Saturday morning, Pope Benedict XVI met with delegates taking part in
an international congress marking the 40th anniversary of the Vatican
Council II Decree "Ad gentes. He told them that the Church “in our
time” is called to serve humanity, always trusting completely in the
person of Jesus Christ.
The congress, being held in Rome, has been organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Urban University.
The Holy Father recalled that the Church’s approval of this decree, on December 7, 1965 gave "renewed impulse" to the Church's mission, which was recognized as being "a constituent element of her very nature."
He went on, pointing out that the main service that Christians can render both to individuals and the human race as a whole is "to announce and bear witness to the Gospel."
The Pope then quoted the words of his predecessor, John Paul II, who said that "the 'mission ad gentes' seems at times to slow down, because of difficulties due to the changing anthropological, cultural, social and religious environment of mankind," adding that, "The Church today is called to face up to new challenges and is ready to enter into dialogue with different cultures and religions seeking, together with all people of good will, to construct peaceful coexistence among peoples.”
He added that “indeed, not just distant lands and non-Christian peoples, but also socio-cultural environments and, above all, hearts, are the true beneficiaries of the missionary activity of the People of God."
The Holy Father also stressed that "the Church is called to serve the humanity of our time, trusting only in Jesus, allowing herself to be illuminated by His Word and imitating Him in giving herself generously to our brothers and sisters.”
“She is an instrument in His hands,” he said, “and for this reason does what she can, aware that it is always the Lord Who achieves everything."
He added that "With the contribution of all Christians, the announcement of the Gospel will surely become more widely-understood and effective,” and asked that “Mary, the Star of evangelization,” might “give help and support to those who, in so many regions of the world, work on the outlying frontiers of the mission."
The Pope concluded his address by calling to mind those who "even in recent times, have given their lives for the Gospel.”
“May their sacrifice”, he said, “bring a renewed springtime, one rich in apostolic fruits for evangelization."