VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis called for an “extraordinary month of prayer and reflection” to reinvigorate and renew the missionary spirit and action of the Catholic Church.
Welcoming a proposal from the pontifical mission societies and the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope said the special concentration on mission during the month of October 2019 would help “renew the love and passion” of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone.
The announcement came in the text of a speech the pope wrote, but did not read, June 3 when he met Cardinal Fernando Filoni, congregation prefect, and people taking part in the pontifical mission societies’ annual meeting in Rome.
Coordinated under the jurisdiction of the congregation, the four agencies — the Holy Childhood Association, Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of St. Peter the Apostle — promote missionary awareness and raise funds for the work of the church in mission territories around the globe.
“You know well my worry concerning the pontifical mission societies — very often reduced to an organization that collects and distributes, in the pope’s name, economic aid for the neediest churches,” the pope wrote in the text.
“I know that you are seeking new means and more appropriate, more ecclesial ways to carry out your service to the universal mission of the church” continuing a “process of urgent reform,” he wrote.
Renewal requires conversion, he wrote, adding that he hoped “your spiritual and material assistance to the church” would root people more deeply in the Gospel, encourage all Catholics to be involved in the church’s missionary duty and bring God’s love to all people.
October 2019 was chosen for the month of prayer because it will be the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s 1919 apostolic letter, “Maximum Illud” on the propagation of the faith throughout the world.
“In this very important document … on mission, the pope recalls how necessary a life of holiness is for the effectiveness of the apostolate,” Pope Francis wrote.
Now more than for the church and the world need men and women known for their “zeal and holiness” to proclaim the Gospel and show mercy to everyone, he added.
“The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2017. The message was released June 4, the day after his meeting with the pontifical mission societies.
“Through the church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as the Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere,” the pope wrote in the message.
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated Oct. 22 in most dioceses.
The church’s mission “is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching,” he wrote. Rather it is sharing the transformative power and joy of Christ and his word, which helps people become free of selfishness, “narrowness, conflict, racism and tribalism.”
“The church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice,” and inspires the faithful to be in “constant exodus” toward the peripheries and in “constant exile” toward the kingdom of heaven.