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Missionary activity remains urgent

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 10 May 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Let us continue the reflection we began in our last catechesis on the objections and doubt about the value of missionary activity and in particular, about its evangelizing goal.

There has been no lack of people who have wanted to interpret missionary activity as an attempt to impose one's own convictions and choices on others. This is contrasted with a certain modern spirit that boasts absolute freedom of thought and personal conscience as a definitive achievement.

According to this viewpoint, evangelizing activity should give way to interreligious dialogue, which would consist in an exchange of opinions and information in which each party makes known his own "creed" and is enriched by the others' thought, with no concern about reaching a conclusion. This would entail--it is said--that Christians renounce guiding non-Christians to the way of the Gospel, refrain from proposing or encouraging conversion, and exclude the prospect of Baptism. Thus the way of salvation followed by each according to his own education and religious background would be respected (cf. RM 4).

2. But such a concept appears incompatible with Christ's mandate to the apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15) handed down to the Church, and with the authentic ecclesiology to which the Second Vatican Council referred in order to show the obvious need for missionary activity. It is a question of several basic truths. God desires salvation for all. Jesus Christ is the "only Mediator," the one who "gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:5), since "neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12). "All must be converted to him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into him by baptism and into the Church which is his body. For Christ himself by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church" (AG 7).

The Council mentions the words of Jesus Christ on the necessary missionary mandate entrusted to the apostles. Expressly inculcating the need for faith and Baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), at the same time he confirmed the role of the Church into which one ought to enter and persevere if he desires salvation (cf. AG 7). This necessity of faith, received by means of the Church's preaching, in relation to salvation, is not only a theological deduction but a doctrine the Lord revealed. The urgency of missionary activity through preaching the Gospel and conferring Baptism derives from it and guarantees entry into the communion of the Church. The Church's traditional teaching illustrates the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativist and irenic attitude regarding the way of salvation in a religion different from that based on faith in Christ.

3. Without doubt we must believe in the existence of hidden ways in God's plan of salvation for those who, through no fault of their own, cannot enter the Church. Nevertheless, one cannot, in the name of these ways, slow down or abandon missionary activity. On this topic the Council observes: "Though God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please him (cf. Heb 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (cf. 1 Cor 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity" (AG 7).

4. The Council explains the ecclesiological reasons for the "power and necessity" of the missionary activity with regard to the Church's inner life. "By means of this activity, the Mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs its forces toward its own growth (cf. Eph 4:11-16)." The members of the Church are "impelled to carry on such missionary activity by reason of the love with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all men the spiritual goods of both this life and the life to come. "Finally, by means of this missionary activity, God is fully glorified, provided that men fully and consciously accept his work of salvation, which he has accomplished in Christ" (AG 7). Thus God's plan to which Christ submitted is realized: "...that the whole human race might form one people of God and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit" (AG 7).

Missionary activity fully responds to the plan of the Creator, which the patristic tradition cited by the Second Vatican Council drew attention to. It will be realized "when all who share one human nature, regenerated in Christ through the Holy Spirit and beholding the glory of God, will be able to say with one accord: 'Our Father.'" But at the same time, evangelization "corresponds with the inmost wishes of all men" (AG 7), who more or less consciously and--we could say--almost instinctively, seek God, fraternal harmony, peace, eternal life. Missionary activity aims precisely at all this.

5. Among man's fundamental aspirations to which the Church's missionary activity brings the light of Christ's revelation, there is the knowledge of the truth about oneself and one's own destiny. The Council states: "By manifesting Christ, the Church reveals to men the real truth about their condition and their whole calling, since Christ is the source and model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which they all aspire. Christ and the Church, which bears witness to him by preaching the Gospel, transcend every peculiarity of race or nation and therefore cannot be considered foreign anywhere or to anybody" (AG 8).

What we have pointed out several times must be repeated here: the truth of the Gospel is not linked to a specific nation or culture. It is the truth of Christ that enlightens every man regardless of tradition or race. This is why it is essential that it be proclaimed to all humanity: "Christ himself is the way and the truth, which the preaching of the Gospel opens to all..." (AG 8).

6. We can conclude today's reflection by confirming the full validity of the missions and of missionary activity for our time, too. It is an excellent way to put into practice the Church's mission to preach Christ the incarnate Word, the Redeemer of man. Indeed, through missionary activity, the Church applies the Lord Jesus' saving power to the whole good of man, as she awaits his new coming into the world in the eschatological fullness of God's kingdom. Regarding missionaries, the words about Paul, who came to Rome as a missionary, can be repeated today: "From morning to evening he laid the case before them, bearing witness to the reign of God among men. He sought to convince them about Jesus" (Acts 28:23). The passage from the Acts of the Apostles refers to a meeting with the brothers of the Jewish community in Rome. On that occasion "some, indeed, were convinced by what he said; others would not believe" (Acts 28:24). The Apostle, however, made his great resolution in one final word: "Now you must realize that this salvation of God has been transmitted to the Gentiles--who will heed it!" (Acts 28:28).

We can say that on that day, in Paul's rented lodgings, a new phase began in the development of the history of Christianity: a history of faith, civilization and Gospel values, ever rich and fruitful for the good of humanity."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francesi

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française, jeunes et aînés; je leur souhaite de trouver dans leur visite à Rome des motifs de renouveler leur sens de la foi et de la vie ecclésiale.  tous, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet the many pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Finland, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States. My special greeting goes to the pilgrimage group from Manila led by Bishop Ramon Arguelles. I assure the pilgrims from Cyprus of my prayers for peace in their country. I also welcome the parents, teachers and students of the Irish Institute in Rome and the Anglican visitors from Cape Town, South Africa. To the young people from "Up with People" I express my gratitude for their joyful song and for their commitment to build international friendship and solidarity. Upon all the English–speaking visitors I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai visitatori di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Nach diesen kurzen Ausführungen grüe ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, die Ihr so zahlreich aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz zu dieser Audienz gekommen seid, sehr herzlich. Einen besonderen Gru richte ich an die Teilnehmer am Romseminar des Bistums Hildesheim. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen und Freunden zu Hause erteile von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos a Roma en este gozoso tiempo de Pascua. En particular dirijo mi saludo a la asociación “Damas de Loreto” y a las Comunidades neocatecumenales de Valencia (España), al grupo “Amor de Jesús por María” de Panamá y a los visitantes de México, Perú, Uruguay, Argentina y Venezuela. A todos os exhorto a anunciar con valentía la Buena Nueva del Evangelio, y con afecto os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

As minhas saudações fraternas a todos os peregrinos de Portugal e do Brasil, em particular aos membros do grupo de Mogi Mirim e do coro “Canto do povo” da Arquidiocese de Natal. Aqui em Roma os santos apóstolos Pedro e Paulo derramaram o seu sangue, para confessar a sua fé no Senhor Jesus. As gerações recolheram e transmitiram esse testemunho: hoje é a nossa hora! Mostrai a todos a felicidade que é amar Jesus Cristo. Aprendei a segui–l’O e imitá–l’O, como a Virgem Maria.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus! Witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. Witam Księdza Kardynała Metropolitę Krakowskiego oraz kapłanów krakowskiej archidiecezji, młodzież i nauczycieli Szkoły Podstawowej nr 128 i Liceum Ogólnokształcącego nr 23 w Krakowie, członków Towarzystwa Opieki nad Majdankiem z Krakowa, pielgrzymów z Lublina – z parafii św. Józefa, z Gdyni – z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa, z Białego Dunajca – dzieci i nauczycieli, z Wielkiego Klucza – pielgrzymkę misjonarzy Świętej Rodziny, przybyłych z okazji 100–lecia zgromadzenia, z Offenbach – Misję Polską, z Tyrolu “Strzechę”, z Meinzu – wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polonii niemieckiej, z Warszawy – młodzież i nauczycieli 74. Liceum Ogólnokształcącego. Pozdrawiam wszystkich, którzy przybyli w grupach zorganizowanych oraz indywidualnie do Wiecznego Miasta.

A un gruppo di pellegrini giapponesi

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Spero che il vostro pellegrinaggio romano sia una bella occasione per approfondire la vostra fede e il vostro amore e che possiate essere testimoni della fede. Prego per voi che il Signore vi conceda la grazia in abbondanza.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare al gruppo delle Confraternite della Diocesi di Savona-Noli guidato dal Vescovo, Monsignor Dante Lafranconi.

Carissimi, volentieri oggi benedico l’effigie della Madonna della Misericordia di Savona posta nei Giardini Vaticani, riproduzione di quella che 180 anni or sono Papa Pio VII incoronò a Savona, dopo esser stato prigioniero di Napoleone Bonaparte. La Madonna vi faccia testimoni della divina Misericordia!

* * *

Il mio pensiero va poi al folto gruppo degli Allievi Sottufficiali Carabinieri della Scuola di Velletri, con i Comandanti e i familiari, accompagnati dal Vescovo di Velletri-Segni, Monsignor Erba. Cari giovani, nell’ambito della formazione non trascurate la dimensione spirituale: Cristo sia sempre presente nella vostra vita quotidiana.

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Saluto inoltre l’Associazione “Amici degli Emigrati” di Conversano, i Delegati della Cooperazione Sanitaria Complementare Intereuropea, come pure organizzatori ed atleti dei Campionati Internazionali d’Italia di Tennis.

Ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli

Mi rivolgo ora ai malati, agli sposi novelli e ai giovani presenti, salutando in particolare i ragazzi dell’Istituto “Santa Gemma Galgani” di San Benedetto del Tronto.

A voi, giovani, auguro di essere costruttori di pace e difensori della vita umana; a voi, ammalati, di custodire in Cristo la speranza che illumina il senso della quotidiana esistenza; e a voi, sposi novelli, di formare una cellula viva della civiltà dell’amore.

Tutti affido a Maria, nel mese a lei dedicato.

Ad un gruppo di veterani russi della II Guerra Mondiale 

In questi giorni il mondo celebra il cinquantesimo anniversario della fine della seconda guerra mondiale, ed io sono particolarmente contento di salutare oggi un gruppo di veterani russi testimoni di quei tragici avvenimenti nella storia della civiltà moderna.

Il Signore ci conceda di evitare nel futuro simili conflitti e di farci costruttori di pace, portatori di solidarietà e amore fraterno.

Il Signore vi benedica! Cristo è risorto!

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