Mission Sunday: Pius XII on Mission Sunday, 1953

Source: District of Asia

Through the Passion, the Faith took root in the world; through it too the light of the Gospel penetrates into souls and into society; through it are won the decisive victories of Christ. All you who suffer are the first depositaries of these great hopes. With the grace of God, be worthy of the Church's expectations!

With a paternal heart "wide open to you" (2 Cor. 6:11), we address you, Venerable Brothers and beloved sons, on the occasion of the annual Mission Sunday; you who have the honour to be, on all the shores of the world, the untiring workmen of the Gospel's progress, and sometimes too, alas, the sorrowful witnesses or glorious victims of most tragic trials. How can We not raise Our voice, at a moment so important for the future of so many missions, to send you, even in the most remote posts, a message of comfort and hope? May each of you, hearing Our words, realise that affectionate solicitude of a Father's, a Shepherd's heart, which is Ours; for, in the words of the prophet: "As the shepherd [is solicitous for] his flock in the day that he will be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered, so will I [be solicitous for] my sheep" (Ezechiel 34:12).

Even in those places where for several years, the Missions have experienced decided progress, giving grounds for legitimate hope for the future, difficulties are the daily bread of the apostle of Christ. We know well the generosity of willing sacrifice, but also the suffering of loneliness, the exhaustion after a hard day; We know well the joy of the priestly ministry, of charitable dedication, but also the discouragement which attends the best of workers as they confront too vast a task; We know well the anguish of those Pastors who see new harvests ripening, and suffer from the lack of workers and the scarcity of their resources. Is it not true, moreover, that serious new motives for anxiety are, in many countries, weighing upon those missionaries aware of the dangers, from within and from without, which menace their young Churches? There are no longer any regions today sheltered from the disguised or overt propaganda of atheistic Communism; there are no young nations where new aspirations and sometimes impatient pretentions are not being awakened, creating imperative duties for the pastors who are responsible and solicitous for the true good of their peoples; in fine, there is no longer any country which can escape the repercussions of international life and economic rivalries, with all their cultural and social consequences.

In Our Encyclical Evangelii Praecones, We defined various points which demand your particular watchfulness and, in virtue of Our pastoral duty, We gave you opportune instructions. These We recommend anew to your meditation and We desire to join to them today, Venerable Brothers, this personal pledge of Our attentive solicitude, Our constant prayers and Our affection that your sorrows and your anxieties are Ours, as your joys and your hopes are Ours. And in Our mind We do not separate from the pastors the members of their clergy, both secular and regular, who share their labours and their sacrifices; the seminarians, hope of new Christian territories; the Brothers and Sisters who spend themselves in works of evangelisation, teaching or charity; the men and women of Catholic Action, summoned to the honour of collaborating in the apostolate of the Hierarchy at a moment which is perhaps decisive for their country's future; and finally all the faithful and the Catechumens, whose numbers We would wish to see increasing ever more. For is not this indeed, as it was for the Apostle, "Our daily pressing anxiety, care of the all the Churches? Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble and I am not inflamed?" (2 Cor. 11: 29).

However, as a mother bends with deeper tenderness over those of her children who suffer more, We turn with increased affection towards the dear, glorious Missions of the Far East, which today are giving the world a heroic display of faithfulness to Our Lord and to His Vicar on earth.

Dear sons, behold how, for the sake of the Faith, whose intrepid witnesses you are, for the sake of that Hope which deceives not, whose light you bore to the multitudes sitting "in darkness and in the shadow of death" (Psalm 106: 10), for the sake of that charity which made you the messengers of fraternal peace, you are now being treated, as in the days of the worst persecutions, as enemies of the public good, banished from society, delivered into prison and unto death. And even more painful than death itself for all of you, dear exiled missionaries, is that you are condemned to abandon, in the torment ravaging them, those Missions so slowly founded, patiently established, strongly organised; powerless, far from that second fatherland to which you gave your hearts, you see the dispersal of your flocks, the collapse of all that you built at the price of so many sacrifices.

And yet, thanks be to God, the Father of all mercy, Who has permitted that, under the blows of material persecution as well as under the pressure of the most insidious and perverse propaganda, the courage of the majority of the faithful did not weaken nor did their admirable resistance yield. Everything has been rooted out of the fields you laboured in except Faith, Hope and Love. And, if the preaching and establishment of Catholicism are compromised by the violence of its adversaries, yet they cannot prevent Christ's true faithful, those living stones of the Christian edifice, from proclaiming the truth by the heroic witness of their fidelity: Verbum Dei non est alliga tum. No, "the word of God is not bound" (2 Tim. 2: 9).

This harsh trial of your former glorious missions recalls the opposition through which the primitive Church had to pass. Like your forebears of the first Christian generations, "you have endured a great conflict of suffering; partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by making common cause with those who fared thus. For you both have had compassion on those in prison and have joyfully accepted the plundering of your own goods, knowing that you have a better possession and a lasting one" (Heb. 10: 32-34). We keep before Our eyes and We preserve in the Golden Book of the Church's roll of honour the glorious names of those Christian communities presently groaning under the tempest's blasts; and, with those names, the long list of those victims who during recent years have paid with their possessions, their freedom, their very lives, for the honour of rendering to Jesus Christ, before the whole world, the glorious witness of their faith and constant adherence to His Church. As We evoke these long-enduring sufferings of the Churches of the Far East, Our thoughts cannot but turn also, with sorrow but with pride and gratitude as well, towards those bishops, those priests, those religious and faithful, from various European countries, lands of ancient Christianity, who are united to you in the same trials through the self-same loosing of the forces of evil, who are associated with you in the same confession of faith by the self-same fidelity. At the present moment, from every corner of the earth there come to Us innumerable testimonies of the emotion and indignation of the Catholic world following the violence recently used against a new member of the Sacred College, Our most dear son, Stephen Cardinal Wyszynski, Archbishop of Gniezno and of Warsaw, Primate of Poland; and We take this opportunity to assure him once more of Our paternal affection, and to raise Our own most sorrowful and most firm protest against this violation of the sacred rights of the Catholic Church. No one is unaware that she makes high claim to the liberty of her divine mission only in order to give more efficacious aid towards the true good of people as well as towards the salvation of all her children.

The testimony of so many valiant servants of the Church has also its spiritual efficaciousness which, at the very height of the struggle, justifies the most legitimate hopes. "Take courage, I have overcome the world!" (John 16: 33). This exhortation of Christ's on the eve of His Redeeming Passion, has sustained for twenty centuries the zealous and eager labours of the messengers of truth on every continent. It reminds you, Venerable Brothers and dear sons, of the value of your sufferings for the cause of the Gospel, and the privileged role which falls to you in the great undertaking of the propagation of the faith as soon as trials beset you. Through the Passion, the Faith took root in the world; through it too the light of the Gospel penetrates into souls and into society; through it are won the decisive victories of Christ. All you who suffer are the first depositaries of these great hopes. With the grace of God, be worthy of the Church's expectations!

Know, finally, that the Church looks upon you with emotion and gratitude. In present-day circumstances more than ever before, "she calls on all her children—wherever they may be—to be zealous according to their means in helping these intrepid missionaries by their offerings, by prayer and by fostering missionary vocations. In motherly fashion she compels them to wear the livery of tender compassion (cfr. Col: 3, 12) and to share in the apostolic work, if not in fact, then at least in their hearts" (Encyclical Evangelii Praecones). Indeed, when one considers the immense multitude still deprived of the truth of the Gospel, when one measures the full seriousness of the danger which besets so many, how can one not be-as We are Ourselves-seized with piercing anguish and impelled to promote the works of the missionary apostolate everywhere and with all one's strength (cfr. ibid.). God grant that an ever more numerous legion of young men and women may hear the call of the Missions; God grant that Christian lands may daily understand better their duty to help the missionaries' work by every opportune initiative; for is it not your best comfort in the midst of your difficulties to know that this holy emulation and magnificent solidarity for the progress of the Church is increasing among the faithful of the whole world? It is with this confidence and with these feelings of fatherly affection that We invoke upon you all, Venerable Brothers, and dear sons, the most abundant out-pouring of the Spirit of strength and truth, and that

We send to you the comfort of Our Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Pius XII

(Translation prepared by the Vatican Press Office)