Vatican City, 22 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience the participants in the 4th Missionary Convention of the Italian Episcopal Conference, around eight hundred people. “Every generation is called to be missionary … from the very beginning”, affirmed the Holy Father. “Remember how the apostles Andrew and John encountered the Lord and then … set out, enthusiastic. The first thing they did was become missionaries. They went to their brothers and said, 'We have found the Lord, we have found the Messiah'”.
Following these unscripted remarks, Pope Francis went on to cite his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he speaks of an outbound Church, and reiterated that a missionary can only be outbound, without fear of encounters, of discovering new things, and of speaking about the joy of the Gospel. “Not to proselytise, but to say what we have and want to share without imposition, with all and without distinction. … The particular Churches in Italy have done much. … I would like to repeat something that a Brazilian cardinal said to me: 'When I go to Amazonia – because he has the task of visiting dioceses in Amazonia – I go to the cemetery and see the tombs of missionaries. And there are many of them. And I think, these people could be canonised now!' It is the Church; they are the Churches of Italy”.
“Today I thank you for what you do in many areas … and I ask you to work with passion to keep this spirit alive. I see many laypeople alongside bishops and priests. The mission is the task of all Christians, not just the few. … The Italian Church, I repeat, has given many priests and laypeople fidei donum, who decide to spend their lives building up the Church in the peripheral areas of the world, among the poor and those who are far away. … I urge you, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope and the dream of changing the world with … the leaven of the Gospel, starting out from the human and existential peripheries. Reaching out means overcoming the temptation to talk among ourselves, forgetting the many who await from us a word of mercy, of consolation, of hope. Jesus' Gospel is fulfilled in history. Jesus Himself was a man from the outskirts, from Galilee, far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire and of Jerusalem. … However, His Word was the beginning of a transformation in history, the start of a spiritual and human revolution, the good news of a Lord Who died and rose again for us”.
The Pope encouraged those present to intensify their missionary spirit and their enthusiasm for the mission, without allowing themselves to be discouraged by difficulties and, above all, “beginning with children, who must receive a missionary catechesis. At times, even in the Church we are overcome by pessimism, which risks depriving many men and women of the announcement of the Gospel. Let us go ahead with hope! The many missionary martyrs to faith and charity are show us that victory is only in love and in a life spent for the Lord and for our neighbour, starting with the poor. The poor are the travelling companions of an outbound Church, as they are the first She encounters. The poor are also your evangelisers, as they show you those peripheries where the Gospel has yet to be proclaimed and lived”.
“Reaching out means not remaining indifferent to destitution, war, the violence in our cities, the neglect of the elderly, the anonymity of many people in need and marginalisation from little ones. Reaching out means not accepting that in our Christian cities the are many children who do not know how to make the sign of the Cross. This is reaching out. It means being builders of peace, of the 'peace' that the Lord gives us every day and of which the world is so in need. Missionaries never give up their dream of peace, even when they experience difficulties and persecution, which make their presence strongly felt today”.