CHAPTER V: THE ORGANIZATION OF MISSIONARY ACTIVITY
The two short paragraphs of no. 28 serve as an introduction to Chapter V of Ad Gentes. They state the principle underlying the chapter, i.e. that missionary activity should be organized and coordinated.
The first paragraph deals with the unity of missionary activity. It takes for granted that all Christians “should cooperate in the work of the Gospel.” It does not define what “the work of the Gospel” is. Other documents of Vatican II, however, give a good explanation of it: “Each individual layman must be a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus, and a sign of the living God. All together, and each one to the best of his ability, must nourish the world with spiritual fruits (cf. Gal. 5:22f). They must diffuse in the world the spirit that animates those poor and meek peace-makers whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed blessed (cf. Mt. 5:3-9). In a word: ‘What the soul is in the body, let Christians be in the world’” (Lumen Gentium, 38).
The “work of the Gospel,” then, is living and witnessing to Jesus Christ. Each one must cooperate in this work, says no. 28, “according to his opportunity, ability, charism, and ministry.” But “since Christians have different gifts (cf. Rom. 12:6),” they must be united in one purpose so that they can “together devote their powers to the building up of the Church.”
Paragraph two applies these principles to the missions. The work of missionaries and their lay helpers “should be organized and coordinated that ‘all may be done in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40) in every sphere of missionary activity and cooperation.” The rest of Chapter V is an explanation of how missionary activity should be organized.
The leadership in this falls upon the body of bishops, especially when they are gathered in Bishops’ Synods. In their deliberations they should not neglect the missions. The day-to-day running of missionary activity should be in the hands of just one Roman congregation, the “Propagation of the Faith.” It should work with the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity to find and enter upon ways of missionary cooperation with other Christians. Missionaries, especially bishops, should be given an active role and vote in its direction (no. 29).
In the individual mission diocese the bishop has the responsibility of promoting, guiding and coordinating mission activity (no. 30). Episcopal Conferences, even various Episcopal conferences working together, should take up larger questions and needs (no. 31).
No. 32 adds that the missionary activity of religious communities and other ecclesiastical institutes should be regulated by contracts with the local diocese where they work. No. 33, the last number of Chapter V, adds that there should be cooperation between various scientific institutes that specialize in mission subjects.
God willing, we shall discuss these numbers in future articles. Mary, Queen of the Missions, pray for us and enlighten us!