Each year the Pope sends a message to the entire Church for its celebration of World Mission Day (World Mission Sunday). The Message for World Mission Day has a different theme each year and helps each Christian to reflect on their own encounter with Christ and how they respond as missionary disciples of Jesus. To learn more about each message we are happy to provide you with a summary for all the World Mission Day Messages that have been translated into English (1991 – present). If you would like to read the messages, simply click on the year and it will take you to the Vatican’s official English translation.
The Extraordinary Year of Mercy, according to Pope Francis, casts a "distinct light" on World Mission Sunday; missio ad gentes is a great work of mercy. Indeed, mercy is the missionary mandate for the Church. The Holy Father goes on to describe the boundless and personal mercy of the Father, the incarnation of the Father's mercy in Jesus, his begotten son, and the long history of the mission of mercy in the church, especially by women who have given a maternal face to mercy. Pope Francis lifts up the role education has played in mission, the new challenges facing mission as it respects the indigenous culture of the people the Church is called to serve, and the baptismal mandate every Christian has for mission. World Mission Sunday celebrates 90 years this year having been established by Pope Pius XI in 1926. Just as then, so too today, World Mission Sunday is a sign of missionary ecclesial communion opening our hearts to all of humanity.
Pope Francis begins his reflections on World Mission Sunday within the context of the Year of Consecrated Life and reminds the Church of the "clear connection between consecrated life and mission." The mission is "intrinsic to all forms of consecrated life." Consecrated life is a passion for Jesus and, at the same time, a passion for his people. In reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of Ad Gentes, Pope Francis affirms the deep connection between the contemplative life and mission, affirmed the interculturalism of consecrated life, and the need to form missionaries in the stark beauty of authentic mission in the peripheries of the world. Pope Francis identifies the challenges of dwelling with a people who maybe loosing the roots of their own culture. He stresses that the first people the missionary seeks is the poor. Pope Francis also affirms the cooperation and collaboration between missionary congregations and the laity. Finally, he sketches the "vast horizons" of evangelization before entrusting all in mission to Mary, the Mother of the Church and model of missionary outreach.
Pope Francis’ World Mission Day message in 2014 speaks about how every person is called to mission: through monetary means, lay mission work, and vocations. This message explores the Gospel of Luke, discussing how we receive joy from the Lord, and we must share that joy and love with others. But we cannot be hard of heart; rather we must be childlike for God to reveal Himself to us, turning away from worldly sins and following Christ.
This message reflects on the end of the Year of Faith, 50 years after Vatican II. It highlights the importance of all the baptized proclaiming their faith and bringing that faith to all peoples, especially those who do not yet know Christ. It also acknowledges and extends prayers to those who are oppressed for their faith.
At the beginning of the Year of Faith, this message emphasizes the renewed zeal by which we must proclaim the Gospel to all peoples. It discusses how the call to mission and evangelization from the Second Vatican Council is still just as valid today, and possibly even more so. All the baptized, lead by the Bishops, must share our faith, gifted by Christ when we have a personal encounter with Him.
This message discusses how missionary activity not only helps those outside the Church, but it also helps to renew and revitalize the Church from the inside. The Pope highlights how we are told at the end of every liturgy to “Go and proclaim the Gospel,” to all people. He also emphasizes the importance of evangelization and the necessity of helping those most vulnerable around the world.
Here Pope Benedict XVI highlights the importance of having a personal encounter of Christ, through prayer, meditation, and learning about Him, so that we may be adequate witnesses of Christ’s love to the rest of the world. All Christian communities must be renewed as a whole, so that they may reach out to every person. He states that the Eucharist is the center of the Church’s life and mission, as we are called to share it with everyone.
This message speaks of the light of the Gospel and the Church’s mission to illuminate the world with that light. The goal is to bring all people to salvation in the Kingdom of God, the salvation that has been opened to us by Christ Incarnate. Benedict also tells us that as we follow the Cross, we must remember that we must be willing to die for our faith, as so many do.
During a Jubilee year dedicated to Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, Benedict outlines many problems facing our world, but tells us that we still have hope in Jesus Christ. However, there cannot be hope without Christ, which means that we must proclaim Christ to all people. We must pray and spread the light of Christ around the world.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pius XII’s Encyclical Fidei Donum, which called for cooperation between Churches for mission, Benedict challenges all Churches to work together to renew their missionary work in the world. He discusses how many Churches may be suffering due to lack of financial resources, clergy, parishioners, etc., but they still need to commit themselves to the missio ad gentes, working alongside the other Churches. He invites us to remember in prayer all the lay and religious missioners, past and present, who give their lives for the service of God.
This year’s message emphasizes “charity,” grounded in accepting God’s love and witnessing it to others. Even when Adam and Eve turned away from God’s love, He still sent His Son to save us so that we may enter into eternal life with Him. Now we must be willing to witness to His love, going to all ends of the earth, and being ready to lay down our life for mission.
In a year dedicated to the Eucharist, St. John Paul II asks us to contemplate Jesus’ “breaking of the bread.” Just like Jesus, we are called to sacrifice our lives for those who most need us.
This message is devoted to the relationship between being Eucharistic and being missionary. The Pope stresses how important it is to cultivate a relationship with the Eucharist and draw strength from it in order to do the work of the Church. He referred to his most recent encyclical, which was on the Eucharist, writing on how taking part in the Eucharist furthers our understanding of redemption and therefore the urgency of mission. This year fell on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and the Pope reflected on how Mary was “the first tabernacle in history,” hoping that Mary may intercede for us as we proclaim the Gospel.
This Mission Day message fell at the end of the Year of the Rosary. With great devotion to Mary, the Pope encouraged the faithful to think of Mary’s ‘yes’ and how following her example would enable Christian communities to engage in contemplative missionary activity. He suggested that all would benefit from intensifying their prayer of the Rosary in order to obtain from God the grace that the Church and humanity need.
In this message, the Pope tells us that evangelization is essentially announcing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, revealed to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Evangelization is our response to Jesus’ supreme command to go and make disciples of all nations. He also reminds us of the urgency of missionary duty, as the number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly rising. The Pope then underlines the importance of contemplating ‘the face of Christ suffering and glorious.’ We must never hide our faith or be ashamed of the Gospel.
This message begins with a call to have hope, to look forward and always keep our eyes set on the face of Jesus. Contemplation of Jesus is where missionary commitment begins, and the Pope reminds us that the call to ministry is for everyone. We cannot remain silent about the Gospel once we have heard it, but are called to share it in faith. Mission is an invitation, “an urgent call that deserves an immediate and generous answer.”
In this message, the Pope makes an appeal to all the baptized to be heralds of the Gospel ‘with humble courage.’ He thanks those who have worked for the Church and gives special mention to those who have given their life, martyrs who serve as models and encouragement for all Christians. To be a Christian is not to be alone, and the Pope encourages sharing our faith and outlines the work that we still have left to do in our formation as Christian communities.
This message is modeled after the verses of the Our Father prayer. The Pope reflects that it is in light of this prayer that it is easier to understand the source of the Church’s apostolic activity and the fundamental reasons for which she is a missionary. In this, he touches on themes of forgiveness, solidarity, and temptation.
This World Mission Day was in a year dedicated to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the principal agent of the Church’s mission ad gentes. Though the work of the Holy Spirit is often hidden and mysterious, the Pope reminds us that it is always effective. Although our world is faced with crisis everywhere, the Pope asks us to see this as an expression of the longing that the world has for Christ, and therefore the urgent need for the Gospel to shared.
In this message the Pope lays out the reality of so many people who are loved by the Father but have not yet heard the Good News of salvation. Therefore, every member of the Church has both the privilege and grave obligation to take part in the global effort for evangelization. But, the Pope says, it is not important ‘where’ but ‘how’ – we are called to be authentic apostles bearing fruit even at home and at work.
The Pope remarked on the identity of the Christian witness as it is marked by the presence of the Cross. The Cross is the epitome of the mission; it is “swimming against the tide, making decisions according to God’s commandments despite misunderstanding, unpopularity, marginalization.” The witness is a sign of Jesus and it is our duty and a grace.
The Pope addresses this message first to missionaries. He praises their work and their dedication, telling them not to be discouraged by doubt, difficulty, rejection or persecution, but to remember the grace of their vocation and the faith and generosity with which they have taken this path. He then turns to young people, telling them that the courageous proclamation of the Gospel is especially entrusted then. He urges them not to be afraid, but to open their minds and hearts to the boundless horizons of missionary activity.
1994 was dedicated to the family, and the Pope says how Christ chose a human family as the place for his Incarnation, but also how furthermore, he founded a new family in the Church. The Christian family then, must feel impelled by the missionary spirit, sharing a special bond and purpose with the Church. Christian marriage makes spouses missionaries of love and life. Prayer and sacrifice are the tools we are given to do this missionary work in the family.
In this message, the Pope promoted the special attention that must be given to the missionary formation of children, as “the Church places great hope in children’s ability to change the world.” He is convinced that a twofold commitment to evangelization and human promotion will foster new vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
In this message, the Pope warns against indifference towards those who are without knowledge of God’s love. God calls us to go beyond ourselves to share the blessings we have received. These are not a private privilege, but a gift to be shared. This sharing will benefit our faith, as faith is strengthened when it is shared.
The Pope uses this message to explain that no Christian community is faithful to its duty unless it is missionary: either it is a missionary community or it is not even a Christian community. Missionaries are the ‘living hope of the Church’ and are aided by prayer and spiritual cooperation.