The collection taken up in parishes around the globe on World Mission Sunday is "as unique as it is rare" because offerings are made by Catholics in the richest and poorest nations, a Vatican official said.
"It is not just aid going from North to South," but is an expression of communion where "everyone contributes for the good of all," said Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The archbishop and other officials of the congregation held a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 16 to encourage Catholics to observe World Mission Sunday Oct. 18 and to support the church's evangelizing work with their action, their prayers and their donations.
"In this time of pandemic, when some churches will be closed on Mission Sunday, others will have only limited numbers of faithful and some will join the celebration of the Eucharist on media platforms, we are more than ever conscious of our dependence on the providence of God," said Oblate Father Tadeusz J. Nowak, secretary general of the pontifical mission societies.
On Mission Sunday, "we are all called -- wherever we are, in whatever state we are -- to pray fervently for the mission of the church that the Gospel reach the hearts of all people," Father Nowak said. "And we're all called to do what we can to offer what we can, our material goods, for the support of this mission."
The Vatican in late May released Pope Francis' message for World Mission Sunday.
"God's question, 'Whom shall I send?' is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: 'Here am I, send me!'" the pope wrote. "God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil."
"The impossibility of gathering as a church to celebrate the Eucharist" because of the COVID-19 lockdowns "has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday," he wrote. Catholics should have a greater understanding now of how some Catholics live even when there is no health emergency.
"Each one of us is sent to bring God's love to all, especially to the neediest," Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the congregation, told reporters at the news conference. "We don't need to be afraid. The mission continues thanks to the Holy Spirit."
Archbishop Dal Toso said that in addition to the usual Mission Sunday collection, Pope Francis had set up a special fund in the spring to help churches in poorer countries deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout. "As you can imagine," he said, "many of these church realities live simply from the Sunday collection," and without that, they are struggling to support their parishes, priests, religious, schools, programs for assisting the poor and all the other bills that keep coming in.
As of mid-October, a total of more than $1.85 million has been approved for 250 projects, he said. Catholics in Spain, France and South Korea contributed the most, he said, "but countries like Rwanda and Bangladesh also have taken up ad hoc collections to show their participation."