Needy Cambodian children clutch toys collected for them by a missionary group from the Singapore archdiocese.

VATICAN CITY – Supporting the Church’s work in missionary lands with their prayers and their financial contributions, Catholics also improve the lives of the poor and promote dialogue, said the new head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

“Evangelisation always promotes the development of peoples,” Archbishop Fernando Filoni told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, on Oct 2.

“The proclamation of the Gospel brings and creates solidarity,” said the archbishop, who was appointed in May to head the Vatican congregation responsible for the Church in mission territories.

The Vatican newspaper interviewed him about the importance of the Church’s observation of October as a month dedicated to the missions. World Mission Sunday falls on Oct 23.

Archbishop Filoni said all of the baptised have a responsibility for mission; besides being a command of Jesus, being blessed with the gift of faith naturally should lead people to want to share it.

Sharing the good news of God’s love and salvation offered through Jesus, he said, helps people live with greater dignity and instils in them the values they need to improve their societies.

“In defending the principles of the Gospel, one must speak of justice”, which many of the countries in the mission lands need, he said.

While the first obligation of Christians is to tell others about Jesus, reaching out to them also includes concretely recognising their human dignity by supporting education, health care, and government and social networks that protect their human rights, he said.

“Evangelisation also promotes ecology, helping make known and increasing respect for the environment both on the part of the local population as well as on our own,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Filoni, who served in the Vatican diplomatic corps in Iraq, Jordan and the Philippines, said the Church’s activity in mission lands also can promote dialogue with members of other religions.

“If the Church is esteemed, it’s clear that it always will be able to have a role anywhere, including in the Islamic world. I lived for a long time in the Muslim world and saw how our schools, for example, were very often frequented by Muslim students, which is a sign that their families valued and appreciated our service.

“Often,” he said, “they asked that their children be formed in our principles of justice, truth and good. Esteem allows for dialogue, and with dialogue it is possible to coexist with all.”

While financial support for the missions is very important, he said, “we hope the generosity of Christians always will be accompanied by a great love for the missions and by fervent daily prayer in support of missionaries and the proclamation of the Gospel.” CNS

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