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POPE-MISSION Sep-8-2009 (400 words) xxxi

In year of crisis, pope urges generosity to missionary agencies

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics to give generously this year to the church's missionary agencies, saying that young church communities need the funding at a time of economic crisis.

The pope made the comments in his message for World Mission Sunday, observed Oct. 18 in most countries. The text was published by the Vatican Sept. 5.

The pope said missionary zeal has always been a sign of church vitality. He asked all Catholics to pray for an increase in missionary passion and to support missionaries who work on the front lines of evangelization, often under hostile conditions.

"I ask everyone, as a credible sign of communion among the churches, to offer financial assistance, especially in these times of crisis affecting all humanity, to enable the young local churches to illuminate the nations with the Gospel of charity," he said.

"I mention especially the local churches and the men and women missionaries who bear witness to and spread the kingdom of God in situations of persecution, subjected to forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to prison, torture and death," he said.

Even today, he added, missionaries are put to death for their evangelization work, joining the ranks of missionary martyrs through the centuries.

Pope Benedict strongly defended the fundamental missionary task to call all people to salvation in Christ.

"The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the church, a duty and a mission which the widespread and profound changes in present-day society render ever more urgent. At stake is the eternal salvation of persons, the goal and the fulfillment of human history and the universe," he said.

The church should make clear that it wishes to transform the world by proclaiming the Gospel of love and by spreading hope "contagiously" among all peoples, he said. He emphasized that the church evangelizes not in order to extend its own power or dominion, but to serve humanity, "especially the suffering and the excluded."

The pope expressed gratitude to the pontifical missionary societies and encouraged their service of promoting missionary animation and formation, as well as channeling material help to young churches.

"Through these pontifical institutions, communion among the churches is admirably achieved via the exchange of gifts, reciprocal concern and shared missionary endeavors," he said.

- - -

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's message in English is available online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/missions/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20090629_world-mission-day-2009_en.html.

END


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