CHAPTER II, ARTICLE 1: CHRISTIAN WITNESS (b)
No. 12 concludes Article 1: Christian Witness (cf. Chapter II, Ad Gentes). While no. 11 encourages missionaries and local Christians to witness publicly to the message of Jesus Christ, no. 12 recalls that the witnessing must be done out of true Christian love.
Here the document calls the missionaries and local Catholics to the highest level of Christian love “that seeks neither gain nor gratitude.” They should be “animated by that love with which we are loved by God, who desires that we should love each other with that self-same love (cf. 1 Jn 4:11). Christian charity is extended to all without distinction of race, social condition, or religion, and seeks neither gain nor gratitude. Just as God loves us with a gratuitous love, so too the faithful, in their charity, should be concerned for mankind, loving it with that same love with which God sought man.” They should imitate Christ, who “went about all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity, as a sign that the kingdom of God had come (cf. Mt 9:35ff; Acts 10:38).”
Besides encouraging immediate charitable work, the document urges the faithful in mission lands to cooperate with others in improving the life of their fellow citizens. “Christians ought to interest themselves and collaborate with others, in the right ordering of social and economic affairs.” Here the document recommends not so much political activity as services to the poor, especially Christian education: “[Christians] should apply themselves with special care to the education of children and young people through various types of schools, and these are not to be considered solely as an outstanding means for forming and developing a Christian youth, but as a service of great value to men, especially in the developing countries, one that is ordered to raising human dignity and promoting more human conditions. They should, furthermore, share in the efforts of those people who, in fighting against famine, ignorance and disease, are striving to bring about better living conditions and bring about peace in the world.” Political activity the Church leaves to others: “The Church has no desire to become involved in the government of the temporal order. It claims no other competence beside that of faithfully serving men in charity with the help of God (Cf. Mt 20:26; 23:11).”
The Council Fathers saw Christian witness in mission lands as a preparation for the announcement of Christ, as a kind of pre-evangelization: “In teaching the religious and moral truths, which Christ illuminated with his light, [Christians] seek to enhance the dignity of men and promote fraternal unity, and, in this way, are gradually opening a wider approach to God. So men are aided in attaining salvation by love of God and love of men; the mystery of Christ begins to shine out, that mystery in which has appeared the new man created in the likeness of God (cf. Eph 4:24).” As more and more people lose contact with Christianity, this becomes the kind of pre-evangelization witness that Christians have to give not only in mission countries, but everywhere.