AFRICA/GABON - Archbishop Dal Toso presides over the celebration of 175 years of evangelization

Monday, 30 September 2019 evangelization   missionary animation   extraordinary missionary month  

Eglise Catholique du Gabon

Libreville (Agenzia Fides) - All the "spiritual and pastoral fervor", which characterized the year of preparation for the 175 years of evangelization of Gabon (see Fides, 27 and 28/9/2019), "will not stop at the closing of this jubilee year, but must enter permanently into the daily Christian life of all the baptized": this is the exhortation expressed by Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), who presided in Libreville on Sunday 29 September the jubilee celebration during which 16 priests were ordained. On the eve of the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019, the Archbishop underlined: "The Extraordinary Missionary Month event will therefore be lived in the local Church of Gabon as a natural extension of this Jubilee of 175 years, whose celebrations end today.
Just like this Jubilee, which is closing, the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 is an occasion of intense and fruitful grace to promote initiatives and intensify ways and means to awaken in every Christian the awareness of missionary responsibility".
In his homily, the Archbishop recalled that on September 29, 1844, the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the first Mass was celebrated on Gabonese soil, a founding event of the Catholic Church in this nation. Therefore he paid tribute to the audacity of the first missionaries, led by Fr. Jean Rémi Bessieux, and to those who followed, priests, nuns and laity, who gave their lives for the work of evangelization in Gabon. "It is to all these missionaries and their collaborators, your ancestors in faith - he said - that we give a vibrant tribute through this solemnity to which from the top of the heavens unite their voices, their praises to the glory of God".
On behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on behalf of Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as President of the PMS, Archbishop Dal Toso expressed gratitude and satisfaction to the Bishops' Conference "for all that was organized to celebrate this Jubilee, not as an extra feast, not only as a historical commemoration, but as an opportunity for a renewal of the profession of faith in the risen Christ that was at the center of the mission of these zealous missionaries. This great Jubilee reminds us of their apostolate, their courage, their passion, but also and above all the love of a God who wanted to reveal himself to his people through them and find a home in his heart to pour out the marvels of his grace".
Therefore the Archbishop emphasized three aspects, inspired by the biblical readings of the celebration. "On earth everyone chooses his own future life": one of the messages of the Gospel of the day, the parable of the rich Epulone (Lk 16,19-31), is the great principle of charity, "the only pass that gives access to life blessed for eternity: the personal commitment to live or not according to this the commandment of charity in the present life has a consequence for our eternal destiny", he commented.
The second aspect highlighted is that "the risen Christ is the one sent by the Father par excellence". God sent his Son, Jesus, born, died and rose for us. "He comes again to meet us, risen, to tell us that his Word is an eternal Word, that these sacraments are eternal life, that faith in Him is the guarantee of eternal life. If Christ had not risen, our faith would be in vain, because we would believe in a man like the others, dead and buried like everyone else. But rising again, Jesus shows himself as the true Lord of life, the one who can give us life".
In particular addressing the ordinands, the Archbishop said: "Let the old man die in you, the man of sin, attached to money, to power, to his pleasures, to his projects; may this old man die in you to give space to the new man, risen with Christ, a man who knows how to give, spend, offer his life for the sake of his brothers and sisters".
The last point touched - "Baptized, we are sent to witness Jesus Christ" - was the occasion to reiterate that "the proclamation of the Gospel is not reserved only for priests, men and women religious". "If today we are gathered on this day of great solemnity - he recalled - it is because one day Christians in the name of their faith and their baptismal commitment decided to bring the Good News to this Gabonese land. They obeyed the mandate of Christ". However, there is a lot of harvest and few workers if we consider that a not inconsiderable part of the population follows the traditional religions and the majority, while adhering to a religious confession, continues in animistic and magical practices. "This means that profound evangelization still needs to be done, both in the hearts of Christians and in the suburbs, still far from faith". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 30/9/2019)