By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY — The proclamation of the Gospel is not an optional or secondary part of the church’s life, Pope Francis said.
The Catholic Church, he said, “is not interested in providing welfare. Helping, yes, but first of all, evangelizing, bearing witness: if you give assistance, let it come from witnessing, not from proselytizing methods.”
“Mission is oxygen for Christian life, which, without it, ails and withers and becomes bad,” he said during an audience at the Vatican May 11 with members of the Conference of Missionary Institutes in Italy, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The Second Vatican Council stated clearly that the whole church is missionary and “proclamation is not an optional or marginal aspect, but rather a vital dimension, inasmuch as she was born apostolic and missionary, molded by the Holy Spirit as an ‘outbound’ community,” Pope Francis said.
Sharing the Gospel message is not about proselytizing, which is not Christian, he said.
“Proclaim Christ first of all with the testimony of life. This is why I recommend that you cultivate charity, first of all in and between your communities, within and between your institutes, harmonizing differences in culture, age, mentality, so that in communion each charism may be at the service of all,” he said.
“And take to heart the welcoming of the poor and the little ones among yourselves and toward the people you serve in your ministry in a spirit of inclusion and service,” he added.
Also, he told the group, “do not neglect to nourish your life and your apostolate with the Word of God, the Eucharist and prayer.”
“Mission and communion spring from prayer, are shaped day by day by listening to the Word of God — listening in prayer — and have as their ultimate goal the salvation of the brothers and sisters the Lord entrusts to us,” he said.
Pope Francis encouraged the group to “go forward with courage, so that the power of the Spirit may always find in the church and in the world minds and hearts eager to sow the Word and to bring the joy of the Risen Lord to all, breaking down barriers and fostering the building of a society founded on the Gospel principles of charity, justice and peace.”