By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis has sent a message on the occasion of the Mission Festival taking place in Milan, Italy, from 29 September to 2 October.
In a letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and addressed to Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan, the Holy Father extended his greetings to the participants, expressing appreciation for the beautiful initiative themed: “Living by gift.”
“In this change of epoch,” the Pope said, “it is important to show the missionary trait of the faith and the Church in order to announce also to the people of today that God is always with us and loves us.”
The event, promoted by Fondazione Missio Italia (pastoral body of the CEI) and CIMI (Conference of Italian Missionary Institutes), is hosted by the Archdiocese of Milan.
Fostering awareness of mission
In the message, Pope Francis expressed hope that these days of celebration and prayer, listening and discussions, may foster in everyone the awareness that mission is not an appendage of faith, but “is the heart of the life of the Church” – something that cannot be eradicated from one’s being if one does not want to self-destroy.
He urged that everyone must recognize themselves as branded by that mission to “enlighten, bless, enliven, uplift, heal and liberate.”
Witnessing to peace
Amid the contemporary challenges and the tragedy of wars, Pope Francis highlights the necessity of witnessing to peace – a significant aspect of mission – which should be lived in the first person, individually and as a people, anchoring our actions to Jesus’s words “Peace be with you, I leave you my peace, I give you my peace.”
He added that “truth is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy”, and all three combined are essential to building peace. Thus, the witness to peace is a commitment to be lived every day, in different settings, so as to be “door-to-door” missionaries.
Gazes fixed on existential horizons
The Holy Father went on to encourage everyone, especially young people, to “to fix their gaze on the vast existential horizons in order to bring the liberating proclamation of the Gospel to where man is fatigued, disappointed and lost.”
He noted that in the gaze of our most tried and marginalized brothers and sisters, we read the deep and pressing desire for a life marked by dignity and love.
Therefore, he continued, we need disciples convinced in their profession of faith and capable of passing on the flame of hope to the men and women of our time.
Cultivating a missionary spirit
Concluding his message, the Pope invited everyone to cultivate the missionary spirit to spread the fragrance of God’s love everywhere with renewed apostolic zeal, in imitation of Our Lady who went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Finally, extending good wishes for the significant pastoral event, the Pope invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lord upon all.