On numerous occasions Pope Francis has underscored our need to see ourselves as a missionary people. But perhaps not as we have understood in the past. In three instances this week he spoke of his understanding of mission in our world today. In his letter to the heads of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences he wrote that mission is not proselytism (forcing conversion), but rather it is about witnessing our faith in love.
The Pope has declared October a month for re-invigorating our sense of mission as a Church. Significantly in the process he has done two things focussed on this theme and with a Canadian connection. The Pope unveiled a new statue in St. Peter’s Square: the “Angels Unaware” is a life-size bronze and clay statue created by St. Jacobs based, Timothy Schmalz. Inspired by the passage from Hebrews (13:2): “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”, it images Francis’ commitment to supporting migrants and refugees regardless of where they are from and where they are journeying.
As another sign of the Pope’s desire that we all recognize our call to live God’s love by being with the marginalized and disenfranchised, on October 5 he made Fr. Michael Czerny, a Canadian Jesuit, a Cardinal. Fr. Czerny has worked tirelessly with and for the poor in Latin America and Africa. He was the co-founder of the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice. Most recently he has led various initiatives in support of migrants and refugees. He will immediately serve as one of the Special Secretaries for the Special Assembly on the Amazon which begins Oct. 6 in Rome. Fr. Czerny’s appointment is particularly historic since he was not a bishop when appointed!