Pontifical Missionary Union 2011

The Holy Spirit is the driving force of evangelization

The evangelization of today must rely on the Holy Spirit, which is the driving force of the mission, and not so much on human resources like money. If, in the mission, the prevailing mentality relies on money, the Gospel will not step forward: this was also stressed by Blessed Father Paolo Manna, founder of the Missionary Union of the Clergy“: with such provocative words, Fr. Vito del Prete, a member of  PIME (an Italian missionary Society), Secretary General of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) speaks during the missionary month, outlining in an interview with Fides, the future of the animation and missionary formation in the world.

What are the roots of the work of formation and animation carried out by the PMU?

PMU was established at the beginning of the 1900s due to the crisis of evangelization, thanks to the intuition of the Blessed Father Paolo Manna, PIME. He complained that the ad gentes mission was “a marginal affair of the Church, entrusted only to a handful of brave missionaries. Fr. Manna wanted the missio ad extra to become urgent to the whole Church, and called into question, first of all Bishops and priests. Until they are formed for the mission, passionate towards the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, he said, the Gospel will not step forward. Therefore he thought to establish the Missionary Union of the Clergy (which later became PMU) with the specific task of praying, animating and forming the clergy giving it a missionary sense. If the Pastors have a missionary zeal, so will the people of God.

How is work progressing today?

Fr. Manna’s intuition is still valid today, despite the proclamations and documents of the II Vatican Council, which emphasized how the entire Church is missionary. Some positive experiences exist: priests and fidei donum lay people and a strong lay missionary movement. But the need to animate the Pastors, so they convince themselves that the vocation to priesthood and the episcopate is essentially missionary, remains. The Church does not become missionary, but it is for her establishment. It must be said that, after a moment of enthusiasm following the II Vatican, there was a lull, to the point that John Paul II spoke of a “mission crisis”, due to several factors: the new culture, relativism, the identity crisis of the western world but, essentially, a crisis of faith.

What are the main challenges, in this work, in the different continents?

To form Pastors is the top priority. This is what the young Churches ask, from which the vitality of Christianity is starting again today. Africa is blessed with a remarkable flowering of vocations, it does not have a tradition in the work of missionary formation and lacks of qualified teachers. And in Africa the Pastors are a point of reference not only for the ecclesial community, but also for the civil community. Asia is better equipped with qualified personnel for formation, but in some countries, local Churches must make do with what governments allow: Laos, North Korea, Burma, China do not give visas to external personnel who can help the formation. Latin America suffers, however, not so much for the lack of academic skills, but sometimes, for the gaps in the Christian witness which undermine its credibility.

What formation tools does the PMU use?

The PMU, called the “soul” of the other Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), provides an apostolic spirituality in all activities of evangelization. The Gospel progresses by virtue of the Holy Spirit and not with money: the PMU allows the work of other Societies not to be purely administrative. We organize courses aimed at trainers, bishops, priests, theologians who from all over the world come to the International Centre for Missionary Animation (CIAM), in Rome. We also promote several weeks of training in different local churches. Another tool is the magazine “Omnis Terra” addressed to all those responsible for the evangelization and a Course of studies on the mission, a sort of booklet divided in various topics, that soon we would like to make available online. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/10/2011)