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Pope's Mission Sunday message: faith must be shared

Catholic World News - August 06, 2013

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis writes that faith in Christ “is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity.” “Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation!” the Pope writes. “It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians.”

World Mission Sunday will be observed this year on October 20. The Pope’s message for the occasion is dated May 19—the feast of Pentecost—and was released by the Vatican on August 6.

The Pope stresses that every Christian is obliged to play a role in spreading the faith. “The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities,” he notes.

“The work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community,” Pope Francis writes.” Sometimes there is lack of fervor, joy, courage and hope in proclaiming the Message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with him.” He balances the demand for energetic apostolic work, however, with an insistence that evangelism should never involve pressure or force.

Evangelization necessarily involves leading people to the Church, the Pope continues. “Evangelization is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial.”

The Pope’s message provides a simple explanation of the need for the “new evangelization”:

More and more, in large areas of what were traditionally Christian regions, the number of those who are unacquainted with the faith, or indifferent to the religious dimension or animated by other beliefs, is increasing. Therefore it is not infrequent that, some of the baptized make lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith, thus making them need a "new evangelization."

While the “new evangelization” proceeds in areas that were once predominantly Catholic, the Pope reminds readers that many parts of the world still have not heard the Gospel message. They, too, need evangelizing, he says—as do the “young churches” where the faith has only recently taken root.

Yet the Pope also observes that in many cases, “these same young churches are engaging generously in sending missionaries to the Churches that are in difficulty-- not infrequently churches of ancient Christian tradition-- and thus bring the freshness and enthusiasm with which they live the faith.”

Before closing his message, Pope Francis directs attention to the Christians who live in societies where religious freedom is restricted, and often suffer for their faith. “They are our brothers and sisters,” he notes: “courageous witnesses-- even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries -- who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution.”

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