A mission in continual transformation. The commitment to proclaim truth and justice. Migrants as witnesses to the Gospel. We talked with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.
What sort of mission is possible today?
I believe the answer to this question is to be found on two different levels. Firstly: the mission is always ‘possible’ because it an action of the Holy Spirit and a mandate that comes from Our Lord. It is therefore an integral part of our being disciples. Reaching all peoples to share the Gospel with them is an act that is made possible by our being disciples guided by the Holy Spirit.
The disciple, whether male or female, announces to all the Good News of the Lord whom they have heard and touched. Every human encounter is, therefore, a possible mission. Together with this – this is the second level – we certainly need today to study and understand how the global scenario is changing. With the many phenomena that we see developing in the world, especially the fear of ‘the others’ or of the stranger and also violence, we must find ways of becoming missionaries of the goodness and mercy of God. I believe that this wounded world has made it even more possible and urgent Christians’ commitment to proclaim the truth, justice, mercy, love and peace since these are the things humanity needs most today.
The Pope is changing the way we think of mission?
Pope Francis is continually reminding us of the principles and style of mission that have accompanied the Church of the Second Vatican Council and even before it. In one sense, he has not ‘invented’ anything about the mission. We can see how he has reformulated orientations that are to be found in Vatican II and in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI.
Pope Francis offers us new expressions and new images that express those same teachings in a different way. So it is that today we consider them his ‘trademarks’ of the mission. For example, the image of the missionary Church that is able to go beyond itself, a ‘Church that goes forth’, rather a self-referring one; a Church that reaches the existential outskirts rather than remaining at a ‘centre’ or in a seat of power and comfort; a Church that is joyful in its mission rather than being tired of it; a Church that commits itself to the encounter with the person rather than to mere bureaucracy. These ideas are not new but the way they are expressed belongs truly to Pope Francis. Above all, he lives out these teachings without simply talking about them.
What are the new pathways the mission in Asia is following today?
“The fundamental and programmatic declaration already pronounced by the bishops of Asia in 1974 is still valid for the mission in this continent even today: the modality of being missionaries in Asia is that of dialogue. The dialogue of life is carried out in three main areas: with the different religions, with the cultures and with the poor. It is a vision that has lost nothing of its relevance today.
However, there are new elements that derive from the emerging situations in contemporary Asia: growing religious and political fundamentalism, organised terrorism, the migration of peoples, human trafficking, new forms of slavery, the pollution of the environment, the weakening of traditional Asian cultures, the influence of the social media and the tendency for technology and science to remodel daily life. These are some of the new religions and new poverty that we meet with today. How can we dialogue with them? How can we dialogue with partners who reject this approach? And how can we strengthen a culture of dialogue in a fundamentally divided world? These concerns are at the centre of our reflection on mission today in Asia”.
The Philippine Church and the Ad Gentes Mission…
There is a time for receiving and a time for sharing and giving. We do not receive the Gospel to keep it for ourselves; on the contrary, we receive it only to be able to share it one day. Now it is time for the ‘heirs’ to make this gift grow in new soil. This is imperative for the Church in the Philippines seeing that half of the Asian Christian population is to be found in that country. From within ourselves, there must emerge more missionaries for Asia and the rest of the world. However, we have also understood in recent years that our best missionaries are our migrant workers. They leave our country in search of work but always find a mission wherever they go to work. Because of them, churches are filled with worshippers, music and smiles. We need to give sound training to the laity so that they can be real missionaries wherever they go. (L.M.)