Pope Francis condemned the “rampant secularism” of the modern world Sunday, saying that God wills all men and women to be saved in Jesus Christ.
“Today’s rampant secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person,” the pope said in his Message for World Mission Day 2019.
By baptism, all Christians are called to share in the Church’s evangelizing mission, the pope said, and to invite all people to come to Christ.
“This mission is part of our identity as Christians,” he said, and “it makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to realize their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognize their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every human life, from conception until natural death.”
“This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission,” he said.
As he has done on other occasions, Francis insisted that evangelization — announcing the good news of Christianity to the world — is not the same as proselytizing.
“Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church,” he said. “Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission.”
“We received this gift freely and we share it freely, without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation,” he said.
The pope said that in today’s secular world, it is crucial to renew the Church’s missionary commitment and to give “fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.”
The pope has been heavily criticized recently for appearing to downplay the singularity of Christianity vis-à-vis other religions, most notably in his joint declaration with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb. The pontiff’s message Sunday, however, made clear the Church’s teaching that salvation is to be found in Christ alone.
“Baptism gives us rebirth in God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church,” he said. “In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves.”
This, in turn, is “the vocation and destiny of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation,” he said.
By proclaiming God’s word, bearing witness to the Gospel, and celebrating the life of the Spirit, Christians “summon to conversion, baptize and offer Christian salvation, with respect for the freedom of each person and in dialogue with the cultures and religions of the peoples to whom they are sent,” he said.