By Devin Watkins
The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, or PIME, was founded in Italy in 1850 as a society of diocesan priests and lay people who dedicate their lives to missionary activities.
Pope Francis met Monday with participants in the Institute’s 15th General Assembly, reminding them of the “co-responsibility of all dioceses to spread the Gospel to peoples who do not yet know Jesus Christ”.
He said that, at the time when PIME was founded, this was a new idea, promoted by Pope Pius IX. Previously, most missionary work was carried out by religious orders. Members of PIME devote their lives to foreign missions through a promise, rather than by taking the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Family of apostles
Pope Francis said the Society’s history is “marked by the luminous ray of holiness of many of its members,” 19 of whom gave their lives as martyrs.
“Yours is a ‘family of apostles’, an international community of priests and lay people who live in communion of life and activity,” he said.
The Pope noted that the work of evangelization is “the proper grace and vocation of your Institute”. And he reminded PIME members that the mission ad gentes is not theirs to possess, because the driving impulse comes from God alone.
“Only by inserting ourselves into this divine initiative, by imploring this divine initiative, may we too become – with Him and in Him – evangelizers,” he said, citing Evangelii Gaudium (n.112).
Passion and urgency
Pope Francis praised the PIME general assembly for seeking to put the mission at the center of the community’s life, and encouraged a sense of passion and urgency for missionary activity.
“Let us not fear to undertake – with trust in God and great courage – a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world.”