Pope to PIME: Protagonists of the Extraordinary Missionary Month
Pope Francis met with PIME missionaries – gathered in Rome for the General Assembly – and some representatives of the general direction of the Immaculate Missionaries. The proposal of St. Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. “There is no real evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom, the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, are not proclaimed”. Do not confuse evangelization with proselytism. The “joy of evangelizing”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Extraordinary Missionary Month – launched by Pope Francis for October 2019, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud by Pope Benedict XV – must see the PIME missionaries (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) “protagonists of this anniversary, so that it may be an opportunity to renew the missionary ad gentes momentum”. This is the invitation that Pope Francis addressed today to a select group of institute members at a private audience.
The meeting with the pontiff took place on the occasion of the XV General Assembly that PIME is celebrating these days. Together with the new general council and the general board of the Immaculate Missionaries, the members of the Assembly were present, as well as some fathers of the Rome community.
Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca, superior general, greeted the pontiff recalling the traditional characteristics of PIME: missionaries ad gentes, for non-Christians; who give their entire life to mission, and not for a limited period; who go beyond the borders of their own nation (ad extra); who carry out their work together, in a “family of apostles”. He also stressed that in the current Assembly, the missionaries are studying “people, places and ways of the mission for the PIME of today and tomorrow” to respond to the urgent urgency of evangelization, as witnessed by St. Paul: “Woe to me if I do not evangelise ”.
In his speech, Pope Francis first of all stressed the qualifying “novelty” of the institute, the “principle of co-responsibility of all the dioceses for spreading the Gospel to the peoples who do not yet know Jesus Christ”. And he said that the urgency of the mission is “the need to announce Jesus Christ”, because “only from Christ does our life and our mission make sense”. This urgency is similar to that expressed by St. Paul VI in his famous speech in Manila in 1970, which he quoted, and which the post-Council Pope later wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi: “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed”(EN, 22).
“Evangelizing – he added – is the grace and vocation proper to your Institute, its deepest identity (see ibid., 14). This mission however – it is always good to emphasize – does not belong to you, because it springs from the grace of God. There is no school to become evangelizers; there is help, but it is another thing. It is a vocation that you have from God. Either you are an evangelizer or you are not”.
Moving away from his scripted text the Pope spoke of a concern: that of confusing mission with proselytism: “There is a danger that arises again – it seemed outdated but it has returned -: that of confusing evangelization with proselytism. No. Evangelization is a testimony of Jesus Christ, dead and risen. It is He who attracts. This is why the Church grows by attraction and not by proselytism, as Benedict XVI said. But this confusion arose somewhat from a political-economic conception of “evangelization”, which is no longer evangelization. It is presence, the concrete presence, they ask you why you are so. And this is how you announce Jesus Christ. It is not looking for new partners for this “Catholic society”, no, it is showing Jesus: that He shows himself in my person, in my behavior; and to open spaces with my life to Jesus. This is evangelization. And this is what your founders had in their hearts ”.
In order to prepare for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, finding the strength of a renewal in the life and structures of PIME, Francis said: “We are not afraid to undertake, with confidence in God and much courage, a missionary choice capable of transforming everything, so that customs, styles, schedules, language and every ecclesial structure become an adequate channel for the evangelization of the present world “(Letter of the Extraordinary Missionary Month 2019).
Then entrusting the PIME missionaries to Mary, so that they may be supported in their “work in the service of the Gospel”, “with joy, even in toil”, Pope Francis, again speaking off the cuff, added: “And on this I allow myself to recommend you the last numbers of Evangelii nuntiandi. You know that the Evangelii nuntiandi is the largest pastoral document of the post-Council period: it is still recent, it is still in vigor and has not lost strength. In the last few numbers, when he describes how to be an evangelizer, he speaks of the joy of evangelizing. When St. Paul VI talks about the sins of the evangelizer: the four or five last numbers. Read it well, thinking of the joy he recommends to us. ”
“I bless you – he concluded – and I pray for you. And you promised, at least the Superior General promised to pray for me. Do it, please. Thank you!”.