Church has a shared responsibility to witness to Christ.He drew on Pope Paul VI’s 1975 document Evangelii Nuntiandi, which sought to give a new momentum to evangelisation.
Describing the Apostolic Exhortation as ‘a document dear to my heart,’ he cited its much-quoted line:
‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’.
Pope Francis wrote in his letter that:
‘In evangelisation, then, the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other. They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary…This kind of complete, consistent, and joyful witness to Christ will surely be a force of attraction also for the growth of the Church in the third millennium’.
Welcoming and caring for migrants
The Holy Father recalled that St Paul VI underlined the responsibility of immigrants to evangelise the countries that receive them. He explained:
‘More and more, we are seeing how the presence of faithful of various nationalities enriches the face of parishes and makes them more universal, more Catholic. Consequently, the pastoral care of migrants should be valued as an important missionary activity that can also help the local faithful to rediscover the joy of the Christian faith they have received’.
An important anniversary
The Pope noted that 2022 marks the second centenary of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith (Missio’s APF), founded in 1822 by the French laywoman Pauline Jaricot, who will be beatified on May 22.
This society is the oldest of four Pontifical Mission Societies which make up Missio, the Pope’s charity for world mission.
A prayer for missionary martyrs
The Vatican announced shortly before the New Year that 22 Catholic missionaries were killed in 2021. In his message, the Holy Father acknowledged and gave thanks for their sacrifice:
‘I would like to remember and express my gratitude for all those many missionaries who gave their lives in order to “press on” in incarnating Christ’s love towards all the brothers and sisters whom they met’.
He gave a rallying call to the missionary Church, reminding us that:
‘The Church must constantly keep pressing forward, beyond her own confines, in order to testify to all the love of Christ’.
This year’s World Mission Sunday
World Mission Sunday will take place on 23 October this year. We will post more details later in the year, but you can find out more about this special Sunday here and read more about the 2021 celebration here.