Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-NAME April 18, 2018.

Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the month of October 2019, I have asked that the whole Church
revive her missionary awareness and commitment as we commemorate
the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict
XV (30 November 1919). Its farsighted and prophetic vision of the
apostolate has made me realize once again the importance of renewing
the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical
impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation
of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.

The title of the present Message is the same as that of October’s
Missionary Month: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on
Mission in the World. Celebrating this month will help us first to
rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith
graciously bestowed on us in baptism. Our filial relationship with God
is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church.
Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we,
together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new
life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practice
proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed:
that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share
it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all
people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his
mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 1 Tim 2:4; Lumen Gentium, 48).

The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us
to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with
God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of
the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the
sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the
earth (cf. Mic 5:4; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:18). A Church that
presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing
missionary conversion. How many saints, how many men and women
of faith, witness to the fact that this unlimited openness, this going forth
in mercy, is indeed possible and realistic, for it is driven by love and its
deepest meaning as gift, sacrifice and gratuitousness (cf. 2 Cor5: 14-21)!
The man who preaches God must be a man of God (cf. Maximum Illud).

This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always;
you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission.
People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they
are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others
and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is
concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to
the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. Even if parents can
betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back his
gift of life. From eternity he has destined each of his children to share in
his divine and eternal life (cf. Eph 1:3-6).

This life is bestowed on us in baptism, which grants us the gift of faith in
Jesus Christ, the conqueror of sin and death. Baptism gives us rebirth in
God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of
Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and
daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or
slaves. What in the Christian is a sacramental reality – whose
fulfillment is found in the Eucharist – remains the vocation and destiny
of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation. For
baptism fulfils the promise of the gift of God that makes everyone a son
or daughter in the Son. We are children of our natural parents, but in
baptism we receive the origin of all fatherhood and true motherhood: no
one can have God for a Father who does not have the Church for a
mother (cf. Saint Cyprian, De Cath. Eccl., 6).

Our mission, then, is rooted in the fatherhood of God and the
motherhood of the Church. The mandate given by the Risen Jesus at
Easter is inherent in Baptism: as the Father has sent me, so I send you,
filled with the Holy Spirit, for the reconciliation of the world (cf. Jn
20:19-23; Mt 28:16-20). This mission is part of our identity as
Christians; it makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to
realize their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognize
their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every
human life, from conception until natural death. Today’s rampant
secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s
active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human
fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of
each person. Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is
reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal
acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race.

The universality of the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ led
Benedict XV to call for an end to all forms of nationalism and
ethnocentrism, or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the
economic and military interests of the colonial powers. In his Apostolic
Letter Maximum Illud, the Pope noted that the Church’s universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s
own country and ethnic group. The opening of the culture and the
community to the salvific newness of Jesus Christ requires leaving
behind every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion. Today
too, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism,
respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country,
language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a
world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his
holy Church. By proclaiming God’s word, bearing witness to the
Gospel and celebrating the life of the Spirit, they summon to
conversion, baptize and offer Christian salvation, with respect for the
freedom of each person and in dialogue with the cultures and religions
of the peoples to whom they are sent. The missio ad gentes, which is
always necessary for the Church, thus contributes in a fundamental
way to the process of ongoing conversion in all Christians. Faith in the
Easter event of Jesus; the ecclesial mission received in baptism; the
geographic and cultural detachment from oneself and one’s own home;
the need for salvation from sin and liberation from personal and social
evil: all these demand the mission that reaches to the very ends of the
earth.

The providential coincidence of this centenary year with the
celebration of the Special Synod on the Churches in the Amazon allows
me to emphaze how the mission entrusted to us by Jesus with the gift of
his Spirit is also timely and necessary for those lands and their peoples.
A renewed Pentecost opens wide the doors of the Church, in order that
no culture remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the
universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in
self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and
religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the
narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in respect for the dignity of men and conversion to the truth of the Risen Lord who gives authentic life to all.

Here I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning
of the meeting of Latin American Bishops at Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007.
I would like to repeat these words and make them my own: “Yet what
did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin
America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and
welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were
seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is
the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they
received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them
children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit
who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and
developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in
them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel.  The Word
of God, in becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, also became history and
culture. The utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian
religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church,
would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality,
it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past”
(Address at the Inaugural Session, 13 May 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1
[2007],855-856).

We entrust the Church’s mission to Mary our Mother. In union with her
Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on
her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a
mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of
cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and
daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith I would like to conclude with a brief word about the Pontifical Mission
Societies, already proposed in Maximum Illud as a missionary
resource. The Pontifical Mission Societies serve the Church’s
universality as a global network of support for the Pope in his
missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable
offerings from Christians throughout the world. Their donations assist
the Pope in the evangelization efforts of particular Churches (the
Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith), in the formation of
local clergy (the Pontifical Society of Saint Peter the Apostle), in
raising missionary awareness in children (Pontifical Society of
Missionary Childhood) and in encouraging the missionary dimension
of Christian faith (Pontifical Missionary Union). In renewing my
support for these Societies, I trust that the extraordinary Missionary
Month of October 2019 will contribute to the renewal of their
missionary service to my ministry.

To men and women missionaries, and to all those who, by virtue of their
baptism, share in any way in the mission of the Church, I send my
heartfelt blessing.

From the Vatican, 9 June 2019, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

FRANCIS

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