Evangelization must start with the least among us

Pope Francis, in an address to those participating in the annual meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies, says that “Missionary action is the paradigm for all works of the Church“. FIDES, a Vatican News Agency, released an edited version (below) of the Pope’s address which he gave on Friday, 9 May.

The Pope mentioned that with his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” he intended to encourage the faithful to begin a new, evangelical era. “Evangelisation in this time of great social transformations, necessitates a missionary, outreach Church, capable of discernment in order to measure up to different cultures and visions of man. For a world in transformation, there is a need for a Church that is renewed and transformed by contemplation and personal contact with Christ, by the power of the Spirit. … It is He Who gives us the strength to undertake the missionary path and the joy of proclamation, so that the light of Christ may illuminate those who still do not know Him or have denied Him. This takes the courage to go forth to ‘reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel’. We cannot be held back by our weaknesses or our sins, nor by the many obstacles to the witness and proclamation of the Gospel”.

He went on to affirm that the Church, “missionary by nature, has as her fundamental prerogative the service of charity to all”; and that “fraternity and solidarity are natural to her life and her mission in and for the world”. Evangelisation “must reach out to all, beginning with the least among us, the poor, those whose backs are bent by the weight and weariness of life. In so doing the Church continues the mission of Christ Himself”.

The Church is “the population of the beatitudes, the house of the poor, of the afflicted, of the excluded and the persecuted, of those who hunger and thirst for justice”, he continued, emphasising that the representatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies are called upon to work so that ecclesial communities may know how to “welcome the poor with preferential love, keeping the doors of the Church open so that all may enter and find refuge”.

The Pontifical Mission Societies are “the special tool that focuses on and takes special care of the ‘missio ad gentes’, and the Pope urges the members to “promote missionary co-responsibility”, as there is a great need for priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful who, “seized by Christ’s love, are set ablaze with passion for the Kingdom of God and willing to set out on the path of evangelisation”.