Pope to PIME: ‘Be the voice of the voiceless’
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis on Thursday met with the editors and contributors of “Mondo e Missione”– the monthly magazine of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) - as it celebrates the 150th anniversary of its creation.
In his address to them, the Holy Father greeted those gathered, and highlighted that the magazine, which began a century and a half ago, was modeled after “Les Missions Catholiques,” which the Society of the Propagation of the Faith had begun publishing four years earlier in Lyon.
“We are struck by the relevance, modernity, and horizon of that initiative, which from the beginning expresses and promotes an outgoing Church,” the Pope said.
Sharing experiences of missionaries
The Holy Father noted that the magazine was born in response to a need of God’s people, as many wanted to read the stories of missionaries, feel close to them and their works, and accompany them with prayer.
Also, many wanted to learn about countries and cultures in a way that was different from one that was steeped in colonial mentality – a way with “a Christian gaze, respectful and attentive to the ‘seeds’ of truth and good scattered throughout the world.”
Here, the Pope acknowledged the work of the first director, Fr. Father Giacomo Scurati, and his collaborators who “understood the value of communication in mission, first of all for the Church itself, to be extroverted, and fully involved in evangelization, all missionary, all evangelizing.”
Bearers of a broad outlook
The Pope remarked that these pioneers of 150 years ago understood the importance of making known the countries to which they were destined and the way in which, in those distant lands, the encounter between the Gospel and local communities took place.
And even to this day, the vocation of Mondo e Missione, as it was renamed in 1969, continues to take on the spirit and teachings of the Second Vatican Council regarding the mission ad gentes, the Pope said.
Communicating stories from the peripheries
Pope Francis noted that the letters and chronicles of missionaries in the magazine accurately portrayed the contexts and lives of the populations with whom they came in contact.
He added that these reports and direct testimonies remain the magazine's most distinctive feature, as they relate stories from places and situations that few others speak of – stories of “geographical and existential peripheries, which, in a world where communication has apparently shortened distances, nevertheless continue to remain relegated to the margins.”
He then highlighted the challenge that still exists, to go “right there” to the margins, to “make known the beauty and richness of differences, but also the many distortions and injustices of societies that are increasingly interconnected and at the same time marked by heavy inequalities.”
Being the “voice of the voiceless” is a primary task of the magazine, as of other initiatives that PIME has promoted in the field of communication, the Pope said. All these, he added, are ways of putting oneself on the side of those “who do not have the right to speak or are not heard, the poorest, oppressed minorities, victims of forgotten wars.” They are also ways of being on the side of “those who work silently and tenaciously ‘from below’ to build a different world, tracing paths of solidarity and reconciliation in contexts marked by crisis or violence.”
The Pope reiterated his concern for the ongoing war in Ukraine and noted the many forgotten wars wreaking death and suffering across the world. He specifically mentioned Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and the conflicts ravaging several African nations.
Mission at the center
Pope Francis went on to point at another task of the missionary magazine: helping to recognize that “mission is at the center.”
The magazine, said the Pope, helps to remind Christian communities that if they look only at themselves, losing the courage to go out and bring the word of Jesus to all, they will eventually die out.
Mondo e Missione also shows how the Gospel, encountering different peoples and cultures, is given back to us every day in its newness and freshness, and creates dialogue and friendship even with those who profess other religions, recognizing everyone as children of the one Father.
He added that in these peripheries, missionaries often discover that the Holy Spirit was there before them - they set out to evangelize and more often than not, found themselves receiving Good News. And like Jesus’ disciples sent out in twos, the joy and new life that the Gospel is capable of generating is not possible to keep to oneself.
For this reason, in a world scarred by so many wounds, the magazine continues, after 150 years “to give voice to the hope that the encounter with Christ sows in the lives of people and peoples. To tell everyone that a better world is possible when, following Jesus, we learn to reach out to every brother and sister.”
Concluding, the Pope encouraged the editors and contributors in their work. “Go forth! Faithful to your roots, attentive to the signs of the times and open to God's future,” he said. “I bless you from the bottom of my heart, and I also bless the readers and supporters of World and Mission.”