On Saturday Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Mission Societies, agreeing to dedicate the month of October 2019 to reflection and prayer by all Catholics for the missionary work of the Church.
“To renew the ardor and passion, the spiritual engine of the apostolic activity of innumerable saints and missionary martyrs, I very much welcomed your proposal… to announce an extraordinary time of prayer and reflection on the Ad gentes mission,” Pope Francis said.
Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, met with the Pope at 11 a.m. on June in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
The Pope made the announcement for the extraordinary month based on a proposal by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to dedicate time to pray and reflect on Ad gentes, a Second Vatican Council decree on the missionary activity of the Church, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 7, 1965.
Francis said that he hopes the month will be a promising time of prayer and reflection on the testimony of missionary saints and martyrs, the Bible and theology, as well as catechesis and charitable missionary work towards the evangelization of the Church.
This taking place: the Church may “once again find the freshness and ardor of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord,” going out to “evangelize the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy.”
The month of October 2019 was chosen because of its proximity to the centenary anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter, Maximum Illud, which was published on Nov. 30, 1919.
“In this most important document of his Magisterium about the mission,” Pope Francis said, Pope Benedict XV remembers “the necessity of the sanctity of life to the apostolate’s effectiveness.”
“Therefore he recommends an ever stronger union with Christ and a more convivial and joyful engagement in his divine passion to proclaim the Gospel to all, loving and using mercy for all.”
This, Francis highlighted, is even more essential for the Church’s mission today. In fact, he said – quoting from Maximum Illud – men and women “distinguished by zeal and holiness” are needed for the mission more and more.
Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi: “Evangelizing, the Church begins with evangelizing herself,” the Pope pointed out.
This renewal requires a personal conversion, however, he said, “living the mission as a permanent opportunity to announce Christ,” meeting him and helping others to have a personal encounter with him too.
Responsible for material and spiritual assistance to churches around the world, the Pope said that he hopes the aid of the Mission Societies will make the churches “more and more based on the Gospel and on the baptismal involvement of all the faithful, laymen and clerics.”
Because “the Church’s only mission,” he continued, is “to make God’s love close to every man, especially to those most in need of his mercy.”
“The Extraordinary Month of Prayer and Reflection on Mission as First Evangelization will serve this renewal of ecclesial faith so that the Easter of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, Lord and Spouse of his Church, will always and ever work.”
Concluding his meeting, the Pope gave his blessing on the eve of the Solemnity of Pentecost, asking the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church, to give her motherly intercession.
“May the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, the holy martyrs Carlo Lwanga and his companions, Blessed Paul Manna, never cease to pray to God for all of us, his missionaries,” he said.