Pope Francis on May 20, 2019, praised the work of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). In particular, he cited the 19 martyrs who were members.
The Holy Father’s remarks came when he received in audience — in the Hall of the Consistory of the Apostolic Vatican Palace — the participants in the General Chapter of the PIME.
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.
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The Holy Father’s Address
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I receive you joyfully on the occasion of your Assembly. I thank the Superior General and I greet you all warmly, men and women missionaries.
With you, I give thanks to the Lord for the long journey that He has made your Institute undertake in almost 170 years of its foundation, which happened at Milan, as Seminary of the Foreign Missions. We recall the leader of the beginnings: Monsignor Angelo Ramazzotti, at the time Bishop of Pavia. He took up a desire of Pope Pius IX and had the happy idea of involving the Bishops of Lombardy in the foundation, on the basis of the principle of the co-responsibility of all the dioceses, for the spread of the Gospel to peoples that did not yet know Jesus Christ. At that time it was a novelty, preceded only by the foundation of the Institute of Foreign Missions of Paris. Up until then, the missionary apostolate was totally in the hands of the Religious Orders and Congregations. With the Institutes of Paris and of Milan, it began to be a subject of the particular Churches, which were committed to open themselves to the whole world, to send their priests beyond their own borders.
With the passing of the years, PIME had is autonomous course and it developed, in part, as the other Religious Congregations, although not identifying itself with them. In fact, you don’t emit vows as Religious, but you consecrate yourselves for your whole life to the missionary activity with a definitive promise.
Your first mission fields were Oceania, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and China. The seed hidden under the earth produced many fruits of new communities, of dioceses born of nothing, of priestly and religious vocations germinated for the service of the local Church. After World War II you extended your presence in Brazil and Amazonia, in the United States, Japan, Guinea-Bissau, the Philippines, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Thailand, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Algeria, and Chad.
Your history is marked by a luminous wake of sanctity in many of its members, in some recognized officially by the Church: we remember the martyrs Saint Alberico Crescitelli, Blessed Giovanni Battista Mazzucconi, Blessed Mario Vergara; and the Confessors Blessed Paolo Manna and Blessed Clemente Vismara. Among your missionaries, there are 19 martyrs, who gave their lives for Jesus in favor of their people, without reservations and personal calculations. You are a “family of apostles,” an international community of priests and laymen that live in communion of life and of activity.
The words that Saint Paul VI pronounced at Manila in 1970, have a particular echo for you and summarize well the meaning of your life and your vocation. He said: “Yes, I feel the need to proclaim Jesus Christ, I cannot keep quiet [. . .] I must confess His Name: Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God [. . . ] I will never cease to speak of Him: He is the Light, He is the Truth, [. . . ]He is the Bread, the fount of living water for our hunger and our thirst; He is the Shepherd, our guide, our example, our comfort, our brother,” so said Paul VI. In fact, it’s only from Christ that our life and our mission have meaning, because “there is no true evangelization if the Name, the teaching, the life, the promise, the Kingdom, the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, aren’t proclaimed” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22).
To evangelize is, in fact, the grace and vocation of your Institute, it’s most profound identity (Cf. Ibid., 14). This mission, however, — it’s always good to stress it — doesn’t belong to you, because it gushes from God’s grace: “the first word, the true initiative, the true activity, comes from God and only by inserting oneself in this divine initiative, only by imploring this divine initiative, can we also become — with Him and in Him — evangelizers” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 112).
Observed this year is the 100 years of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV. As you know, to celebrate this anniversary I proclaimed the Extraordinary Missionary Month, next October, with this theme: “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” The objective of this initiative is “mainly to awaken awareness of the missio ad gentes and take up with new impetus the missionary transformation of life and of the pastoral” (Letter of Indiction, October 22, 2017). And you missionaries are the protagonists of this event, so that it is an occasion to promote the missionary impetus ad gentes, so that all your life, your programs, your work, your structures themselves draw from the Mission and the proclamation of the Gospel the vital lymph and criteria of renewal.
In fact, in the context of the preparation for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, you have gathered here in Rome for your 15th General Assembly, with the theme “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel: Persons, Places and Ways of the Mission for PIME Today and Tomorrow.” You are seeking, in so far as possible, to put the mission at the center, because it is precisely the missionary urgency that founded your Institute and continues to form it. Be convinced of this, and you have chosen Saint Paul’s expression: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16), as guide and inspiration. The passion and urgency for the mission, which Saint Paul feels as his vocation, is what you all desire for yourselves. Therefore, in the light of this key-Word, you have worked to understand again, in your Institute and in today’s world, the mission ad gentes; to reaffirm the primacy of the unique missionary vocation, be it for the laity be it for the presbyters; to choose the ambits of the mission; to plan the vocational animation as a mission activity; to verify your being a community and to rethink the organization of the PIME of today and of tomorrow.
Therefore, I say to you: “Let us not be afraid to undertake, with trust in God and much courage, a missionary choice capable of transforming everything, so that the customs, the styles, the schedules, the language, and every ecclesial structure may become an adequate channel for the evangelization of the present world” (Letter of Indiction of the Extraordinary Missionary Month 2019).
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for this meeting and especially for your work at the service of the Gospel. May the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, grant you to carry it out always with joy, also in toil. I bless you and pray for you. And you too, please pray for me. Thank you![Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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