The risk of losing the meaning of the universal Church. There is no such thing as an exclusively missionary Church that sends any more than there is an exclusively missionary Church that receives. His Eminence, Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle speaks on the topic.
The bishops and clergy, through pastoral care, render an admirable service to their dioceses, parishes and places where they minister. Nevertheless, they run the risk of being so swallowed up by the place where they work that they lose the sense of the mission of the universal Church.
If they do not feel they are continually challenged and enriched by the other Churches, they may suffer the disastrous consequence of separating pastoral care from the mission; the local Churches run the risk of becoming isolated enclaves – my responsibility ends where your jurisdiction begins – lacking full ecclesial identity. Without the mission, the universal Church becomes an abstraction.
Theological reflection on “reciprocal interiority” between the local Churches and the universal Church is an essential component in the formation of bishops and clergy. Self-reference and self-sufficiency, in fact, weaken the Church.
To be oriented towards others, to be concerned about the other churches, as well as one’s own, to live in communion with the other Churches, to work well locally while taking into account the good of the universal Church – all this makes the mission and pastoral care mutually inclusive. This requires sound ecclesiological study on the relationship between the universal Church and the local Churches, the missionary aspect of the collegiality of the bishops and the formation of all the baptised according to their various vocations and states of life.
The mission to bring the Gospel to the peoples requires an understanding of their worlds by means of a solidarity similar to that of Christ, supported by social, cultural and anthropological studies. But, if on the one hand, we missionaries go towards those worlds, on the other; these same worlds are coming to us. People and nations are in constant movement. Migrants, refugees, displaced people, the social media, digital technologies and the like, have rendered our borders more porous. There is no such thing as an exclusively missionary Church that sends any more than there is an exclusively missionary Church that receives. Only God sends and comes. We are all sent and we all receive.
Both bishops and clergy must understand the new worlds to which they are sent, the better to face up to the ever more complex and ambiguous phenomena active in them. In a world inhabited by fear and terror, bishops and clergy must learn how to transform conflicts into intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Listening, learning, respecting, being patient and allowing oneself to be surprised permit the discernment of the active presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the main protagonist of the mission.
The mission of Jesus which unites a new people and bears witness to the actual power of the Kingdom of God was carried out above all by his direct encounter with people. And so, the beginning of the first letter of St John describes the missionary “methodology” of the personal encounter and, first of all, of the encounter with Jesus: the apostles set out on a mission from an encounter with Him which they, in turn, share with the people they meet so that these may encounter the person of Jesus in the faith (cf. 1Jn 7, 1-4).
Today, missionary activity is very rationalised, planned and organised. In a world that is evolving rapidly, systematic approaches to the mission are indispensable. Bishops and clergy must learn and develop new skills for love of the local and world-wide mission. However, they must also realise that when circumstances prevent the realisation of their projects or their organisation, the mission can, and must continue through the encounter with people, even in unexpected times and places.
The personal encounter does not require a great financial outlay. The mission must not depend on financial resources. When two people meet, there the mission is realised. Bishops and clergy must make use of all their relational abilities and use the opportunities for personal encounter to promote the mission, overcome divisions and remove prejudices. They are called to represent the present-day incarnation of the mission of Jesus.