domenica 25 settembre 2022

What is the mission? II


1.The Foundations of the Capuchin Mission

Br Antonius Alberto (Ethiopia) 

The founding principles of our mission can be briefly described through biblical, theological, ecclesial and Franciscan points of view as follows:

1.1.The Biblical Foundation of our Mission

The biblical foundation of our mission is directly related to the mandate that the Risen Lord gave to his disciples before His ascension: “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes until the end of the time” ( cfr. Mt. 28: 19-20). From this passage, we learn that Jesus charged His Apostles with the responsibility of carrying the Good News of His kingdom to those throughout the earth. Thus, as Capuchins, we are invited to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ by being fully engaged in His salvific mission through His Church, which is the Sacrament of salvation.

1.2.The Theological Foundation of our Mission 

The Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), “Deus caritas est”, which means, God is love, which was issued on January 25, 2006, offers a theological foundation for reflection on an essential dimension of the Capuchin charism: “Ministry to the poor”. In Camerino, the Capuchin reform was founded and confirmed by service to the poor, service to the extent of an expressed willingness to die for the love of Christ crucified made present in the poor. This was written into the first constitutions of the Capuchin Order, that of 1536: “And since they who are detached from this world find it sweet, just and charitable to die for love of Him who died for us on the cross, we ordain that, during a plague, the friars should succor the afflicted according to the regulations of their Vicars. The Vicars however, shall always have the eye of prudent charity open to such occasions.”

In the Apostolic Post-Synodal Exhortation, “Ecclesial in Africa” of Pope St. John Paul II, given  in Yawude in Cameroon on September 14, 1995, the theological foundation was well expressed with the following terms: “But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law”[1] (cfr. Gal. 4: 4). Thus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only Son of the Father, by the Holy Spirit, took flesh of the Virgin Mary and became man[2]. This is the sublime mystery of the Incarnation of the Word which took place in history.

The Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa also proclaimed that, in fact, the name of Jesus, “of all the names in the world given to me is the only one by which we can be saved”[3]. It also expressed the fact that there are millions of persons who have not yet been evangelized in Africa. Thus, the Church is challenged with this urgent responsibility of proclaiming the Good News to all, and guiding those who listen to her words calling them to Baptism and the embracing of a Christian life. This new life is the gift of God, and it demands of each person who accepts it that he or she develop it and allow it to be realized according to his or her integral vocation, conforming himself or herself to Christ[4]. Similarly, all the members of the Capuchin Order in Africa should respond to the urgency of missionary activity to achieve such results by living the radical novelty of life brought by Christ and lived by His disciples, as also did St. Francis of Assisi in his time.

1.3.The Ecclesial Foundation of our Mission

The Church is that unique Gospel community chartered by Jesus Christ Himself. Consequently, it should especially labor to fulfill its unique mission to guard the Gospel, proclaim the Gospel, and disciple those who respond in repentance and faith to the Gospel. Christ intended not only that His mission would go forward, but that it would go forward on His terms.

The Church is the sign and the instrument of salvation. The first beneficiary of salvation is the Church. The reason behind this is that God bought her through the blood of Christ, His Son (cfr. Acts 20:28). Christ made the Church his collaborator in His mission of bringing universal salvation. In fact, Christ lives in her; He is her spouse; and He fulfills His mission through her. The Second Vatican Council fully highlighted the role of the Church in bringing about the salvation of humankind. While recognizing that God wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth (cfr. 1 Tm. 2:4), the Church professes that God has constituted Christ as the unique mediator and she herself is the universal sacrament of salvation[5].

In his Encyclical letter, Redemptoris Missio, on the permanent validity of the missionary mandate, issued on December 7, 1990, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the decree Ad gentes of the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John Paul II expresses the idea clearly that all of the evangelists’ narrations of the encounter of the Risen Lord with the Apostles concluded with the missionary mandate given to them, assuring them of His presence with them until the end of time (cfr. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-18; Lk 24:46-49; Jn 20:21-23). As we learn from the Gospel of St. John, the sending of the Apostles was not a simple sending but a sending in the Spirit. Jesus sends His own out to the whole world, just as the Father sent Him. And for this, He invokes the Spirit to assist them. On his part, St. Luke puts an emphasis on the witness to Christ that the Apostles should render through the action of the Holy Spirit giving them the capacity to fulfill the mandate given to them[6].

According to Redemptoris Missio, the various forms of the missionary mandate contain some common points and characteristic accents, and two elements converge in all the versions. First of all, there is the universal dimension of the mandate given to the Apostles: “All the nations” (cfr. Mt 28:19); “to the whole world, and to all creation” (cfr. Mk 16:15); “to all nations” (cfr. Lk 24:47); “until the remotest end of the earth” (cfr. Acts 1:8)[7]. In addition, according to Redemptoris Missio, the missionary activity initiated by the Lord Jesus Christ in His day is, even now, only at its beginning. Our time, with humanity in upheaval and witnessing massive population migrations, asks for a renewal of and rededication to the impulse of missionary activity in the Church. We are to search the horizons of the mission we have begun and research the possibilities there are for it to expand, and we Christians are challenged to show apostolic courage, based on our confidence in the Spirit. Redemptoris Missio also clearly asserts that, it is the Spirit who is the main protagonist of the missions[8].

In the short historic introduction to The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope St. John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, issued on September 14, 1995, which was addressed to Bishops, priests and deacons, religious and the laity concerning the Church in Africa, we find information about the Church on the African continent and its over-all evangelizing mission. On the opening day of the special Assembly of The Synod of Bishops which was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Sunday, April 10, 1994[9], the Synodal Fathers called to mind the marvels of the history of Christian evangelization in Africa. They highlighted the fact that the history of evangelization for some African countries, especially Egypt and some North African countries including Ethiopia, goes back to Apostolic times[10].

As a matter of fact, the diffusion of the Gospel in Africa had been effected in numerous phases. During the first centuries of the Christian faith, Egypt and some other North African countries had been evangelized, marking the first phase of evangelization on the continent. The second phase of evangelization took place during the 15th and 16th centuries in the regions of the continent situated South of The Sahara. The third phase of evangelization in Africa was characterized by an extraordinary missionary effort which took place in the 19th century[11]. Pope St. John Paul II’s Post Synodal Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa, highlighted the fact that The Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops had expressed the still urgent need for the proclamation of the Good News to reach the millions of persons who had not by then been evangelized in Africa. This statement should not be seen as in any way contradicting the respect and esteem The Catholic Church has for non-Christian religions that a huge number of persons profess their faith in on the African continent[12].

“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mc 16:15), was the mandate that the Risen Christ gave to his Apostles before His ascension to the Father. Implicit in it is the responsibility to evangelize and make disciples of people in all nations; this constitutes the essential mission of The Church from its very beginning. Evangelizing is the grace and the vocation proper to Church, as well as being its most profound identity. In fact, she was born out of the evangelizing action of Jesus and the twelve Apostles. On her part, she is the envoy and distributor of the Good News to be proclaimed. Moreover, the Apostle Paul perceived his mission to the nations as a duty to preach the Gospel: “In fact, preaching the Gospel gives me nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion, and I should be in trouble if I failed to do it” (1Co 9:16)[13]. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa, Pope St. John Paul II also prayed to Mary, Mother of the Church, considering her to be the star of Evangelization, thus entrusting to Mary the evangelizing mission of The Church, while the third millennium was approaching[14]. 

In addition, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, issued in Rome on March 25, 1996, on the occasion of the solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ on consecrated life and its mission in the Church and the world, Pope St. John Paul II gave some clear indications regarding the basic objective of consecrated life. According to Vita Consecrata, consecrated persons should live their lives with the heart of Christ, who “loved those who were His in the world” and “loved them to the end,” citing the fact that, during supper, He got up from the table and began to wash the disciples’ feet and then wiped them with the towel he was wearing ( cfr. Jn. 13: 1-5). During the washing of feet, Jesus revealed the profundity of God’s love for humanity. Thus, in Jesus, God Himself put himself at the service of man[15].

Jesus revealed the nature of the common Christian life, and encouraged even more strongly the ethic of the consecrated life, which involves offering one’s life out of love by means of concrete generous service. He said it meant following the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve (Mt 20:28). In short, consecrated life contemplates the sublime mystery of the Word of God (Jn 1:1) on the one hand, while on the other, it means following the same Word who became flesh (Jn 1:14) and humbling oneself in order to serve humanity. Persons who even today elect such a life of following Christ do so guided by the evangelical counsels, and they want to go where He went and do what He did. Without ceasing, since the days of His life on earth, Christ has made new disciples of men and women through the effusion of the Holy Spirit  (Rm 5:5), and inspired them to serve others through a humble donation of their lives, often far away from their places of origin. St. Peter in ecstasy before the light of The Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, spoke to Jesus: “Lord, he said, it is wonderful for us to be here” (Mt 17:4)[16].  

As for the specific contribution of those living the consecrated life towards the evangelizing mission of The Church, in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, Pope St. John Paul II has clearly expressed the idea that consecrated persons should specifically contribute to evangelization, first of all, by the witness of their lives totally offered to God and to their brothers and sisters in imitation of the Savior, who for the love of humanity made Himself the slave of those He served. Thus, those faithfully living religious life, as they are consecrated by the Father and sent in mission, by their total offering of themselves, render visible the loving and salvific presence of The Christ[17].

1.4.Franciscan Foundation of our Mission

As for the Franciscan foundation of our mission, chapter 12 of the definitive Franciscan Rule (Regola Bollata), is composed of three numbers. The first two are concerned with the sending of friars among the Saracens and non-believers. During the Christian Medieval times, the term Saracens habitually indicated Arabic nomads, who lived in the central-oriental part of the Mediterranean. The third is concerned with the request that a Cardinal be the protector and corrector of the Fraternity. In this number, we find the origin of the institution of Cardinal Protector for the Franciscan Order[18]. 

Every Franciscan vocation is fundamentally missionary. The evangelical project of a Franciscan vocation radically implies, a spontaneous apostolic dimension without borders. The reason behind is that, the  Gospel of Jesus is without borders: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mc 16, 15)[19]. Therefore, our Order is “an apostolic fraternity which fulfills in the Church its duty of services towards all peoples”.  Among various ways of realizing our apostolic missionary charism is living as evangelical men in truth, in simplicity and in joy, and announcing the Gospel in the particular context of those who need their presence most, as they live very far from Christ. This missionary duty cannot be construed to be, by itself, either a special vocation different from the common vocation of all brothers living out The Capuchin Franciscan vocation, or a specific engagement for entirety of one’s life[20].

Christian evangelization is a fundamental duty for those engaged in the life and activity of the Order. It has its point of departure in the love of God for humankind which culminates in the person of Jesus Christ, incarnated for our salvation. His entire life, from the first moment of His existence until His death and resurrection, was integral to His evangelizing activity. Then, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit in order to continue His activity of evangelization. Jesus Christ is for us a model of evangelization beyond compare. We are part of the Church that is formed by The Spirit and illuminated by Christ, whose members walk with all human beings. St. Francis as a faithful follower of Christ, lived the Gospel fully. He was sensitive to the situations of persons, and responded with the love and the mercy of God. Thus, he became the inspiration for our manner of evangelization[21].

In his circular letter 25 dated January 6, 2006, entitled “Seguire la Sua Stella”, which means following His star, Br. John Corriveau, General Minister, OFMCap., gave some directives concerning our apostolic missionary engagement in the Church. In his letter, Br. John Corriveau expressed the idea that the missionary zeal of our Order during the last one hundred fifty years created an institutional role for our Order in the Church. According to his letter, the new evangelization must  give priority to those at the periphery, those whom the institution does not reach effectively. He also said that, the new evangelization pushes us to give renewed importance to the charismatic and the prophetic aspects of the Capuchin-Franciscan life. Therefore, he recommended through his letter that, for our apostolic missionary activities in line with the spirit of the new evangelization, we should move towards the periphery, to stretch our tents among the marginalized of today, as Jesus, St. Francis and the first Capuchins did in their times[22].

On his part, Br. Mauro Jöhri, General Minister OFMCap., through his circular letter dated November 29, 2009, entitled “Nel Cuore Dell’Ordine La Missione”, which means at the Heart of the Order, Mission, gave some directives concerning our missionary life. In his letter, he expressed clearly that being a Capuchin is being a missionary. He also highlighted the fact that St. Francis was the first among the founders of the various religious orders to include mission in his rule. He also expressed in his letter the significance of the fact that this rule on the mission of St. Francis, was copied in its entirety by the first Capuchins in the first Constitutions, that of St. Eufemia dated 1536. In his letter, he also quoted the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelli Nuntiandi, which means Announcing the Gospel, of Pope St. Paul VI, issued on December 8, 1975, concerning the missionary engagement of the Church. In his Apostolic Exhortation Pope St. Paul VI clearly states that announcing the Gospel message is not a facultative contribution demanded of the Church, but rather a duty to be considered a mandate of Jesus Christ made so that all of humankind would believe in God in order to bring about universal salvation[23].

Our current General Minister, Br. Roberto Genuin, in his letter dated April 14, 2019 (Prot. N. 00380 /19), expressed clearly the conditions necessary for our mission and collaboration. In his letter, the General Minister highlighted the idea that love should be gratuitous, and it should not be offered with any expectation of receiving compensation. Indeed, it is expected that we will love even our enemies. The same gratuity guides us to love and accept the wind, the sun, and the clouds which do not submit themselves to our control. Thus, we can speak of working toward a universal fraternity. The General Minister also gave the reason behind his reference to Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si, dated May 24, 2015, saying that the Pope’s concern for the preservation of the environment will support our having a gratuitous response to the call to mission and missionary collaboration. He also quoted his predecessor Br. Mauro Jöhri, who had already strongly stimulated the friars of the Order to reactivate the flame of our charism through his letter[24].

[1] John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclesia in Africa (14 September, 1995), n. 60.

[2] Symbol of Nicae-ConstantinopleÊ DS 150.

[3] John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclesia in Africa (14 September, 1995), n. 74; Acts 4, 12.

[4] John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclesia in Africa, n. 74.

[5] John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio  ( 7 December, 1990) n. 9; Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, n.48. 

[6] John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 22.

[7] Ibid., n. 23.

[8] Ibid., n.30.

[9] The solemn and festival opening of the First Special Assembly for Africa on the theme: “The Church in Africa and her evangelizing mission towards the Year 2000: ‘You will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1: 8 ) took place in St. Peter’s on April 10, 1994. For a month (from April 10- May 8, 1994), the Synod Fathers dealt with the General theme of evangelization according to five perspectives: Proclamation of the message, inculturation, dialogue, justice and peace, and social media.  

[10] John Paul II, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, n. 30.

[11] Ibid.

[12]John Paul II, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, n. 47.

[13] Ibid., n. 55.

[14] Ibid., n. 144.

[15] John Paul II, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n. 75.

[16] Ibid.

[17] John Paul II, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n. 76.

[18] Regola Bollata XII, 3 (FF 108); Cfr. 2 Celano 25: FF 612.

[19]VII CPO 3, n. 10.

[20] Ibid., n. 11.

[21] IV CPO 5, n. 41.

[22] John Corriveau, Circular Letter 25,  n. 1.4 (P.8).

[23] Mauro Jöhri, Circular Letter dated November 29, 2009, nos. 1.3, 1.4 (Pp. 6-7).

[24] Roberto Genuin, Circular letter dated April 14, 2019, c) nos. 45-46; Analecta OFMCap. 125 (2009) 296-303.

What is the mission?


1 - The foundations of our mission: biblical, theological ecclesial and Franciscan documents

Br Benedict Vadakkekara

As the Ecclesial documents, in fact, already comprise substantially the biblical and theological foundations of our mission, it may be rather repetitive to dedicate distinct sections towards outlining these two aspects. Hence, this write-up begins straightaway with the magisterial teaching and does not deal with the biblical and theological aspects separately.

I.1 Vatican Council II –A defining Moment in Mission History

 The history of the missions takes concrete form in the early sixteenth century in the wake of the discovery of the seaway from the Mediterranean Christendom to the Americas (1492) and the East Indies (1498). The Patronage Jurisdictions of Spain and Portugal led to a process of colonisation together with evangelisation in the two spheres. It was into this colonised world that Propaganda Fide began its activities in 1622. This multifarious reality, which saw various legislative and administrative modifications down through the centuries continued till the end of WW II, when the world began bearing witness to a laboured start of decolonisation through the birth of scores of independent nations across the globe. Consequently, towards the end of the Fifties of the twentieth century, the Church found itself before a new world of a numerous independent nations, calling for the formulation of a new missionary strategy and diplomatic relationships on the part of the Church. Pope John XXIII convoked the Vatican Council II as the Church’s joint effort at discovering an effective mode of addressing the emerging world reality and carry out an aggiornamento of its strategies in carrying out its mission. As far as the universal Church was concerned, it was facing grave and hitherto unknown problems, which demanded a Christian response. In retrospect one may say that the Vatican II would spell out and formulate an innovative and new ecclesiology vis-à-vis the contemporary world.

I.2 Vatican II makes Missiological Headway through Ad gentes

The Vatican Council II sees appropriately the mission of the Church as something that flows from the Church’s very nature. The Preface of the Decree Ad gentes begins with an explicit reference to Lumen gentium, which declares: “Divinely sent to the nations of the world to be unto them "a universal sacrament of salvation… the Church, driven by the inner necessity of her own catholicity, and obeying the mandate of her Founder (cf. Mk 16:16), strives ever to proclaim the Gospel to all men. The Apostles themselves, on whom the Church was founded, following in the footsteps of Christ, ‘preached the word of truth and begot Churches’. It is the duty of their successors to make this task endure ‘so that the word of God may run and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1) and the kingdom of God be proclaimed and established throughout the world. In the present state of affairs, out of which there is arising a new situation for mankind, the Church, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Matt. 5:13-14), is more urgently called upon to save and renew every creature, that all things may be restored in Christ and all men may constitute one family in Him and one people of God”.

         Without a doubt, the Vatican II achieved a breakthrough in the understanding of the Church’s mission. Before the Council, if the emphasis was more on responding to the urgent need for peoples to be converted to Christ and be baptised in the Church, the Council adopted a new approach by emphasising the method of evangelisation in a more human and personalised and respectful manner that was more in keeping with the biblical spirit. For example, the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate promulgated by Paul VI on 28 October 1965, is a foundational text for dialogue with other faiths. After the Council, the magisterium has kept on consistently highlighting several aspects that were already present in a seminal form in the conciliar documents. Ad gentes, 13, speaks about the individual’s fundamental freedom to accept the Gospel: “The Church strictly forbids forcing anyone to embrace the Faith, or alluring or enticing people by worrisome wiles. By the same token, she also strongly insists on this right, that no one be frightened away from the Faith by unjust vexations on the part of others”. Conversion to Christ is shown as being the maturation and fruition of the basic identity and innate cultural craving of the individual. Nostra Aetate, 2, underscores the point that “from ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrate their lives with a profound religious sense”.

As of late, the popes have been expressly declaring that the Church does not grow by the pressure exerted by proselytism, but by the sheer force of attraction that it radiates. In his homily at the opening of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007, Benedict XVI spoke out emphatically in such terms. It was an event at which his successor Francis assisted. This idea has been taken up several times and reiterated by Francis in his talks, interviews and writings. Evangelii Gaudium, 44: “Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings”. He says that the attractiveness of saints has produced “new spiritual vigour and important reforms in the Church” (Evangelii Gaudium, 12). In catechesis, children need to be provided “with attractive testimonies that win them over by their sheer beauty” (Amoris Laetitia, 288). Witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel in a way that attracts seems quite basic to the manner in which the Church is to go forward “as a community of missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium, 12).

I.3 “Dialogue” - A new Watchword at the Vatican II

 “Dialogue” became a new watchword at the Council, especially with regard to the Church’s attitude towards other religions. In fact, this is one of the elements that makes the Vatican II distinct from the other ecumenical councils. The Church continued to regard the other religions and Confessions as something essentially related to it, as “a groundwork” for the Gospel and not as alternatives or rivals. It was in keeping with this perception that Paul VI established on the Pentecost of 1964 a special Section in the Vatican Curia known as the Secretariate for Non-Christians to express and deal with this essential relatedness with faiths. In 1988, the Secretariate was renamed as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID). Two of its documents with a pronounced interreligious thrust are: The Attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Followers of other Religious Traditions: Reflections on Dialogue and Mission (1984) and Dialogue and Proclamation (1991).

The Vatican II had already envisaged the manner in which Church was to handle its relatedness with other religions. Nostra Aetate, 2-3 appeals to all Catholics to “acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral goods found in other religions, and the values in their society and culture,” as a way to “join hands with them to work towards a world of peace, liberty, social justice and moral values”. Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways”, comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (See Nostra Aetate, 2).

The document continues in the same vein: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock. Thus, the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles. Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself (Nostra Aetate, 3-4). The one term that describes the Church’s basic approach to other religions today is “interreligious dialogue”.

I.4 Dialogue of Life

Dialogue of life is a form of interreligious dialogue, which takes place informally in the everyday life of the members of the various religions. It promotes amicable relation among people of different religions. ... This kind of process which involves the social interaction in everyday activity is known as dialogue of life. It is a form of informal interreligious encounter and it begins when one encounters, lives and interacts with the others and participates in the everyday life. It is a social interaction which shows the involvement of non-elite participants at the grass roots level. Such a process involves the social interaction in everyday life. Those activities can be seen in the life experience of living together in a pluri-religious family, celebrating festivities and wedding ceremony as well as doing business with the other religious communities and collaborating with one another for a common good. The popes have been underscoring these aspects.

The following citations are instances showing how the recent Popes have been stressing the practical import of “Dialogue of life” in carrying out interreligious dialogue.  

Paul VI to the Dignitaries and Representatives of Islam in Uganda on 1 August 1969: “ In our prayers, We always remember the Peoples of Africa, for the common belief in the Almighty professed by millions of them must call down upon this Continent the graces of His Providence and Love, most of all, peace and unity among all its sons, We feel sure that, as Representatives of Islam, you join in Our prayer to the Almighty, that He grant all African believers that desire for pardon and reconciliation so often commended in the Gospels and in the Koran. Our pilgrimage to these holy places is not for purposes of prestige or power. It is a humble and ardent prayer for peace, through the intercession of the glorious Protectors of Africa, who gave up their lives for love and for their belief. In recalling the Catholic and Anglican Martyrs, We gladly recall also those confessors of the Moslem faith who were the first to suffer death, in the year eighteen hundred and forty-eight, for refusing to transgress the precepts of their religion.

John Paul II told the leaders and representative of the Islamic and Hindu communities in Kenya, Nairobi, 18 August 1989: “Humanity’s needs are of many kinds. Foremost are the spiritual needs, such as our constant search for meaning in life and our desire to live in a way that is worthy of our human dignity as children of God. At the same time, we cannot discount man’s material needs, which in many African countries today, marked by drought and famine, mean the fundamental struggle to survive. I am thinking particularly of the plight of refugees, whether they be people who have fled across international borders from repressive situations or zones of war, or those who are forced to migrate from their native districts due to crop failures and natural disasters. The refugee situation in the world today must become the concern of all religious believers who value the dignity of man. It is an urgent need which requires fraternal solidarity and collaboration in favour of those who suffer. In addition to these spiritual and material needs, there are the social needs: the need for just, honest and efficient government; the need to respect and defend human rights without any discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group, religion, age, social class or sex; the right to live and raise one’s family in peace, without fear that their physical and moral wellbeing will be menaced. In the face of all these human needs - spiritual, material and social - the religions of the world cannot remain passive. The great needs of our brothers and sisters are an urgent plea for a generous response in love, calling for mutual and effective collaboration. The close bonds linking our respective religions - our worship of God and the spiritual values we hold in esteem - motivate us to become fraternal allies in service to the human family”.

Benedict XVI addressed the participants in the International Encounter for Peace in Naples on 21 October 2007: “Today's meeting takes us back in spirit to 1986, when my venerable Predecessor John Paul II invited important Religious Representatives to the hills of St Francis to pray for peace, stressing on that occasion the intrinsic ties that combine an authentic religious attitude with keen sensitivity to this fundamental good of humanity. In 2002, after the dramatic events of 11 September the previous year, John Paul II himself once again summoned Religious Leaders to Assisi to ask God to halt the serious threats that were looming over humanity, due especially to terrorism. While respecting the differences of the various religions, we are all called to work for peace and to be effectively committed to furthering reconciliation among peoples. This is the true “spirit of Assisi” which opposes every form of violence and the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence… The Catholic Church intends to continue on the path of dialogue in order to encourage understanding between the different cultures, traditions and forms of religious wisdom”.

In the Laudato si’, 3: Pope Francis speaks of the urgency of safeguarding our common home: “Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet… In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home”. He continues: “As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: ‘Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation’”. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (Ludato si’, 14). Safeguarding our common home is, thus, an area of interreligious dialogue of life, involving the whole humankind.

What is the mission? II

  1.The Foundations of the Capuchin Mission Br Antonius Alberto (Ethiopia)  The founding principles of our mission can be briefly describe...