In the decades following the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars, the Catholic Church developed a tremendous missionary dynamic and engaged in one of the most successful mission initiatives in church history. Many of the major missionary orders were founded in the mid-19th century. They sent thousands of missionaries, men and women, to Asia and Africa, proclaiming the message of Jesus often under the most difficult conditions and establishing new churches. However, the context of colonization and the conviction of the superiority of European culture often stained and distorted the proclamation of the gospel.
After nationalist thinking had led Europe into the catastrophe of the First World War, Pope Benedict XV wrote in 1919 the missionary encyclical “Maximum Illud”. He encouraged the Church to re-engage in a universal mission free of its historical burden of colonialism and of all expansionist ambitions.
100 years later, Pope Francis announces an “Extraordinary Mission Month”. As christians we live in a time when the world order is shaken and value systems are questioned, when our faith is challenged by a secular culture and in many places Christians face persecution. In this historical context we are invited to reflect together on the meaning and practice of mission today and to renew our missionary commitment.
With the Lenten impulses we want to invite you to enter into a personal and communal reflection on the different dimensions of the mission of the Church.