PopeWatch: Missionary Pope



Pope Francis wrote a rather long message for Mission Sunday last month.  Go here to read it.  The message was released on May 19, 2013.  Here is an analysis by Father James Schall, SJ:

This letter is rather wide ranging. It strikes me as giving more insight into what Pope Bergoglio is about than almost anything I have previously come across, except perhaps Lumen Fidei.

This Pope’s evident optimism has always puzzled me because he does have, at the same time, a pretty good grasp of the real and growing obstacles to the presence of Christianity in almost every sector of the world and its culture. Near the end of this Message, for instance, Pope Francis tells us:

I wish to say a word about those Christians, who, in various parts of the world, encounter 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.

We do not hear of President Obama or other political leaders drawing “red lines” about such persecution of Catholics. Evidently, the persecution of Christians is not a public or world problem. Indeed, for all too many, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is the world problem, best to marginalize it or, better, to eliminate it.

The Pope does not give any names of those who do the persecuting. I am not happy about this. But I understand that, if you mention persecution, especially in Islamic states, Christians are then persecuted with greater force. You are blamed for it. Very few places can be found in the world where Catholicism can be freely, openly, and legally present. The fact is that also in the so-called democracies, the prevalent mood of the public order is to reduce religion to the exclusively private sphere with no presence allowed in education, health, culture or other normal areas of human life.

The Pope seems aware of these issues but he remains relatively unconcerned about them. He has an approach to the world through worship, community, and joy that is not deterred by what in fact are huge and growing problems that can only properly be designated as persecution. Nevertheless, he even seems to think that the world could change very rapidly and unexpectedly, not unlike the effect of John Paul II as contrasted to all those experts who assumed that Marxism was here for the duration.

Go here to Crisis Magazine to read the insightful rest.

More to explorer


  1. The world Christian and especially the world Catholic has been disenfranchised of acknowledgement by the state of his sovereign personhood. The world Catholic has become, in the words of Josef Stalin,: “a statistic.” Being disenfranchised of his sovereign personhood because of his Faith is the ultimate religious discrimination.

  2. I agree with Fr. James Schall S,J. That Pope Francis’ message/letter for the recently celebrated (in October) Mission Sunday as a fundamental way of understanding/interpreting the vision or thought of Pope Francis. While giving what could be seen as a typical exhortation to support the missions Ad Gentes (to the nations), it reveals the deep Gospel of Grace, of God’s love, of God’s closeness to humanity through Christ in the Spirit.

    The Pope continues, drawing all listening to/reading his message into the mystery of the mission of the Church-at all levels:the universal, the local Church (diocese), particular Eucharistic communities (parishes and religious houses, monasteries etc), and yes, even the level of the individual- that we are called to be on the road (journey of life) with humanity. This is the important and fundamental image of the Church which Francis calls “synodality” (the word ‘synod’ means ” on the road together”). The image comes from the well known story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus The story begins with disbelief and lack of hope of the two (former?-they are leaving Jerusalem, they are getting out of town, not so much because of fear, but they simply no longer believe and therefore cannot dare to hope). Yet it is precisely at this moment (kairos) that The Risen Lord, not recognizable because they did not believe; in their minds He was dead, in the grave; case closed, draws close to them right where they are. He begins to dispel their disbelief in a dialogue of salvation. He begins to break down their ideology (“we thought that He would be the One Who would restore Israel”) and allow the gift of faith which comes as a gift-grace when someone breaks open the word of God for us, to burn within their/our hearts. It is only by being really evangelized and catechized that the person desires communion with the Lord (“stay with us Lord”) and seeks the sacrament of faith, Baptism ( if not already received) and the Eucharist where, as the Lord takes, blesses and breaks the one Bread (see 1 Cor. 10) in His Body, and passes the Cup of Blessing in His Blood, they/ we rcome to recognize the Risen Lord in “the Breaking of the Bread”. The story does not stop at the Eucharist however. The two disciples themselves go and share the good news that Christ is truly Risen, that their hearts burned within their hearts as He broke open the Word for them, that their eyes were open as He broke the Bread for them.

    The Church does not have a mission, the Church IS the mission of the Son and the Spirit from the Father to the world He loves so much. All together and each of us are sent. This was understood by the Church in the commonly used name for the Eucharist, “the Mass” which comes from the Latin “Missa”: “Ite Missa Est” ( literally, “Go! Be sent forth!”

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