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Background: World Mission Sunday

October 18, 2019

On October 20, the Church around the world commemorates World Mission Sunday. The theme of the Pope’s message for the day is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World,” which is also the theme of the Church’s extraordinary missionary month (October 2019) in celebration of the centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter Maximum Illud.

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In his World Mission Day message, Pope Francis distinguishes between proselytism and evangelization: the life of grace “is not a product for sale—we do not practice proselytism—but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone.”

Pope Francis also writes of the necessity of baptism for salvation and the importance of missionary work in the Amazon region, “in order that no culture remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in respect for the dignity of men and women, and towards a deeper conversion to the truth of the Risen Lord who gives authentic life to all.”

World Mission Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and first commemorated in 1927. As St. John Paul II explained in 2001, Pope Pius “accepted a request by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith to ‘establish a day of prayer and propaganda for the missions’ to be celebrated on the same day in every diocese, parish and institute of the Catholic world ... and to encourage offerings for the missions.”


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