VATICAN - Cardinal Tagle to the Pontifical Mission Societies: seek new ways to "go out and invite everyone" to the Lord’s banquet

Tuesday, 28 May 2024 pontifical mission societies   cardinal tagle   mission  

Sacrofano (Agenzia Fides) - The mission of the Church is to ‘go out’ into the main roads of the world and ‘invite’ to the feast whomever you find. The Pontifical Mission Societies are also called to show through their own initiatives and institutions, that the life promised by Jesus is like an "inviting and attractive" banquet, especially when in various parts of the world many do not seem interested even in listening to the promise of the Gospel, said Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, on Monday afternoon, May 27, during the General Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is taking place at the Fraterna Domus in Sacrofano, near Rome.

Cardinal Tagle's "impromptu" speech was inspired by the Gospel parable of the wedding banquet of the king's son already recalled in Pope Francis' message for World Mission Day 2024 (see Fides, 2/2/2024).

An “inviting” banquet

The king - as Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew - had sent his servants to go out and call the guests to his son's wedding, but the guests did not want to come. Some of them had even insulted the servants and killed some of them. The king therefore ordered the servants to go out again and invite everyone they met to the wedding.

The Church - commented Cardinal Tagle, citing recurring expressions from the teachings of Pope Francis - is called to go out to "invite people to the banquet. One should invite, not force, not compel people to come. "Our preaching, our prayer, our sacramental life, our work of charity, our relationships, our witness, all of this must be an invitation addressed to all people," said the Cardinal.

The banquet to which everyone is invited - continued the Pro-Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery - must be presented as "something inviting, attractive". Pope Benedict XVI - recalled Cardinal Tagle - repeated many times "that faith grows through attraction and not through coercion. My question is: Do we present the Gospel as God's feast with humanity? Do we present the banquet as attractive?". In this regard, the Cardinal shared with the Assembly eloquent episodes taken from his experience as a pastor: "When I was still bishop in Manila, a very brilliant and courageous woman told me: 'Your Eminence, I go to Mass every day and there the Gospel of the Good News should be proclaimed. But when the preacher starts to explain, the 'good news' becomes 'bad news'. .... In the hands of certain people, the good news becomes bad news. And how can you invite people to the banquet when the good news loses its flavor," commented Cardinal Tagle.

The waning of Christian memory

Interest in the Church - Cardinal Tagle recognized - is waning in many parts of the world, where any kind of living connection with the faith is disappearing, especially among young people."

"In the face of this scenario," the Cardinal said, "the solution is not to cancel the banquet." Precisely in the face of the reality of today's world, it is necessary to "go out and invite everyone" and overcome the habit of always addressing those who are already involved in the apostolic work of the Church or the practice of "asking people to come where we are as a Church."

New horizons for the Pontifical Mission Societies

"Like the servants in the Gospel parable," the Cardinal stressed, "the Pontifical Mission Societies are also called to seek guests for the banquet on all paths of life. Their apostolic work must be addressed to "everyone", not only "committed Catholics" but all people in the concrete fabric of their ordinary lives. Even the Assembly - underlined the Pro-Prefect of the missionary Dicastery - can serve to «review our structures and our methodologies. We can learn from each other, and perhaps ask ourselves humbly: do our structures, our processes and our way of doing things encourage 'going out to invite'?" Cardinal Tagle also spoke of "groups of people" who need to be particularly kept in mind in order to broaden the scope of action of the Pontifical Mission Societies. He mentioned the young "influencers" he met at World Youth Day in Lisbon ("They consider themselves missionaries: they invite their fellow men and women to approach the Gospel"); the artists involved in the pastoral initiatives of the Diocese of Manila ("they were the idols of the young people and they were looking for an opportunity to witness to their faith"); and the many Filipinos who emigrate in search of work ("Pope Francis told them when he celebrated Mass for Filipino immigrants working in Rome: "You are 'smugglers of faith.' You come as caregivers." "You bring your faith to the homes and families you enter. Teach the children to pray").

"Without having to create a new 'missionary work'," added Cardinal Tagle, "perhaps one could pay special attention to these 'new guests', these new groups that could promote the mission of inviting other people to the wedding banquet". All the initiatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies and all the activities of the Church," reiterated the Filipino Cardinal, "can become an invitation to the banquet. Always remembering that the invitation does not come from the initiative of ecclesiastical personnel or works, but "it is the Father himself who has invited everyone to the banquet". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2024)