SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE SOCIETY OF AFRICAN MISSIONS
Hall of the Consistory
Friday, 17 May 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you, members of the Society of African Missions, on the occasion of your General Assembly held in Rome. This meeting allows me to thank the Lord for the great work of evangelization that you carry out in Africa, especially among the most remote rural populations, where the Christian community is still fragile or non-existent. I also welcome your willingness to develop new forms of presence among people of African origin in other parts of the world, with particular attention to migrants.
These new pastoral horizons are the sign of the vitality of the Holy Spirit who lives in you and who urges you to respond to the "ever new challenges of the Church's evangelizing mission" to "reach all the peripheries that need the light of the Gospel" (Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium, 20). I thank you for your missionary zeal, imbued with courage, which leads you to go out to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ, sometimes putting yours at risk, following in the footsteps of your founding fathers, the Servant of God Melchior de Marion Brésillac and Father Augustin Planque. In this regard, I would like to join in your prayer for your brother Father Pierluigi Maccalli, kidnapped for several months in Niger, and to assure the concern and attention of the Holy See regarding this worrying situation.
This year you wanted to highlight the fact that your apostolic community forms a family, with the Missionary Sisters and the associated lay people. A joyful family, growing thanks to the many vocations in Africa and Asia. This family character is certainly a wealth that you do well to emphasize and develop.
Evangelization, in fact, is always made by a community that acts "through works and gestures in the daily life of others, shortens distances, lowers to humiliation if necessary, and takes on human life, touching suffering flesh of Christ in the people "(ibid., 24). I also encourage you to persevere in your commitment, in close collaboration with members of other religions and institutions, at the service of children and the most fragile people, victims of war, disease, and human trafficking. Because the choice for the least, for those that society rejects and sets aside, is a sign that concretely manifests the presence and solicitude of the merciful Christ. Thus, driven by the Spirit, you can be servants of a culture of dialogue and encounter, which takes care of the little ones and the poor, to contribute to the advent of a true human fraternity.
Faithful to your roots, you are called, as a family and as a family, to witness to the risen Christ through the love that unites you to one another, and with the radiant joy of an authentic fraternal life. I therefore invite you to constantly seek, in listening to the Word of God, in the sacramental life and in the service of the brothers, the means to renew, in each of you, your personal encounter with Christ. In fact, "the first motivation to evangelize is the love of Jesus that we have received, the experience of being saved by him that drives us to love him more and more. [...] Therefore it is urgent to recover a contemplative spirit, which allows us to rediscover every day that we are repositories of a good that humanizes, which helps us to lead a new life "(ibid., 264).
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you once again for your visit, as well as for the witness you are giving. I encourage you to persevere, with renewed enthusiasm and dynamism, on the path traveled by the Society of African Missions and which has produced many fruits of conversion to Christ. In listening to the Spirit, do not be afraid to open new roads, to show that "God is always new, that continually pushes us to start again and change place to go beyond the known, to the peripheries and the borders" (Exhortation ap. Gaudete et exsultate, 135). With this hope, I entrust your missionary family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, asking her to support your efforts. I bless you and pray for you. And you, please, don't forget to pray for me. Thank you.