Pope Francis called on the faithful to be missionaries of compassion especially as the world continues to be threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
In his message for World Mission Sunday, the pope warned against the temptation of indifference and justifying it with the prevailing health restrictions.
“In these days of pandemic, when there is a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, there is urgent need for the mission of compassion,” said the pontiff in his message released on Jan. 29.
World Mission Sunday, which was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926, is usually observed on the third Sunday of October and will be celebrated this year on October 17 with the theme “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The pope said the theme this year is a summon to everyone to “to ‘own’ and to bring to others what we bear in our hearts.”
“The first Christians, far from yielding to the temptation to become an elite group, were inspired by the Lord and his offer of new life to go out among the nations and to bear witness to what they had seen and heard: the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand,” said the pope.
The pontiff urged the faithful to think of the missionaries who have risked their lives so that Catholics today could know the faith.
“Today too Jesus needs hearts capable of experiencing vocation as a true love story that urges them to go forth to the peripheries of our world as messengers and agents of compassion,” he said.
“To be on mission is to be willing to think as Christ does, to believe with him that those around us are also my brothers and sisters,” he said.
“May his compassionate love touch our hearts and make us all true missionary disciples,” added Pope Francis.
He noted that like the first Apostles, Catholics today are living in difficult times.
“The pandemic has brought to the fore and amplified the pain, the solitude, the poverty and the injustices experienced by so many people,” he said.
“It has unmasked our false sense of security and revealed the brokenness and polarization quietly growing in our midst,” he added.
That is why, he said, “there is an urgent need for missionaries of hope who, anointed by the Lord, can provide a prophetic reminder that no one is saved by himself.”
“Always, but especially in these times of pandemic, it is important to grow in our daily ability to widen our circle, to reach out to others who, albeit physically close to us, are not immediately part of our ‘circle of interests,’” he said.