Pope: Friendship With Christ Is Greatest Treasure

Sends Message for Launch of Continental Mission

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the faithful to be missionaries since "there is no greater richness than to enjoy friendship with Christ."



The Pope affirmed this in a message sent to the 3rd American Missionary Congress, held last Tuesday through Sunday in Quito, Ecuador.

The congress gathers more than 3,000 missionaries from 25 countries in the American continent and close to 100 special guests from all five continents. A. U.S. delegation sent 53 people, including three prelates.

At the closing Mass of the congress, the Great Continental Mission was officially launched. The continental mission was called for by the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which Benedict XVI opened near the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil in May 2007. The mission aims to bring Catholic communities throughout the continent to evangelize and strengthen their faith.

The Holy Father sent a special envoy to the Quito congress, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

"The most important service we can offer our brothers is the clear and humble proclamation of Jesus Christ," the Pope said in his message.

He stressed the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ as the basis of the witness a missionary must offer "so that the Lord will be better known, loved, followed and praised every day in those blessed lands."

"The present time is a providential occasion, as with simplicity, purity of heart and fidelity, we again hear how Christ reminds us that we are not servants but friends," the Holy Father added. "He has conquered sin and death, grants us his forgiveness daily, teaches us to forgive and calls us to live a life free from egoism that enslaves us, and brimming with love that stretches and dignifies us."

Remaining in love

Benedict XVI affirmed that Christians must offer the personal testimony of their relationship with Jesus Christ and their identification with him.

"He instructs us so that we will remain in his love without being conformed to the dictates of this world," he said. "Thus, with our whole life, with the joy of knowing that we are loved by Jesus, whom we can call brother, we will be valid instruments for him to continue to attract all with the mercy that flows from his cross."

The Pope encouraged: "Drink the vivifying water that flows from the side of the Savior and satiates with its crystalline freshness all those who thirst for justice, peace and truth; those who are submerged in the thick fog of sin or the darkness of violence. Feel the consolation of Christ and offer the balm of his love to the afflicted, those who are weighed down by sorrow or who have remained wounded by the coldness of indifference or the scourge of corruption."

Faithful

Benedict XVI clarified, however, that this witness must be coupled with fidelity to the magisterium and ecclesial communion.

"These challenges call for overcoming individualism and isolation and for a strengthening of the sense of ecclesial belonging and loyal collaboration with pastors, in order to form prayerful, harmonious, fraternal and missionary Christian communities," he said.

The mission of evangelization must be joined to "persevering prayer, fervent meditation on the word of God, obedience to the magisterium of the Church, the dignified celebration of the sacraments and the testimony of fraternal charity," the Pontiff added.

Benedict XVI compared the congress to a "continental cenacle" on which the "powerful force of the Holy Spirit has come, who with his gifts and charisms continues to stimulate the Church in proclaiming the Good News of salvation to every person -- especially those who do not know Christ or, perhaps, have forgotten him -- to the ends of the earth."

Best energies

He encouraged them "to share this treasure with others, as there is no greater richness than to enjoy friendship with Christ and to walk beside him. It is worthwhile to consecrate our best energies to this beautiful endeavor, knowing that divine grace precedes, sustains and accompanies us in its fulfillment."

Christ "goes before us on the path of life and helps us to aspire to holiness, so that the missionary that each one bears within himself will awaken and overcome the hesitation and mediocrity that often assails us," the Holy Father said.

"In face of the difficulties of an often hostile environment, of the lack of immediate and spectacular results […] or of the insufficiency of human means, I urge you not to be overcome by fear, defeated by discouragement or pulled down by inertia," Benedict XVI said. "Remember the words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: 'In the world you will meet with persecution. But, be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.'"