On February 8, 2019 Pope Francis received the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and the Missionaries of Africa in a short private audience at the Vatican on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of our founding.
SOME EXTRACTS OF THE POPE’S SPEECH:
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is with great joy that I welcome you as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. In thanking your Superiors General for the words they have addressed to me, I wish to express to you my cordial greetings and my spiritual closeness, as well as through you to all the members of your Institutes, present in Africa and in other regions of the world. Thank you, for your service in the mission of the Church, lived with passion and generosity, in fidelity to the evangelical intuitions of your common founder, Cardinal Lavigerie. (…)
In light of the path that has been traveled since your foundation, you know that the proclamation of the Gospel is not synonymous with proselytism. It is this dynamic that leads you to be close to others, to share with them the gift received, the love-encounter that changed your life and that led you to choose to dedicate your life to the Lord Jesus, Gospel for life and the salvation of the world. It is always with him, through him and in him that the mission is lived. So, I encourage you to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ, never forgetting that the true missionary is first of all a disciple. Have at heart to cultivate this special bond that unites you to the Lord, by listening to his Word, celebrating the Sacraments and serving God’s people, so that your words and your actions manifest his presence, his merciful love, his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends you and leads you. May the celebration of your jubilee help you become “nomads for the Gospel”, men and women who are not afraid to go to the deserts of this world and seek together ways to lead their brothers and sisters to the oasis which is the Lord, so that the living water of his love will quench all their thirsts.
May this jubilee year also contribute to the development of fraternal bonds among you, because the proclamation of the Gospel can only be lived at the price of a true missionary communion. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses of this hope that does not disappoint (see Rm 5:5) despite the difficulties. In fidelity to your roots, do not be afraid to risk yourselves on the paths of the mission, to testify that “God is always new, pushing us to leave without giving up and urging us to go beyond that which is known to the peripheries and frontiers.”(Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, n.135). May the Holy Spirit help you to build bridges between peoples.
Where the Lord has sent you, you can help grow a culture of encounter; continue to be at the service of a dialogue that, while respecting differences, knows how to extract the richness of the diversity of others. And I thank you especially for the work you have already done in promoting dialogue with Islam, with our Muslim sisters and brothers. By the style and simplicity of your lifestyle, you also manifest the need to take care of our common home, the earth. Finally, in the footsteps of Cardinal Lavigerie be sowers of hope, fighting against all current forms of slavery. Always seek to come close to the little ones and the poor, those who wait at the peripheries of our societies to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, raised up, accompanied, promoted and integrated.
With this hope, in entrusting you to the Lord through the intercession of the Virgin Mary Our Lady of Africa, I give to you the Apostolic Blessing, as well as to all the members of your communities and I call the blessings of God upon those whose lives you share, there where the Lord has sent you. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.
February, 8th 2019