By Linda Bordoni
The Extraordinary Missionary Month was called for by Pope Francis two years ago on World Mission Sunday.
“For the month of October 2019”, he said “I ask the whole Church to live an extraordinary time of missionary activity”.
He also explained it marks the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, a document on the Church’s mission to bring to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, which he described as prophetic and far-sighted.
The theme chosen for the month is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” It will help us in our mission, he explained, which he said is not about spreading a “religious ideology” or a “lofty ethical teaching.” Instead, he continued, “through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the Kairos, the favorable time of salvation.”
This special month opens on the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the Missions together with Saint Francis Xavier, and has its culmination in the celebration of World Mission Sunday marked this year on 20 October.
At 6 pm Rome time, Pope Francis will preside over solemn vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica after having listened to testimonies and prayers prepared by eight Italian missionary institutes: Comboni and Saverian Missionaries, Missionaries of the Consolata, PIME and Missionaries of the Immaculate.
At the end, Pope Francis will give the missionaries who are preparing to go forth, a crucifix.
Of course, as the Extraordinary Missionary Month involves and engages the universal Church, moments of sharing, prayer and missionary commitment have been organized by local Churches across the world.
Missionary Month and Synod of Bishops
And while some fear that the 3-week Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region may overshadow the Missionary Month, the Pope has already spoken of ties between the two events saying: “We pray that the Synod for the Amazon can help provide a more evangelical approach to missionary work in this area of the world that is so troubled, so unjustly exploited and so much in need of the salvation of Jesus Christ.”