Pope Francis: Church’s strength is not its social relevance but its humble and gratuitous love
This ceremony marked the inauguration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month. In 2017 Pope Francis made a special announcement to set aside a month in which all baptized Christians, not only missionaries, are called to announce the Gospel.
The encounter began with various testimonies, like the one from this young Mongolian woman who converted to Christianity thanks to the missionaries.
A priest and a religious sister also spoke about the joys and hardships of the missions in their respective places of origin, Central African Republic and Papua New Guinea.
Afterward the pope entered the basilica and began the solemn vespers. In his homily, Pope Francis reminded everyone of the meaning of this Extraordinary Missionary Month.
“This extraordinary Missionary Month should jolt us and motivate us to be active in doing good. Not notaries of faith and guardians of grace, but missionaries.”
The pope explained how to be missionaries. He said that each baptized person is called to bear witness to Christ through his or her life.
“Witness is the key word: a word with the same root as the word “martyr”. The martyrs are the primary witnesses of faith: not by their words but by their lives. They know that faith is not propaganda or proselytism: it is a gift of one’s life.”
That is why Pope Francis encouraged those present to not be mere bystanders, to have no fear, and above all to not conform to the idea that “it’s always been done that way.” He asked once more for a Church which “on the go.”
“To live by omission is to deny our vocation: omission is the opposite of mission. A Church that does not seek safe oases to dwell in peace, but longs to be salt of the earth and a leaven in the world. For she knows that this is her strength, that of Jesus himself: not social or institutional relevance, but humble and gratuitous love.”
The ceremony concluded with the handing out of these crucifixes. The pope gave them to this family that will leave for a mission in Taiwan, five religious sisters, and three priests who will go to places like South Sudan, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan.