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Church observes Mission Sunday
October 19, 2013 - The Catholic Church is marking its Mission Sunday on Oct. 20 in most dioceses of the world. In a message for the occasion released on Aug. 6, Pope Francis said that in a world that often seems dark and full of suffering and violence, Christians can offer hope by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "It is necessary to proclaim courageously and in every situation the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation (and) communion, a proclamation of God's closeness, his mercy, salvation and a proclamation that the power of God's love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness," the pope wrote. Mission Sunday is observed on the second last Sunday of October each year. In the message for his first Mission Sunday since being elected head of the Catholic Church on March 13, the Argentine Pope Francis emphasized the obligation of all Christians to share the faith with others and do so with respect. He also pointed to the stifling damage done to the church by the failure to evangelize and the sacrifices made by many Christians around the world currently facing oppression or even persecution because of their faith. “Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians. The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church.’ A true Christian, the Pope explained, does not try to impose the Christian faith on anyone, but proclaims the good news through word and deed with respect, the pope wrote. "The church's missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love."
World Mission Sunday was established in 1926 by Pope Pius XI and the first observance was held in 1927. The aim is to invite all Christians to open their hearts to the spiritual needs of missions and to commit themselves with concrete gesture of solidarity and support to all young Churches. Collections on the day go to projects such as support to catechists, seminarians in their formation and assistance to children through social and health programmes.
Below is the full text of the message of Pope Francis for Mission Day 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year, as we celebrate World Mission Day, the Year of Faith, which is an important opportunity to strengthen our friendship with the Lord and our journey as a Church that preaches the Gospel with courage, comes to an end. From this perspective, I would like to propose some reflections.
1. Faith is God’s precious gift, which opens our mind to know and love him. He wants to enter into relationship with us and allow us to participate in his own life in order to make our life more meaningful, better and more beautiful. God loves us! Faith, however, needs to be accepted, it needs our personal response, the courage to entrust ourselves to God, to live his love and be grateful for his infinite mercy. It is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity. Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians. The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community" (BENEDICT XVI, Verbum Domini, 95). Each community is "mature" when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, leaves one’s own to take it to the “peripheries”, especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ. The strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.
2. The Year of Faith, fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, motivates the entire Church towards a renewed awareness of its presence in the contemporary world and its mission among peoples and nations. Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures and individuals, because the "boundaries" of faith do not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and each woman. The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities; since “the people of God lives in communities, especially in dioceses and parishes, and becomes somehow visible in them, it is up to these to witness Christ before the nations" (Ad Gentes, 37). Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his "witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel. I invite Bishops, Priests, Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils, and each person and group responsible in the Church to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension in formation and pastoral programmes, in the understanding that their apostolic commitment is not complete unless it aims at bearing witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples. This missionary aspect is not merely a programmatic dimension in Christian life, but it is also a paradigmatic dimension that affects all aspects of Christian life.
3. The work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community. Sometimes there is lack of fervour, joy, courage and hope in proclaiming the Message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with him. Sometimes, it is still thought that proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom. Paul VI speaks eloquently on this: "It would be... an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents... is a tribute to this freedom" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of his Gospel. Jesus came among us to show us the way of salvation and he entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. All too often, we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the Gospel, and this from within the Church itself. It is important never to forget a fundamental principle for every evangelizer: one cannot announce Christ without the Church. Evangelization is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial. Paul VI wrote, "When an unknown preacher, catechist or Pastor, preaches the Gospel, gathers the little community together, administers a Sacrament, even alone, he is carrying out an ecclesial act." He acts not "in virtue of a mission which he attributes to himself or by a personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name" (ibid. 60). And this gives strength to the mission and makes every missionary and evangelizer feel never alone, but part of a single Body animated by the Holy Spirit.
4. In our era, the widespread mobility and facility of communication through new media have mingled people, knowledge, experience. For work reasons, entire families move from one continent to another; professional and cultural exchanges, tourism, and other phenomena have also led to great movements of peoples. This makes it difficult, even for the parish community, to know who lives permanently or temporarily in the area. More and more, in large areas of what were traditionally Christian regions, the number of those who are unacquainted with the faith, or indifferent to the religious dimension or animated by other beliefs, is increasing. Therefore it is not infrequent that some of the baptized make lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith, thus making them need a "new evangelization". To all this is added the fact that a large part of humanity has not yet been reached by the good news of Jesus Christ. We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously and in very situation, the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God's closeness, his mercy, his salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. The men and women of our time need the secure light that illuminates their path and that only the encounter with Christ can give. Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith! The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, 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 this 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.
5. I would like to encourage everyone to be a bearer of the good news of Christ and I am grateful especially to missionaries, to the Fidei Donum priests, men and women religious and lay faithful - more and more numerous – who by accepting the Lord's call, leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. But I would also like to emphasize that these same young Churches are engaging generously in sending missionaries to the Churches that are in difficulty - not infrequently Churches of ancient Christian tradition – and thus bring the freshness and enthusiasm with which they live the faith, a faith that renews life and gives hope. To live in this universal dimension, responding to the mandate of Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28, 19) is something enriching for each particular Church, each community, because sending missionaries is never a loss, but a gain. I appeal to all those who feel this calling to respond generously to the Holy Spirit, according to your state in life, and not to be afraid to be generous with the Lord. I also invite Bishops, religious families, communities and all Christian groups to support, with foresight and careful discernment, the missionary call ad gentes and to assist Churches that need priests, religious and laity, thus strengthening the Christian community. And this concern should also be present among Churches that are part of the same Episcopal Conference or Region, because it is important that Churches rich in vocations help more generously those that lack them.
At the same time I urge missionaries, especially the Fidei Donum priests and laity, to live with joy their precious service in the Churches to which they are sent and to bring their joy and experience to the Churches from which they come, remembering how Paul and Barnabas at the end of their first missionary journey "reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27). They can become a path to a kind of "return" of faith, bringing the freshness of the young Churches to Churches of ancient Christian tradition, and thus helping them to rediscover the enthusiasm and the joy of sharing the faith in an exchange that is mutual enrichment in the journey of following the path of the Lord.
The concern for all the Churches that the Bishop of Rome shares with his brother Bishops finds an important expression in the activity of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are meant to animate and deepen the missionary conscience of every baptized Christian, and of every community, by reminding them of the need for a more profound missionary formation of the whole People of God and by encouraging the Christian community to contribute to the spread of the Gospel in the world.
Finally I wish to say a word about those Christians who, in various parts of the world, experience 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. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: "Take courage, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33).
Benedict XVI expressed the hope that: "The word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere" (2 Thes 3:1): May this Year of Faith increasingly strengthen our relationship with Christ the Lord, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love" (Porta fidei, 15). This is my wish for World Mission Day this year. I cordially bless missionaries and all those who accompany and support this fundamental commitment of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. Thus will we, as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel, experience "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80).
On the occasion of Mission Sunday, the Vatican’s Fides News Service has reproduced some statistics from the “Church’s Book of Statistics” (updated to 31 December 2011) to give a broad view of the missionary Church all over the world. Variations are marked in terms of increase (+) and decrease (–).
To 31 December 2011 the world population was 6,933,310,000 with an increase of 84,760,000 units compared with the previous year. Population growth was registered on every continent above all in Asia (+ 46,690,000) and Africa (+ 23,932,000) followed by America (+ 11,311,000); Europe (+ 2,332,000) and Oceania (+ 495,000).
On the same date Catholics in the world numbered 1,213,591,000 units with an overall increase of 17.920.000 more than the previous year. The increase affects all continents especially Africa (+ 8,047,000); America (+6.312,000) and Asia (+ 2,577,000); followed by Europe (+ 822,000) and Oceania (+ 162,000).
The world percentage of Catholics increased by 0.04 %, settling at 17.50%. By continent: increases were registered in Africa (+ 0.35); Asia (+ 0.03) and Oceania (+0.1), while decrease was shown in America (- 0.09) and Europe (- 0.02).
Persons and Catholics per priest
This year the number of persons per priest in the world increased by 117 units, average 13,394. The distribution by continent: increase in America (+ 67); Europe (+ 39) and Oceania (+ 120); decrease in Africa (- 448); Asia (- 776).
The number of Catholics per priest in the world increased by 36 units, average 2,936. There are increases on every continent except Asia: Africa (+ 13); America (+ 36); Asia (- 15); Europe (+ 23); Oceania (+ 39).
Ecclesiastical circumscriptions and mission stations
The number of ecclesiastical circumscriptions are 13 more than the previous year to 2,979 with new circumscriptions created in: Africa (+7); America (+1); Asia (+1); Europe (+1); Oceania (+1). Mission stations with a resident priest number 1,782 (275 less than in the previous year) and increases registered Africa (+191); in America (+228) and Europe (+41). Decreases in Asia (-734) and Oceania (-1). Mission Stations without a resident priest decreased in number by 2.229 units, to 131,453. Compared to the previous year, the only increase is registered in Asia (+508); whereas the number dropped in Africa (- 1,596); America (- 974); Europe (- 47) and Oceania (- 120).
The total number of Bishops in the world increased by 28 units, to 5,132. Overall Diocesan Bishops increase in numbers, while Religious Bishops decrease: Diocesan bishops number 3,906 (35 more than in the previous year); Religious Bishops number 1,226 (7 less). The increase in diocesan Bishops is registered on every continent: Africa (+ 5); America (+ 5); Asia (+ 11); Europe (+ 11); Oceania (+ 3). The number of religious Bishops increased in Africa (+2) and Oceania (+3); whereas the number dropped in America (-5); Asia (-6) and Europe (-1).
The total number of priests in the world increased by 1,182 units, to 413,418. The only continents which registered a decrease was again Europe (- 2,286) and Oceania (- 11), whereas figures grew in Africa (+ 1,530); America (+ 407) and Asia (+ 1,542). Diocesan priests increased by 1,337 units, reaching a total of 278,346 with increases in Africa (+ 1,152); America (+ 564) and Asia (+ 817) and a drop in Europe (- 1,162) and Oceania (- 34). The number of Religious priests decreased by 155 units to a total 135,072. Increases were registered as in recent years in Africa (+ 378); Asia (+ 725) and Oceania (+23), whereas numbers dropped in America (- 157) and Europe (- 1,124).
Permanent deacons in the world increased by 1,350 units to 40,914. The highest increase was registered again in America (+ 879) and in Europe (+ 368), followed by Asia (+ 43); Oceania (+ 40) and Africa (+ 20). Permanent Diocesan deacons in the world are 40,270, with an overall increase of 1.266 units. They increased on every continent: Africa (+ 11); America (+ 896); Asia (+ 14); Europe (+ 330) and Oceania (+ 15).
Religious permanent deacons number 644, increased by 84 units compared to the previous year, with increases in Africa (+ 9); Asia (+ 29); Europe (+ 38) and Oceania (+25), the only decrease in America (-17).
Men and women religious
The number of non-religious priests increased by 420 units to 55,085. Situation: increase in Africa (+ 28) and Asia (+ 1,089). Decrease was registered in America (- 398); Europe (-232) and Oceania (- 67). An overall decrease in the number of women religious (- 8,729), today 713,206, was registered by continent as follows: increase in Africa (+ 1,488) and Asia (+ 2,115), decrease in America (– 4,515), Europe (- 7,459) and Oceania (- 358).
Members of secular institutes, male and female
Members of male secular institutes number 713 with an overall decrease of 34 units. At a continental level there is an increase only in Asia (+10), decrease in Africa (- 9); America (-18) and Europe (-17); and Oceania unvaried.
The members of female secular institutes decreased again this year, by 1,489 units to a total of 24,564 members. The only increase in Africa (+ 32); a decrease in: America (- 32); Asia (- 116); Europe (- 1, 371) and Oceania (- 2).
Lay missionaries and catechists
The number of lay missionaries in the world is 381,722 units, with an overall increase of 46,220 units. Numbers increase in: Africa (+ 1.401); America (+ 35,479); Asia (+ 9.294).Europe (+ 51). The only decrease is in Oceania (- 5).
Catechists in the world decreased by 35,393 units to a total of 3,125,235. Numbers grew in Africa (+ 3,451) and Oceania (+303), but dropped in America (- 35,871); Asia (- 967) and Europe (- 2,309).
The number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious also increased this year, they are globally 1,626 more candidates for priesthood, who have thus reached a total of 120.616. Increases, as occured in previous years, in Africa (+ 559) and Asia (+ 1,326) and this year even in Oceania (+ 15); while even this year a decrease in America (- 6); and Europe (-268).
Major diocesan seminarians number 72,277 (+303 more than the previous year) and Religious major seminarians 48,339 (+1,323). Diocesan seminarians increased in Africa (+ 289); Asia (+295) and Oceania (+34), decreases are in Europe (-241) and America (- 74).
Religious Seminarians increased in Africa (+ 270); America (+68) and Asia (+1,031), while they decreased in Europe (+27) and Oceania (-19).
The number of minor seminarians, diocesan and religious increased by 222 units to 102,530. Overall increase in Africa (+ 1,106) and Oceania (+ 4) and decreased in America (-124); Asia (- 246) and Europe (-518).
Minor diocesan seminarians number 79,350 (+ 1,343), whereas religious seminarians number 23,180 (- 1,121). The number of diocesan minor seminarians has decreased in Asia (- 41); Europe (- 161), and Oceania (- 1), but have increased in Africa (+ 1,304) and America (+242). Religious minor seminarians increased in number only in Oceania (+ 5) and decreased in Africa (- 198); America (- 366); Asia (- 205), and Europe (- 357).
Catholic schools and Education
In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 71,482 kindergartens with 6,720,545 pupils; 94,411 primary schools with 31,939,415 pupils; 43,777 secondary schools with 18,952,976 pupils. The Church also cares for 2,494,111 high school pupils, and 3,039,684 university students. Compared to the previous year there has been an increase concerning kindergartens (+938) and concerning pupils (+ 241,918); primary schools (+ 1,564) and pupils (+788.245); increase in secondary schools (+186) and pupils (+ 1,159,417); there is also an increase in secondary school pupils (+189,940) and a decrease concerning university students (- 298,771).
Catholic charity and healthcare centres
Charity and healthcare centres run in the world by the Church are 117,119 and include: 5,435 hospitals (+ 130 more than the previous year) most of them in America (1,701) and Africa (1,284); 17,524 dispensaries (- 655) mainly in Africa (5,398); America (5,211) and Asia (3,828); 567 Care Homes for people with Leprosy (+20) mainly in Asia (281) and Africa (211); 15,784 (- 1,439) Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability mainly in Europe (8,271) and America (3,913); 10,534 orphanages (+ 652), about one third in Asia (3,911); 11,592 creches; 15,008 marriage counselling centres mainly in America (6,230) and Europe (5,819); 40,671 social rehabilitation centres and 4 other kinds of institutions.
Ecclesiastical Circumscriptions dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
The ecclesiastical Circumscriptions dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Cep) to 14 October 2013 are 1,108 with an increase of 5 circumscriptions compared to the previous year (4 dioceses in Africa and 1 Apostolic Vicariate in America). Most of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions are mainly in Africa (506) and in Asia (476). Followed by America (80) and Oceania (46). (Source: Vatican)