ROME — The “basic dynamism” of the Catholic Church is its missionary outreach, an effort that should and must flow naturally from a desire to share the love of God and the gift of faith, Pope Francis said.
The pope said he gave a “special role” to the new Dicastery for Evangelization in his reform of the Roman Curia because of this outreach: “fostering the missionary conversion of the church, which is not proselytism, but witness: going out from self to proclaim with one’s life the gratuitous and saving love of God for us, who are all called to be brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis made his comments in a letter sent May 16 to the general assembly of the pontifical missionary works, a meeting being held in Lyon, France, instead of at the Vatican to coincide with the beatification May 22 of Pauline Jaricot, who founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
The pontifical missionary works, which had operated under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and will operate under the new dicastery, are: the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Society of St. Peter the Apostle, Holy Childhood Association, and Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
“Pauline Jaricot liked to say that the church is missionary by nature and that, therefore, every baptized person has a mission; indeed, is a mission,” the pope wrote.
As the general assembly meets, Pope Francis prayed that members would walk in the footsteps of “this great missionary woman, letting yourselves be inspired by her concrete faith, by her bold courage, by her generous creativity.”
The beatification of Jaricot, the 200th anniversary of the pontifical missionary works and the 400th anniversary of the founding of the congregation as the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the pope said, make 2022 the perfect time to look at three key ways people cooperate with the Holy Spirit in spreading the Gospel.
First, he said, is “missionary conversion” because one cannot help show and tell others about the Gospel without “the journey of exiting from oneself,” putting at the center of one’s life, “Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served.”
However, he said, that missionary conversion is possible only with prayer, “because it is the Spirit of the Lord that precedes and enables all our good works: the primacy is always of his grace.”
Finally, the pope said, mission requires “the concreteness of charity.”
Along with a network of prayer, he said, “Pauline initiated a collection of offerings on a large scale and in a creative form, accompanying it with information about the missionaries’ lives and activities. The offerings of so many simple people were providential for the history of the missions.”