EUROPE/POLAND - The evangelization of the world entrusted to Our Lady of Czestochowa

Czestochowa – To deepen the missionary spirit and entrust the missionary work of the Church to Mary's motherly protection: with this spirit over 400 people attended the evening prayer vigil for the evangelization of the world that took place at the Marian Shrine of Jasna Gora, in the night between 2 and 3 December. The vigil, traditionally organized each year by the Pontifical Missionary Union on the occasion of the feast of St. Francis Xavier, was preceded by a missiological session, attended by members of the PMU and the Missionary Apostolate of the Sick, the living Rosary and seminarians.
As reported to Fides by Mgr. Tomasz Atlas, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Poland, the Mass presided by His Exc. Mgr. Piotr Turzyński, Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Radom, opened the missiological session. The Bishop, in his homily, indicated Mary as an example of openness to the Holy Spirit. At the end Mgr. Turzyński thanked the Pontifical Mission Societies because they support the missionary work of the Church through prayer and sacrifice, and because they remember that being a Christian is accepting and proclaiming the word of God without keeping it for oneself. After the Eucharist, the scientific session began, which focused on missiological and Mariological topics gathered under the theme "Mary as an example of bride of the Holy Spirit", which was opened by Mgr. Atlas, followed by various speeches. Father Marek Tatar, professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, spoke of Mary as a model of obedience. He emphasized that Mary did not receive the missionary mandate directly from Jesus, but with obedience and openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit she became an example of disciple and a missionary in the Last Supper, in the teaching of John Paul II she is called "Star of Evangelization".
Fr. Leon Nieścior, OMI held the lecture on the apostolate, the prophetism and motherhood of Mary from the perspective of the first centuries of Christianity. The evangelizing and formative phenomenon of the culture that flows from the Marian shrines in Latin America, was presented by Fr Tomasz Szyszka SVD, professor of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. This was followed by the testimony of Sister Aldona Wysocka SSpS, a missionary in Togo, who, speaking of her ministry among the Togolese, found that the heart of man is the most important missionary territory. The session ended with the screening of a video on the Pontifical Missionary Union and the presentation of the book by the Italian missiologist Gianni Colzani.
After the Appeal of Jasna Gora the prayer vigil began, during which the special protection of Mary was requested for Father Miroslaw Gucwa, of the diocese of Tarnow, elected new Bishop of the diocese of Bouar, in the Central African Republic, where he has been working for 25 years. The prayer of the Rosary was led by a group of seminarians of the major Seminary of the diocese of Pelplin, while the adoration was animated by the youth of the pastoral university of Lódź.
His Exc. Mgr. Jan Romeo Pawlowski, delegate for the papal diplomatic Delegations, presided the midnight Mass. During the Mass, a volunteer, Przemyslaw Palka, who will work with the White Fathers in Algeria, received the missionary cross. During the vigil, 15 new members were admitted to the PMU: seven sisters, five seminarians and three lay people. The vigil ended at 4 am in the morning, entrusting the Church's missionary activities in Poland to Our Lady of Jasna Góra.
ASIA/SYRIA - Syrian refugees are "the undesirables", says Maronite Archbishop Nassar

Damascus - Refugees of the Syrian conflict "are crushed between two walls: they cannot go home, because the streets are blocked and their houses are in ruins, on the other hand the world despises them and closes doors. They are the undesirables. As Christmas approaches, these families find themselves in a worrying situation of no escape": this is what Maronite Archbishop Samir Nazssar says, who leads the community in Damascus, recalling in a note sent to Agenzia Fides that the conflict in Syria, which has lasted almost seven years, has created over 12 million refugees, forced to leave their homes.
The Archbishop observes: "These poor people have lost everything and have not found a roof, charitable organizations gather them in camps or buildings where everything is missing. In the face of this suffering some try to flee to other more peaceful places, but often they are sent back".
Mgr. Nassar notes that "many have found death during the journey or have drowned, others have died of illness or even committed suicide" and recalls that "in the past the Syrian people showed great generosity by welcoming the Armenian refugees in 1915, the Assyrian refugees in 1924, the Palestinian refugees in 1948, the Kurds in 1960, the Lebanese in 1975, the Iraqis in 2003. Now the Syrians themselves have become refugees: isolated and saddened, they have become undesirable".
The Archbishop cites "the Pope’s affection towards refugees: the Pope indicates the path of compassion: the Child God challenges our indifference, can we close our eyes once more?", he concludes.
AFRICA/NIGERIA - "The sums paid to traffickers, to end up becoming slaves in Libya, could have created jobs in Nigeria"

Abuja - It is necessary to invest in Nigeria to create jobs, as well as to start effective campaigns to discourage Nigerians to try their luck in Europe by putting themselves in the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers. This is how His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Bagobiri, Bishop of Kafanchan, His Exc. Mgr. Alaba Job, Archbishop Emeritus of Ibadan, and His Exc. Mgr. Julius Adelakun, Bishop Emeritus of Oyo expressed themselves in an interview to the Catholic News Service.
The discovery of a slave market from West Africa in Libya is provoking concern in Nigeria, where most of the people subjected to slavery are from. At the beginning of December, the Nigerian government repatriated about 3,000 compatriots from Libya. According to Mgr. Bagobiri, Nigerians were willing to pay as much as $1,400 to travel to Libya and other countries to seek a better life.
"If each of such individuals had invested these amounts positively and creatively in Nigeria in viable business opportunities, they would have become employers of labor", underlines Mgr. Bagobiri. "Instead they are "subjected to slavery and other forms of inhuman treatment by Libyans".
"The Nigerian government should make them realize that there are more prospects for survival in Nigeria than we think exist in Europe and other places", added Mgr. Bagobiri. "In the midst of so much wealth and resources we have in this country Nigerians should not become beggarly and only decide to fly out of Nigeria in search of the elusive greener pastures", underlines the Bishop of Kafanchan.
"Many Nigerians are traveling to the developed world to enjoy the development put in place by their governments, but we have refused to develop our own country", points out Mgr. Adelakun. "Let us start to develop ours to make it attractive and conducive for living, so that foreign nationals will want to come", he concluded.
Nigeria in addition to being rich in oil, has arable land and other natural wealth that are not yet fully exploited. The corruption indicator drawn up by Transparency International sees Nigeria at the 136 position out of 176 States around the world, placing it among the most corrupt Countries in the world. Corruption hampers economic development, causing discouragement and disappointment in many young people who are trying to migrate abroad, but end up in the hands of human traffickers.

VATICAN - Archbishop Dal Toso: "Mission is the thermometer of the Church"

Vatican City - "When announcing the Kingdom of God, Jesus recalls that the Kingdom belongs to God: as Benedict XVI observes in his trilogy about Jesus, it is about a subjective genitive. The Kingdom does not belong to man or to the Church, which is also an effective sign of the Kingdom. It is God who moves the hearts to the mission to donate the Gospel. The Holy Spirit aroused the ardor of many missionaries in the history of the Church and still acts today: the more we nurture the belonging to Christ, the more the forces to announce the Good News are born": says in an interview with Agenzia Fides Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, appointed by Pope Francis, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies. On the eve of his episcopal ordination, to be held in St. Peter's on December 16th, Agenzia Fides asked him some questions.

Excellency, with what spirit and what wishes does your service as President of the Pontifical Mission Societies begin?

I am very grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this responsibility that I live with great enthusiasm. I am happy because the mission is very important to me. In the past I had the opportunity to get to know some territories under the jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide but, beyond that, I believe that the mission is in some way the thermometer of the situation of the Church. The idea of being able to contribute to animating the missionary dimension of the Church is a great privilege for me.

Can you tell us about your experience of "mission territories"?

In the past I worked for the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", and this brought me in contact with many difficult situations all over the world. In the last period I dealt, in particular, with the Middle East and Sahel, a crucial area from a political, humanitarian and religious point of view for Africa. Another channel that allowed me to enter the "missionary world" was the Caritas Internationalis network, which is important to get to know the local ecclesial realities, especially in Africa and Asia, approaching them from the "humanitarian side".

Now with the Pontifical Mission Societies, you will appreciate them from another side ...

The Pontifical Mission Societies have a very important value for two reasons: first of all they give the young churches the chance to structure themselves, to give themselves a configuration, a backbone, financing seminaries, churches and study courses. This represents, for a community, a valid help to stabilize. A second task is that of missionary animation: financial help makes sense only if it is considered within a general vision that is the desire to bring the Gospel. When they were born in France in the nineteenth century, the original idea of the Missionary Societies was to awaken the missionary spirit in every baptized person; then the economic support to the missions followed. The PMS today are called to keep these two aspects alive and are therefore very current.

We are heading towards the extraordinary missionary Month announced by the Pope for October 2019: what are the objectives and perspectives for this event?

I am convinced that the extraordinary missionary Month represents a great opportunity for the whole Church; and I wish that in this time we can dedicate ourselves, in the forms that are being studied, to prepare this event at a universal level, a precious occasion to revive the missionary spirit: this is how the Pope wanted it and this is how we will live it. We are in the preparatory phase, and it is desirable that it should not be perceived as a "centralist initiative" but for local Churches to be involved: the mission is crucial for the whole Church, certainly not a theme for a few specialists. The extraordinary missionary month implies the involvement of all the faithful. With the same spirit World Missionary Day was born, to underline that the mission is a call that belongs to all the people of God and that every baptized person is responsible.

How do you interpret the concept of "mission" today, at the time of Pope Francis? With which special emphases and peculiarities?

The meaning of "mission" is pregnant and has had its evolution: I live it and interpret it, with Pope Francis, with the idea of the lost sheep. The Pope asks us to be Pastors. This is the mission today: we are called to go looking for the lost sheep. The "Church that goes forth" takes the initiative to look for those who are far from God and in their hearts perceive a gap to be filled. The image of the lost sheep is useful because a sheep needs pasture, otherwise it does not survive. So today's man needs to find the pasture that is God, his Word, the Sacraments, otherwise he does not survive, even if he believes he can do it. For this reason, as the Council says, the missio ad gentes is still valid today because there are people and populations who do not yet know Jesus Christ. But this is also valid in the regions where the Gospel is already present. The testimony of Jesus’ Easter is true proclamation and offering of new, divine and eternal life for all.

The mission is not the result of human effort ...

When Jesus announces the Kingdom of God, he recalls that the Kingdom belongs to God: as Benedict XVI observes in his trilogy about Jesus, it is a subjective genitive. The Kingdom does not belong to man or to the Church, which is also an effective sign of the Kingdom, as the Council says. It is God who moves the hearts to the mission to donate the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has aroused the ardor of many missionaries in the history of the Church and still acts today: the more we nurture the belonging to Christ, the more the forces to announce the Good News are born. For many centuries we have seen missionaries depart for unknown lands, sometimes without knowing what they were about to face or putting their lives in danger. The Holy Spirit aroused in them the desire to be witnesses and proclaimers of the Gospel. This is the key to the awakening of a missionary conscience: the proclamation of the Gospel is an action of the Holy Spirit. If the Church lets herself be animated by the Holy Spirit, this allows the Gospel to be spread. The Pope uses the term "primear" to reaffirm the primacy of God: the Kingdom belongs to Him, who gives the grace to announce it.

Are there saints or missionaries who will be your source of inspiration?

I would like to mention an episode and two saints. A few years ago I visited the abbey of Keur Moussa in Senegal, founded by the French Benedictines at the beginning of the 20th century. In the cemetery there were the graves of monks, all between 30 and 35 years of age, who left France knowing that they probably would have lived a few years in that country: but they had something bigger than their own life in their heart and they are an example of who gives life to serve Christ. Among the saints I would like to quote Francis of Assisi, who went to Egypt without fear, with simplicity, to present his faith to the Sultan, giving the peace of Christ. I also carry a missionary from my diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone in my heart, Giuseppe Freinademetz, one of the first verbites: he was a missionary in China, where he died and was appreciated by the Chinese for his example of life. Born in a wonderful environmental context, he had a fire within him that led him to go further. Freinademetz helps us understand that the treasure of faith is too big to be kept just for us.

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...the heart of the action and
missionary cooperation
...Everywhere in the world to spread the seed of the Gospel
to serve the cause of the Kingdom of God
...collaborates in the growth of the young churches for building
new seminaries and formation the new local priests, religious and sisters.
...educate children to discover the missionary spirit and help teach
children the same age in the world through prayer and sacrifice.
...Association of priests, religious and committed laity,
to awaken the passion of the Missionary Church,
and encourage the Christian communities to cooperate and actively participate in evangelization
The Propagation of the Faith's commitment is to arouse in the people of God an authentically universal spirit in order to make grow in the local Churches a missionary awareness in accordance with the Church's natural outreach.
The Society of Saint Peter collaborates in the growth of the young churches through financial support for building new seminaries and formation programs for the new local priests, religious and sisters.
POSI in brief, the Society of Missionary Childhood or of the Holy Childhood, leads children to discover the missionary spirit and teaches them to help children of their same age around the world through prayer and small material sacrifices.
The Missionary Union, the soul of the other Mission Societies, is an association of the clergy, men and women religious and laypersons which proposes to arouse the passion for the mission in the Church, contribute to missionary formation, and encourage the Christian communities to cooperate and take active part in evangelization.


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