Pope Francis and the Missionary Spirit | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | CWR
We are called to preach and proclaim the Gospel “courageously and in every situation.”
“The Church—I repeat once again—is not a relief organization, an enterprise nor an NGO (Non-Government Organization), but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share their experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.”
— Pope Francis, Message for World Day of Peace (L’Osservatore Romano, August 28, 2013)
In contrast with his usual custom of keeping what he says brief and to the point, Pope Francis wrote a fairly long message (about one full page in L’Osservatore Romano) for Mission Sunday, which will be observed on October 20, 2013. This letter is rather wide ranging. It strikes me as giving more insight into what Pope Bergoglio is about than almost anything I have previously come across, except perhaps Lumen Fidei.
This Pope’s evident optimism has always puzzled me because he does have, at the same time, a pretty good grasp of the real and growing obstacles to the presence of Christianity in almost every sector of the world and its culture. Near the end of this Message, for instance, Pope Francis tells us:
I wish to say a word about those Christians, who, in various parts of the world, encounter difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses—even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries—who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ.
We do not hear of President Obama or other political leaders drawing “red lines” about such persecution of Catholics. Evidently, the persecution of Christians is not a public or world problem. Indeed, for all too many, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is the world problem, best to marginalize it or, better, to eliminate it.
The Pope does not give any names of those who do the persecuting. I am not happy about this. But I understand that, if you mention persecution, especially in Islamic states, Christians are then persecuted with greater force. You are blamed for it. Very few places can be found in the world where Catholicism can be freely, openly, and legally present. The fact is that also in the so-called democracies, the prevalent mood of the public order is to reduce religion to the exclusively private sphere with no presence allowed in education, health, culture or other normal areas of human life.
The Pope seems aware of these issues but he remains relatively unconcerned about them. He has an approach to the world through worship, community, and joy that is not deterred by what in fact are huge and growing problems that can only properly be designated as persecution.