The Pope told bishops from Brazil on Monday that the call to mission is a fundamental element of the vocation of all the baptized. Focused on the "nucleus" of the Eucharist, he said, the duty of the Christian is to "propose" the Gospel message and ensure its accessibility to all.
On Monday, the Holy Father met with bishops representing two northern zones of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. These particular bishops are responsible for great expanses of the Amazon basin and were concluding their periodic "ad limina" visit to the tombs of Peter and Paul.
Pope Benedict praised and encouraged them in their work to evangelize in the vast area, never "imposing" the Word, but always "proposing" it in "homage to the religious freedom of the people."
Citing the teaching of Pope Paul VI in this context, he told them that adhering to this "respectful way of proposing Christ and his Kingdom" is more than a right, it is a "duty" of evangelization. In addition, he said, it is the right of men to receive the Gospel's announcement of salvation.
Evangelization is a fundamental part of the Christian mission, the Holy Father reminded the bishops, adding that the call to mission is "not directed exclusively to a restricted group of members of the Church; rather, it is an imperative addressed to all the baptized, an essential element of their vocation."
While contemporary challenges might lead to a reductive view of the mission, he taught, it "cannot be limited to a mere search for new ways to make the Church more attractive and capable of overcoming the competition of other religious groups or relativist ideologies."
The Holy Father spoke on this theme also in answering journalists' questions on the flight to the U.K. on Sept. 16. He said then that a church seeking above all to be attractive is already on the "wrong path," because the Church works in service of "Another," and not herself. The Church, he said, seeks only "to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ."
Repeating the core of that message to the Brazilian bishops on Monday, he underscored that the Church is "at the service of Jesus Christ and exists to ensure the Good News is accessible to everyone.
She is "catholic," he added, "precisely because she invites all human beings to experience new life in Christ. Mission, then, is neither more nor less than the natural consequence of the very essence of the Church, a service of the ministry of unity which Christ wished to achieve in His crucified body."
Reminding them that the core of the mission is in the "nucleus" of the Body of Christ, he said that "to be truly effective, the continental mission must begin with the Eucharist and lead to the Eucharist."