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John Paul II's Message for World Mission Sunday

4/30/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Need of Apostles Who Are 'Experts'" in the Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2004 - The Vatican press office today presented John Paul II's message on the topic "Eucharist and Mission," on the occasion of the 78th World Mission Sunday, which will be held Oct. 24. Here is the full text of the papal message.

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My Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

1. The Church's missionary activity is an urgency also at the beginning of the third millennium, as I have often said. Mission, as I stated in the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" is still only beginning and we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service (cfr. No. 1). The entire people of God at every moment of its pilgrimage through history is called to share the Redeemer's "thirst" (cfr. John 19:28). This thirst to save souls has always been strongly experienced by the saints: it suffices to think for example of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of the missions and of Bishop Comboni, great apostle of Africa whom recently I had the joy of raising to the honor of the altars.

The social and religious challenges facing humanity in our day call believers to renew their missionary fervor. Yes! It is necessary to relaunch [the] mission "ad gentes" with courage, starting with the proclamation of Christ, Redeemer of every human person. The International Eucharistic Congress which will be celebrated at Guadalajara in Mexico in the coming month of October, the missionary month, will be an extraordinary opportunity to grow in choral missionary awareness around the Table of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Gathered around the altar, the Church understands better her origin and her missionary mandate. As the theme of World Mission Sunday this year clearly emphasizes "Eucharist and Mission" are inseparable. In addition to reflection on the bond that exists between the Eucharistic mystery and the mystery of the Church, this year there will be an eloquent reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of the occurrence of the 150th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854-2004). Let us contemplate the Eucharist with the eyes of Mary. Confiding in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the Church offers Christ, the Bread of Salvation, to all peoples that they may recognize Him and accept Him as the only Savior of mankind.

2. Returning ideally to the Upper Room, last year, precisely on Holy Thursday, I signed the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," from which I would like to take some passages which will help us, dearest Brothers and Sisters, to live World Mission Sunday this year with a Eucharistic spirit. "The Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist" (No. 26), I wrote, observing how the mission of the Church is a continuity of the mission of Christ (cfr. John 20:21), and draws spiritual energy from communion with his Body and Blood. The goal of the Eucharist is precisely "communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 22). When we take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice we understand more profoundly the universality of redemption and, consequently, the urgency of the Church's mission with its program which "has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem " (ibid., 60).

Around Christ in the Eucharist the Church grows as the people, temple and family of God: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. At the same time she understands better her character of universal sacrament of salvation and visible reality with a hierarchical structure. Certainly "no Christian community can be built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist " (ibid., 33; cfr. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," No. 6). At the end of every Mass, when the celebrant takes leave of the assembly with the words "Ite, Missa est," all should feel they are sent as "missionaries of the Eucharist" to carry to every environment the great gift received. In fact anyone who encounters Christ in the Eucharist cannot fail to proclaim through his or her life the merciful love of the Redeemer.

3. To live the Eucharist it is necessary, as well, to spend much time in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, something which I myself experience every day drawing from it strength, consolation and assistance (cfr. "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 25). The Eucharist, the Second Vatican Council affirms, "is the source and summit of all Christian life" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 11), "the source and summit of all evangelization" ("Presbyterorum Ordinis," No. 5).

The bread and wine, fruit of human hands, transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of ...

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