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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move 

N° 94,  April 2004, pp. 145-146

L’aspetto missionario del pontificato di

Sua Santita’ Giovanni Paolo II

Durante il Convegno sugli aspetti dottrinali e pastorali del pontificato di Giovanni Paolo II, promosso dal Collegio Cardinalizio in occasione del suo XXV anniversario, l’intervento dell’ Card. Ivan Dias, Arcivescovo di Bombay, presenta per noi un particolare rilievo. Infatti egli trattò l’aspetto missionario che diventa sempre più rilevante anche nel mondo della mobilità umana. Pubblichiamo qui, dunque, alcuni passi di tale intervento.

The theme of this conference opens before us the vast horizon of the missionary mandate, which the Church has received from its Founder, Christ Jesus Our Lord: "Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to the whole of creation"(Mk 16:15).This mandate has challenged the Church ever since its inception, but the more so in recent times when the winds of secularization and globalization ever strongly all over the world and threaten to invade the sacred precincts of the Church itself.

Christ’s missionary mandate to the Church is a continuation of the one which He himself received from his Father “who so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that all those who believe in him may have eternal life”. Jesus, the Divine emissary of the Father, sends forth his disciples to carry on his own divine and salvific mission: "As the Father has sent me, so do I send you". Though this mandate is one and unique, Pope John Paul II has indicated its three expressions: as “missio ad gentes or first evangelization” of those who have not yet fully received the Good News of Jesus Christ; as the “pastoral care” of those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour; and as a “new evangelization" of those already evangelized who need to refresh and deepen their Christian roots. These three expression of the missionary mandate may at times be found together in a particular setting. Speaking of the European continent, for instance, in his post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Europa the Holy Father states: “Invarious parts of Europe - which is known as a Christian continent - a first proclamation of the Gospel is needed: the number of the unbaptized is growing, both because of the significant presence of immigrants of other religions and because children born into families of Christian tradition have not received baptism, either as a result of the communist domination or the spread of religious indifference.

Indeed, Europe is now one of those traditionally Christian places which, in addition to a new evangelization, require in some cases a first evangelization. On the old continent too, there are vast social and cultural areas which stand in need of a true missio ad gentes”.

Besides these traditional three expressions of evangelization the, Pope has indicated new areas which cross all geographical, cultural and social divisions: he speaks of them as an  “areopagus”, and mentions among them the world of culture and research, of migrants and poverty, of Social communication and international relations underlining the importance of information technology and the media in all its forms, commitment to peace, development and the liberation of peoples, the rights of individuals and groups,especially of minorities, the empowerment of women and the education of children, the ecological safeguard of the created world. All these, says the Pope, need to be illuminated with the light of the Gospel and hence come within the missionary purview of the Church. In all of them the Church must continue Christ’s divine and salvific mission, and consequently always be in statu missionis.

As we consider the vast topic of "missions" in theory and in practice during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, we shall 1° take a general view of the actual missionary status of the Church in, countries receiving the first proclamation of the Gospel; 2° we shall consider the missionary thrust of our Holy Father in his many apostolic visits; and 3° briefly outline the missionary vision of the Church today as exposed in the Pope's magisterium.

Channels for missionary proclamation

Evangelization is the work of the Holy Spirit whose ways are varied: sometimes they are direct,at other times indirect.The Holy Spirit started proclaiming the Good News at the very moment that Christ Our Lord was born in Bethlehem. He did it directlythrough the Angels announcing the glad tidings of Jesus' birth to shepherds who kept watch over their flock that night and telling them where they could find biro, and they did. And indirectly,by making a star to rise in the East and lead some Wise Men laden with precious gifts to Jesus the new born King and Saviour of the world. The Wise Men were restless until they found Jesus and placed their treasures at his feet and adored him. This is the final outcome of both direct and indirect evangelization: the Holy Spirit leads one and all - some - already here on earth, others in the hereafter -to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour of humankind. As far as indirect evangelization is concerned, the Holy Spirit avails himself of three main instruments: inculturation, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and social and human development works. These are particularly useful in countries receiving the first evangelization. One understands then why the Holy Father has made special mention of them inhis post‑synodal apostolic exhortations for Africa, Asia and Oceania. Of course, none of these three instruments exhausts the missionsry-evangelizing activity of the Church. They are complementary to each other and, if well integrated among themselves, can show how the Church continues Christ’s divine mission to give lire to everyone, and to give it in abundance.