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80th World Mission Sunday

"Arises From the Heart"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday's, from the window of his study, to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we observe the 80th World Mission Sunday. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI, who gave a strong impulse to the mission "ad gentes," and in the Jubilee of 1925 promoted a grandiose exhibition which later became the present Ethnological-Missionary Collection of the Vatican Museums. This year, in the usual message on the occasion of this Day, I proposed as a theme "Charity, Soul of the Mission." In fact, if the mission is not inspired by love, it is reduced to philanthropic and social activity. For Christians, however, the words of the Apostle Paul are applicable: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The charity that moved the Father to send his Son into the world, and the Son to give himself for us unto death on the cross, that same charity has been poured by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Every baptized person, as a shoot united to the vine, can cooperate in Jesus' mission, which is summarized thus: to take the good news to every person that "God is love" and, precisely for this reason, wills to save the world.

The mission arises from the heart: When one pauses to pray before a crucifix, looking at that pierced side, one cannot but feel within oneself the joy of knowing that one is loved and the desire to love and to make oneself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation. It is what occurred, exactly 800 years ago, to the young Francis of Assisi, in the little church of San Damiano, which was then dilapidated. From the cross, now kept in the Basilica of St. Claire, Francis heard Jesus, who said: "Go, repair my house, as you can see it is in ruins."

That "house" was above all his own life, which had to be "repaired" through an authentic conversion; it was the Church, not the one made of bricks, but of living people, which always needs purification. It was also the whole of humanity, in whom God wills to make his dwelling. The mission is always born from a heart transformed by the love of God, as witnessed by innumerable histories of saints and martyrs, who in different ways have spent their lives at the service of the Gospel.

Therefore, the mission is a source in which there is room for all: for those who commit themselves to realize the kingdom of God in their own homes; for those who live their professional work with a Christian spirit; for those who consecrate themselves totally to the Lord; for those who follow Jesus the Good Shepherd in the ordained ministry to the People of God; for those who go specifically to proclaim Christ to those who do not yet know him. May Mary Most Holy help us to live with new drive, each one in the situation in which Providence has placed him, the joy and courage of the mission.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted pilgrims in seven languages. In Italian, he said:]

I am delighted to send cordial greetings to Muslims throughout the world who during these days are celebrating the end of the month of the Ramadan fast. I wish all serenity and peace!

Contrasting dramatically with this festive atmosphere is the news that comes from Iraq on the most serious situation of insecurity and cruel violence to which very many innocent people are exposed just because they are Shiites, Sunnis or Christians.

I perceive the profound concern felt by the Christian community and a wish to assure them that I am close to them, as well as to all the victims, and pray for strength and consolation for all. I invite you, moreover, to join me in my prayer to the Almighty that he may grant the faith and courage necessary to religious and political leaders, local and worldwide, to support those people on the path of reconstruction of the homeland, in the search for a shared balance, in mutual respect, with the awareness that the multiplicity of their components is an integral part of their wealth.

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today is Mission Sunday, a day of reflection on the call to spread the Good News to all people. Let us support, with our recognition and our prayers, the men and women who leave home and family to preach the Gospel. And may our own faith in Christ be renewed! I wish you all a blessed Sunday!

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