With the solemn celebration this morning in the Vatican Basilica the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops came to its conclusion. The theme of the meeting was "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness." This Sunday is also World Mission Sunday, whose theme this year is "The Building of Ecclesial Communion is the Key to Mission." The similarity between these themes is evident. Both invite us to look upon the Church as a mystery of communion that, by its nature, is destined for the whole person, and to all people. The Servant of God Paul VI thus stated: "The Church exists to evangelize, that is to say, to preach and to teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, to perpetuate the sacrifice of Christ in the Holy Mass, which is the memorial of his death and of his glorious resurrection" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii nuntiandi," Dec. 8, 1975, 14: AAS 68, , p. 13).
For this reason, the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in 2012, will be dedicated to the theme "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." In every time and in every place -- even today in the Middle East -- the Church is present and works to gather together all men and offer them to Christ, the fullness of life. As the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini wrote: "The reality of the 'Church' implies the fullness of being Christian, which develops through history, insofar as the Church embraces the fullness of human reality which is in relation with God" ("Formazione liturgica," Brescia 2008, pp. 106-107).
Dear friends, in today's liturgy we read about the testimony of St. Paul in regard to the final reward that the Lord will give "to all those who awaited his manifestation with love" (2 Timothy 4:8). This is not an inactive or solitary waiting, on the contrary! The Apostle lived in communion with the risen Christ to "bring the proclamation of the Gospel to completion" so that "all nations shall hear it" (2 Timothy 4:17). The missionary task is not to bring about revolution in the world but to transfigure it, drawing power from Jesus Christ who "convokes us at the table of his Word and Eucharist, to taste the gift of his Presence, to form ourselves in his school and live more and more consciously united to him, Master and Lord" ("Message for the 84th World Missionary Day").
Even the Christians of today -- as it is written in the "Letter to Diognetus" -- "show how marvelous and … extraordinary their life together is. They live on earth but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the established laws but go beyond the laws in their way of life. ... They are condemned to death and from it draw life. Although they do good, they are … persecuted and grow in number every day" (V, 220.127.116.11; VI, 9 [SC 33], Paris 1951, 62-66).
To the Virgin Mary, who from Jesus crucified received the new mission of being the Mother of all those who want to believe in him and follow him, we entrust the Christian communities in the Middle East and all the missionaries of the Gospel.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
To the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus prayer I offer warm greetings. We give thanks to God for the blessings received during the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which concluded this morning in St. Peter's Basilica. We also celebrate today World Mission Sunday, which reminds us that ecclesial communion is the key to our task of proclaiming the Gospel. Entrusting this mission to the intercession of our Mother Mary, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant blessings.
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[In Italian, he said:]
I am happy to announce that yesterday, in Vercelli, Sister Alfonsa Clerici was beatified. Sister Alfonsa belonged to the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood of Monza. She was born in Lainate, near Milan, in 1860, and died at Vercelli in 1930. Let us thank God for this sister of ours, whom he guided to perfect charity.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]