“Rampant secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person”. This is according to Pope Francis, who in his Message for World Mission Day, scheduled for 20 October, pointed out that “without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race”. Hence the need to put an end to “all forms of nationalism and ethnocentrism, or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the economic and military interests of the colonial powers”, as already indicated a century ago by Benedict XV in his Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, which reminded us that “the Church’s universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s own country and ethnic group”. “The opening of the culture and the community to the salvific newness of Jesus Christ requires leaving behind every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion”, Pope Francis wrote: “Today too, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy Church. By proclaiming God’s word, bearing witness to the Gospel and celebrating the life of the Spirit, they summon to conversion, baptize and offer Christian salvation, with respect for the freedom of each person and in dialogue with the cultures and religions of the peoples to whom they are sent”.
The missio ad gentes, “which is always necessary for the Church, thus contributes in a fundamental way to the process of ongoing conversion in all Christians”. “Faith in the Easter event of Jesus; the ecclesial mission received in baptism; the geographic and cultural detachment from oneself and one’s own home; the need for salvation from sin and liberation from personal and social evil: all these demand the mission that reaches to the very ends of the earth”, the Pope wrote in his message, stressing the “providential coincidence” with the “celebration of the Special Synod on the Churches in the Amazon”. No culture should “remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith”, the Pope concluded. “No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation”.