By Anita Bourdin

At the end of the morning on Saturday, November 14, 2020, Pope Francis received two representatives of France’s Mission Congress. The Holy Father spoke but, above all, he asked many questions about the mission carried out by the laity, said Raphael Cornu-Thenard, contacted on the phone by Zenit at the end of the papal audience.

The Mission Congress is an initiative of Cornu-Thenard in association with several Movements and Communities.

A Lay Voice in the Mission

 “We wanted to meet with Pope Francis to explain to him the missionary impetus we are witnessing in France, on the occasion of the Mission Congress, and our own experience,” said the architect.

“It was very moving for us to meet with him. He was very kind and he encouraged us to continue the work. We had very simple exchanges on the question of evangelization as such, on how an explicit evangelization is proposed, the fact of dedicating time to go out to meet the people, the Church ‘going forth,’ it was a lovely moment,” he continued.

The present situation in France was not absent in the conversation, but always from the perspective of the proclamation of the Gospel. ”We also spoke about the tension we are living in France at present, given the pandemic, the violent acts, and the urgency to go before the people and propose Christ,’” he added.

In 2021 the Mission Congress will take place for the first time outside of Paris in some 10 French cities, from October 1-3, a date agreed in common with the Pontiff.

The Pontiff stressed “the urgency and importance of a fruitful dialogue,” which can only occur if we are aware of “our identity,” “who we are.” It’s a present-day “difficulty” in which there is a “crisis of faith,” a crisis of the bond with God.

Cornu-Thenard noted that the Holy Father was “happy to listen to a lay voice on the question of the mission of the Church, the mission in France today.” “He likes it, we felt he had direct knowledge of the field. So he asked us many questions. He spoke a little but above all he wanted to ask, to know what we were experiencing. He was very encouraging.”

A National Evangelistic Fair

 Raphael Cornu-Thenard and Anne-Genevieve Montagne wished to “use the experience of the Mission Congress” to inform the Pope and to converse with him on the “missionary dynamic in France today.”

They also mentioned the Holy Father’s blessing in the Mission Congress. “The proclamation of the Gospel must be an absolute priority, and this task has been entrusted to all the People of God. We are all missionary disciples.”

For Cornu-Thenard “the Mission Congress represents a sort of ‘national exposition’ of evangelization. Over a weekend Christians, in all their huge diversity, gather to respond to an ever-new question. How to propose the faith in present-day society?”

The Congress has taken place every year in France since 2015. 11,000 people have taken part, among them 600 priests and 20 Bishops. Some 500 missionary initiatives have resulted.

In fact, its vocation is “to awaken great enthusiasm for the mission. To give the keys of the mission, without any miraculous recipe but putting ourselves in each other’s school, to create a great missionary network.”

Through this link, it’s possible to see the video of the Founders of the Mission Congress. In 2018 they worked on a text to proclaim the great intuitions, which can be downloaded here. It is also possible to learn all the information on the Manifesto.

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