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Pope sees urgent need to "re-launch" missionary efforts May 29, 2007

In his message for the 81st World Mission Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI exhorts Catholic dioceses to "re-launch missionary activity," responding to today's critical needs.

World Mission Sunday will be celebrated this year on October 21. The Holy Father's message, officially dated Pentecost Sunday, was released by the Vatican on May 29.

In the message, Pope Benedict notes that in many societies that have traditionally provided both Catholic missionaries and the resources to sustain them, the faith is now facing serious problems. Because of "the secularized culture, the crisis of the family, the drop in vocations, and the progressive aging of the clergy," the dioceses "run the risk of closing in on themselves, of looking to the future with reduced hopes, and of lessening their missionary efforts," the Pope writes.

On the contrary, the Holy Father says, "this is precisely the moment to open trustingly to the Providence of God." A new burst of missionary activity will return spiritual vigor to these secularized cultures, he predicts.

Pope Benedict notes that some "churches of recent evangelization" have shown an admirable desire to help spread the faith, and in some cases, "though beset by many local needs, still manage to send priests and religious elsewhere." Countries which only recently received the Gospel are now sending missionaries back to the traditionally Catholic countries, the Pope observes. This, is he says is "a providential exchange of gifts which benefits the entire mystical Body of Christ."

Missionary work, the Pontiff continues, is "the Church's primary service to humanity today." Paying homage to the missionaries who have sacrificed to spread the faith-- sometimes to the point of death-- he reminds readers that "all Christian communities are born missionary."

Every Christian has a role to play in the work of evangelization, the Pope concludes, noting that "the first and principal contribution" that everyone can make is prayer for the success of missionary initiatives.

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