By Simone Orendain
CEBU, Philippines (CNS) — Pope Francis urged Catholic families and young people, especially in the Philippines, to go out and be missionaries to the world.
In a video message to the closing Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, the pope said Christ’s presence is a promise of everlasting joy and peace, and a summons.
“It is also a summons to go forth as missionaries to bring forth the message of the father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child,” he said as the crowd of about 1 million focused on large video screens. “How much our world needs this message.”
With conflicts, injustice and “the urgent humanitarian crisis” of today, “we realize how important it is for every Christian to be a true missionary disciple, bringing the good news of Christ’s redemptive love to our world in such need of reconciliation, justice and peace,” the pope said Jan. 31.
Pope Francis said Filipinos have been an example of fidelity and deep devotion.
“They have also been a people of missionaries, spreading the light of the Gospel in Asia and to the ends of the earth,” Pope Francis told the Massgoers, who included delegates from more than 70 countries.
About 10 million Filipinos live or work in all continents, often practicing their Catholic faith in countries that are minority Christian.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, was papal legate to the congress and celebrated the closing Mass. He reiterated the pope’s message that those who attended the congress be renewed in “apostolic and missionary zeal.”
“The world sees hopelessness everywhere,” Cardinal Bo said. “Philippines needs hope. The church needs hope. Our families need hope. The world today needs a four-letter word. H-O-P-E.”
The cardinal sprinkled his homily with Tagalog and Visayan dialects, remarking, as he did throughout the congress, on the Philippines’ prominent place in the church, especially in Asia.
“Filipinos and Filipinas, be proud that you remain a favorite daughter of the church in Asia,” Cardinal Bo said to enthusiastic applause. But he also cautioned that in 10 years’ time, they would be “the oldest daughter” and asked if they would be willing to take up the challenge of being “a prophet to the nations.”
“Yes,” screamed some in the crowd.
“You will be the chosen one not only for Asia, but for the world, in this millennium,” said the prelate. “The youth of the Philippines, are you ready to be the ‘Paul of Tarsus’ to the world?”
Cardinal Bo said that in countries where churches are empty and vocations are declining, Christianity is described as something “in the twilight zone.” He said Philippine nationals could turn those countries into “an exciting dawn of new Christianity. Filipinos, go! Multiply your missionaries, multiply your children!”
He told them to populate countries that have Christian minorities and to go to Europe and the United States where they have “more dogs and cats than children.”
Cardinal Bo pressed the faithful to keep their families intact, saying they were the “living bread on the altar” offered in Communion with other families of the Mass. He said the family in the Philippines and all over the world needs to be protected and promoted and nurtured.
April Juanich, 24, was among the delegates who participated in the congress’ youth track. After the Mass, she said family, prayer and youth ministry were all important for the growth of the church. But Juanich, a call center worker from Cebu, admitted she was a little daunted by Cardinal Bo’s call to the youth to be like St. Paul, who evangelized all over the world.
“It’s a great pressure because it’s a big responsibility on our hands,” Juanich told Catholic News Service. “Because even in our young minds we have this thinking that we can only do small things. I mean, yeah, it starts with doing smaller things and [still] we have to start from the beginning for us to create a difference.”
Another Cebu delegate, El-el Rollan, said Filipinos are ready to take up the cardinal’s challenge.
Rollan, who has two adult daughters and a smaller girl, told CNS, “It’s very fitting because [Filipinos] are pro-life. You have to multiply and go to the other [countries] to evangelize.”
During the video message, Pope Francis announced that the next International Eucharistic Congress would be in Budapest, Hungary, in 2020.
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