VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians, especially missionaries, have to love “without limits” if they are to witness to God’s greatest gift to humanity — his life and infinite love, Pope Francis said.
The church’s missionary mandate, in fact, is more urgent than ever “when we consider how many injustices, wars and humanitarian crises still need resolution,” he said.
“Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace,” the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2016.
While all Christians are called to bring the Gospel to all people, “the current landscape with all its challenges” is an added impetus for everyone “to hear the call to a renewed missionary ‘impulse,'” he said.
The annual observance will be marked Oct. 23 at the Vatican and in most countries.
In his message, released May 15 at the Vatican, the pope focused on the importance of the missionary church being a witness of mercy.
He noted that “the considerable and growing presence of women in the missionary world, working alongside their male counterparts, is a significant sign of God’s maternal love.”
Women — lay and religious — and many families play an important role in the church’s missionary outreach, he said.
They “often more adequately understand people’s problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures; and by allocating human and spiritual resources toward the building of good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and fraternity, both among individuals and in social and cultural life, in particular through care for the poor,” he said.
In his message, the pope said he hoped people would “continue to exercise this maternal service of mercy, which helps those who do not yet know the Lord to encounter and love him.”
“Faith is God’s gift and not the result of proselytizing; rather it grows thanks to the faith and charity of evangelizers who witness to Christ.”
For that reason, Christians “need to have a love without limits, the same measure of love that our Lord has for all people,” the pope wrote. “We proclaim the most beautiful and greatest gifts that he has given us: his life and his love.”