The appointment of Father Abdo Mikhael Abdo, signed on November 22, 2018 by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, was formalized on January 25: The Carmelite priest, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Haifa and director of the school adjacent to the parish, completed a five-year period that began in April 2013 and will continue his mission as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (OPM) of the Holy Land for the next five years, until 2023. He is assisted in his mission by Fr. Afif Makhoul, Vicar General of the Maronite Archdiocese of Haifa and the Holy Land, and Fr. Feras Hejazin, O.F.M., Director of Terra Sancta College, Amman.
Founded in 1822, the Pontifical Mission Societies are the privileged instrument of the Holy See to allow the proclamation of the Gospel in mission territories. Present in 140 countries, they raise funds for the benefit of the poorest local churches. The faithful are all called to participate in the missionary dimension of the Church by financially supporting the dioceses or the poorest religious communities, but also by taking an interest and praying for all the Catholics of the different continents who, for some, live their faith in a very difficult socio-economic context.
The faithful of the Holy Land called to live the universality of the Church
In the Holy Land, it’s Fr. Abdo’s work to give a missionary impulse to the Catholics of the Mother Church. Baptism implies for the baptized to seek to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to make Jesus present to the world. “One of my tasks is to help priests take into account the universal dimension of the Church, so that they in turn make it live in the parishes,” explains Fr. Abdo. “We also try to put in place activities to raise funds and organize information and awareness, often with young people.” For the Carmelite Father, already well occupied by his work as a priest, this mission is not always easy to accomplish. Aided by religious communities or by the seminary, he has organized days on the topic of mission to young people in different sectors of the diocese, but he recognizes that the concept of mission is not as present as he would like it, in the mentality of the local faithful. “I am sure, however, that we can bring much to the poorest churches, even if we do not have much money, we can give our time to pray! Father Abdo adds.
October 2019: an extraordinary missionary month
This year, Fr. Abdo is also carrying a big project. Pope Francis decreed on World Mission Day 2017 an extraordinary missionary month in October 2019 to renew and reconsider the missionary commitment of the Church. The theme chosen is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”
The month of October 2019 was chosen for its proximity to November 30, 2019 which will mark the centenary of the promulgation by Pope Benedict XV of the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud by which the pontiff, at the end of the First World War, had wished to give a new missionary impulse to the universal Church. Pope Francis declared that he hoped that “the approach of his centenary would be an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past. Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel.”
For the Diocese of the Holy Land, which does not have as in other countries, a service and full-time employees dedicated to inspiring action in missionary projects, Fr. Abdo hopes the support of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land: “the mission and the propagation of the Gospel concerns us all, the Mother Church must also be a missionary!”