Editorial: Missionary disciples

“Look, these are Christians. They live a different kind of life. They are profoundly present to society, but they are different — they are different in the sense that they have in themselves a kind of new life, which comes from belonging to God.”

Such is the impression that Archbishop Christophe Pierre, newly appointed apostolic nuncio to the United States, wants the Church to make on the world — a Church of missionary disciples that shows, through our witness, our love of Christ.

And it is this outlook that likely will shape how he approaches his work as the top diplomat between this country and the Holy See. Our Sunday Visitor had the honor of speaking with Archbishop Pierre in a recent interview — one that was full of encounter, evangelization and dialogue — phrases that can’t help but call to mind the mission of Pope Francis.

“If we are really the true Church, the true Church is being experienced when we share with each other, when we listen to each other, when we dialogue,” the nuncio told OSV.

But first some context as to what exactly is the primary role of an apostolic nuncio. One major responsibility of a nuncio is to survey the needs of dioceses and recommend candidates to be appointed bishops. In addition, it is customary to see the nuncio, as representative of the pope, at the ordination and/or installation of a new bishop or archbishop, usually reading the decree from the pope appointing the bishop to that diocese. And at the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the nuncio traditionally delivers an address to the bishops, usually conveying some key message or themes from the pope.

Given that Archbishop Pierre said that it is his mission to promote evangelization and what it means to witness to the Catholic Faith, what message might he bring to the U.S. Church? Perhaps, for our polarized society, one that we need more than ever at this critical juncture in our history.

While Archbishop Pierre did not directly address the culture wars that have, for a generation, helped to define what it means to be Church in this country, the nuncio did link defending values — something he said we “certainly” must do — to witnessing to those values. The latter, he said, leads naturally to the former.

“We are not just defending values, we are disciples,” he said. “We shall defend the values but as a consequence ... of being a Church which is living around the presence of Christ, the Church which is praying, the Church which is missionary ... .” This ordering is an important distinction, the archbishop said, and key to being missionary disciples of Christ.

For U.S. Catholics in parishes and in homes, then, our challenge is to find everyday ways to witness to the truth of the Church and the values therein upheld. From carrying a sign in front of an abortion center, to preparing a meal for a stranger, to speaking kindly to someone who shares a different viewpoint, each of us can live out what it means to be missionary disciples in a way that unites rather than divides and in a way that will lead others to say: “Look, these are Christians. They live a different kind of life.” It is just that easy, and just that hard.

Please join us in praying for Archbishop Pierre as he begins his new role — that we may assist him in creating a missionary Church here at home by witnessing to Christ in small ways every day.

Editorial Board: Scot Landry, chief mission officer; Greg Willits, editorial director; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor