“Show Jesus”, a passionate invitation that was addressed to the missionaries who participated in the XV General Assembly of the PIME Missionaries by Pope Francis.PIME General Superior Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca confirmed this to be the guide for a new mandate within the Institute.
Preaching the Gospel is to show Jesus “in my person, in my behavior”, with a brotherly presence even in the most remote places of this world. It is a reply to a call that does not come from us. It is the style of the proclamation of the mission ad gentes (to the peoples) that Pope Francis imparted to the PIME Missionaries in an audience granted on May 20th. Those gathered were participants in the XV General Assembly, called every six years to take stock of the Institute and to elect a new General Directorate.
In the solemn setting of Consistory Hall, it was the re-appointed Superior General, Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca, who presented PIME’s activities, in the 19 countries of the world where it is present, to Pope Francis. Together with the desire to “renew their missionary charism, once again putting the mission at the center of all that we are and do,” thereby affirming St. Paul’s invitation in the first letter to the Corinthians: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize.”
The Pontiff responded to these words by retracing almost 170 years of PIME history: the insights of the founder Bishop Angelo Ramazzotti; the testimonies of its Saints and Blesseds; and the witness of the 19 PIME Missionaries who gave their lives for the Gospel. Pope Francis repeatedly added improvised words to the prepared discourse, insisting, above all, on the identity of the evangelizer. In particular, he recalled an expression pronounced by St. Paul VI in 1970 during his trip to Manila,“‘Yes, I feel the need to announce Jesus Christ, I cannot keep silent about it. I must confess his name: Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God. I cannot stop talking about him anymore: he is the light, he is the truth.’ Evangelizing is the grace and vocation of your Institute, its deepest identity,” Pope Francis commented.“But this mission does not belong to you, because it flows from the grace of God. There is no school to become evangelizers, there are aids, but they cannot realize a true missionary. It is a vocation that you receive from God, and let those who have not received this grace remain at home.”
In his speech, Pope Francis also referred to the Extraordinary Missionary Month that he announced for October of 2019. A month of missionary reflection celebrated on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apostolic letter Maximum Illud, written by Pope Benedict XV. “You missionaries are the protagonists of this anniversary,” he explained, specifying that it should become an “opportunity to renew the ad gentes missionary impulse so that your whole life; your plans, your work, and your own structures may draw from the mission and the proclamation of the Gospel lifeblood and the criteria for renewal.” However, the Pontiff also dwelled on “a danger that seemed to have been overcome, but is beginning to emerge again: to mistake proselytism for evangelization.”
“Evangelization is bearing witness to Jesus Christ, dead and risen,” the Holy Father explained. “It is He who attracts, this is why the Church grows by attraction and not by proselytism, as Benedict XVI had said. It is this confusion with proselytism arisen from a political-economic concept of ‘evangelization’, which, at that point, would cease to be evangelization.” The mission is instead “a concrete presence, for which people ask: why are you this way? Then you announce Jesus Christ. It is not seeking new members for a ‘Catholic society’. No, it is to show Jesus, to let Him show himself in my person, in my behavior, and to open new venues to Jesus with my life. This is evangelization, and that is what your founders had in their hearts.”
“You are trying, as much as possible, to put the mission front and center of your life,” added the Pontiff. “Passion and urgency for the Mission are what you want for all of your members. Therefore, in light of this keyword, you have worked to realize the mission ad gentes in your institute and today’s world: to reaffirm the primacy of the one missionary vocation for laity and for priests; to choose the areas of the mission; to set vocation recruiting as a mission activity; to verify your being a community; and to rethink the organization of PIME now and in the future.”
Hence, the Pope’s invitation to the whole Church for the Extraordinary Missionary Month: “We are not afraid to undertake, with confidence and courage in God, a missionary choice capable of transforming everything; because customs, styles, schedules, language, and every ecclesial structure may become an adequate channel for the evangelization of today’s world.”
Finally, together with thanks for “your work at the service of the Gospel” Pope Francis entrusted the PIME Missionaries with an invitation to re-read the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of St. Paul VI. “The greatest pastoral document of the post-Council has not lost its strength,” he explained. “In its last few paragraphs, when St. Paul VI describes how to be an evangelizer, he speaks of the joy of evangelizing and also of the sins of the evangelizer. Read it well, thinking of the joy that St. Paul VI recommends to us.”
The New PIME Missionaries General Directorate is Elected
During its work, the XV General Assembly of PIME confirmed Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca (middle) – fifty-five years old, missionary in Japan – as General Superior for a second term. Delegates from all over the world have also chosen the General Directorate that will support him in the governing of the Missionary Institute for the next six years. Fr. Fabio Motta (second from the right), a missionary in Guinea Bissau, will serve as Vicar General. The other councilors will be Fr. Xavier Lourdh, (left) of Indian origin and missionary in Japan; Bro. Massimo Cattaneo (right), missionary in Bangladesh; and Fr. Raffaele Manenti (second from the left), a missionary in Thailand and a member of the Monza seminary team.