.- Pope Benedict's message for the 83rd World Mission Day was made public on Saturday, September 5. The Holy Father reminds Catholics in his message that evangelization is the essential mission of the Church and that they should do all that they can to support the missions.
World Mission Day will be celebrated this year on Sunday, October 18, with the theme: " The nations will walk in its light." The message, published in six languages, bears the date of June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.
Excerpts from the English-language version are given below:
"The goal of the Church's mission is to illumine all peoples with the light of the Gospel as they journey through history towards God, so that in Him they may reach their full potential and fulfillment. ... It is in this perspective that the disciples of Christ throughout the world work, struggle and groan under the burden of suffering, even offering up their own lives. I strongly reiterate what was so frequently affirmed by my venerable predecessors: the Church works not to extend her power or assert her dominion, but to lead all people to Christ, the salvation of the world. We seek only to place ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the marginalized, because we believe that 'the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today... is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity.'"
"In truth, the whole of humanity has the radical vocation to return to its source, to return to God, since in Him alone can it find fulfillment through the restoration of all things in Christ. ... This new beginning can already be seen in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, Who draws all things to Himself, renewing them and enabling them to share in the eternal joy of God. ... The Church's mission is to spread hope 'contagiously' among all peoples. This is why Christ calls, justifies, sanctifies and sends His disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, so that all nations may become the People of God."
"The universal Church, which knows neither borders nor frontiers, is aware of her responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to entire peoples. ... The measure of her mission and service is not limited to material needs, or even to spiritual needs confined to the sphere of temporal existence; rather, it is transcendent salvation, fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, although ultimately eschatological and not of this world, is also in this world and within its history a force for justice and peace, for true freedom and respect for the dignity of every human person. The Church wishes to transform the world through the proclamation of the Gospel of love. ... With this message I renew my invitation to all the members and institutions of the Church to participate in this mission and this service."
"It is therefore necessary to renew our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel which is a leaven of freedom and progress, brotherhood, unity and peace. I would 'confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church', a duty and a mission which the widespread and profound changes in present-day society render ever more urgent. At stake is the eternal salvation of persons, the goal and the fulfillment of human history and the universe."
"On this day dedicated to the missions, I recall in prayer those who have consecrated their lives exclusively to the work of evangelization. I mention especially the local Churches and the missionaries who bear witness to and spread the Kingdom of God in situations of persecution, subjected to forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to prison, torture and death. Even today, many are put to death for the sake of His Name."
"The Church walks the same path and suffers the same destiny as Christ, since she acts not on the basis of any human logic or relying on her own strength, but rather following the way of the Cross, becoming, in filial obedience to the Father, a witness and a traveling companion for all humanity.
"I remind Churches of ancient foundation and those that are more recent that the Lord has sent them to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and He has called them to spread Christ, the Light of the nations, to the far corners of the earth. They must make the 'Missio ad gentes' a pastoral priority.
"I am grateful to the Pontifical Mission Societies and I encourage them in their indispensable service of promoting missionary animation and formation, as well as channeling material help to young Churches."
"Missionary zeal has always been a sign of the vitality of our Churches. ... I therefore ask all Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase in the Church's passion for her mission to spread the Kingdom of God and to support missionaries and Christian communities involved in mission, on the front line, often in situations of hostility and persecution.
"At the same time I ask everyone, as a credible sign of communion among Churches, to offer financial assistance, especially in these times of crisis affecting all humanity, to enable the young local Churches to illuminate the nations with the Gospel of charity."