Made public was the Holy Father's Message for 81st World Mission Day which this year is due to be celebrated on Sunday October 21 on the theme: "All the Churches for all the world."
In the Message, dated May 27, Solemnity of Pentecost, the Pope recalls the fact that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Servant of God Pius XII's Encyclical Fidei donum, which "promoted and encouraged cooperation between Churches for the mission ad gentes."
The theme of this year's Day, the Pope writes, "invites local Churches on all continents to a joint awareness of the urgent need to relaunch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time."
Benedict XVI highlights how the Lord continues to call "the Churches of ancient tradition which, in the past, have supplied the missions not only with material resources but also with consistent numbers of priests, religious and lay people, thus engendering effective cooperation between Christian communities."
Faced with "the secularized culture, the crisis of the family, the drop in vocations and the progressive aging of the clergy, these Churches run the task of closing in on themselves, of looking to the future with reduced hope and of lessening their missionary efforts. Yet this is precisely the moment to open trustingly to the Providence of God, Who never abandons His people and Who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, guides them towards the accomplishment of His eternal plan of salvation.
"The Good Shepherd also invites Churches of recent evangelization to dedicate themselves generously to the missio ad gentes," the Holy Father adds, noting how some of these Churches, though beset by many local needs, still manage to send priests and religious elsewhere, "even to the lands of ancient evangelization." Thus, the Pope continues, "we witness a providential 'exchange of gifts' which benefits the entire mystical Body of Christ."
Pope Benedict expresses the hope that "missionary cooperation may intensify, making full use of everyone's potentials and charism," and that "World Mission Day may contribute to making Christian communities and all the baptized ever more aware of the universal nature of Christ's call to propagate His kingdom unto the ends of the earth."
"Missionary commitment, then, remains the Church's primary service to humanity today, in order to guide and evangelize cultural, social and ethical transformations, and to offer Christ's salvation to modern mankind, humiliated and oppressed in so many parts of the world because of endemic poverty, violence, and the systematic negation of human rights."
The Pope goes on to render thanks to God "for the abundant fruits" of "missionary cooperation in Africa and in other regions of the earth." He also mentions the many priests "who have dedicated their apostolic energies to serving newly-created communities in poor and developing areas," among them "no small number of martyrs who, to witness of the word and apostolic dedication, have united the sacrifice of their lives.
"Nor can we forget," he adds, "the many male and female religious, and lay volunteers who have made prodigious efforts to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
The Holy Father highlights how "all Christian communities are born missionary." Hence, "for the individual faithful it is not just a matter of collaborating in evangelizing activity, but of being protagonists in and jointly responsible for the mission of the Church." This "brings about the growth of communion between communities and an increase of reciprocal aid, both in terms of personnel (priest, religious and lay volunteers) and of the means necessary to evangelize today."
Nonetheless, the Pope continues, it must not be forgotten that "the first and principal contribution we are called to make to the Church's missionary activity is prayer. May all communities join in the choral invocation to 'Our Father Who art in heaven,' that His kingdom may come on earth!
"I appeal particularly to children and young people, always ready for generous missionary commitment, to the sick and suffering, recognizing the value of their collaboration, so mysterious and indispensable for the work of salvation, and to consecrated people."
Benedict XVI concludes by calling on the Virgin "to guide our footsteps" to "a Pentecost of love. In particular, may she make us aware that we are all missionaries, called by the Lord to be His witnesses in every moment of our lives."