By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Missionaries are needed today just like in the past because “there are so many men and women who still need the Gospel, not only in the so-called ‘mission lands,’ but also in the tired old West,” Pope Francis said.

Meeting May 8 with members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, commonly known as the Spiritans, the pope encouraged them to approach people with the same respect for their dignity and cultures as they did 300 years ago when evangelizing among the Indigenous of North America and the people of the Caribbean and Africa.

Noting that congregation members had been reflecting on a line from Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing something new,” Pope Francis pointed to the first verse of the chapter: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.”

“When I hear this, I am reminded of the hand of God who caresses, caresses the people, caresses each one of you; the tender God who caresses always,” he said. “I am dwelling on these words because they seem to me to reflect very well some of the values fundamental to your charism: courage, openness and surrender to the action of the Spirit so that he can make something new.”

“Your charism, open and respectful, is especially valuable today, in a world where the challenge of interculturality and inclusion is alive and urgent — within the church and beyond,” the pope said.

He urged the missionaries to look at each person “with the eyes of Jesus, who desires to meet everyone — do not forget this: everyone — making himself especially close to the poorest, touching them with his hands, fixing his gaze on theirs.”

Members of the congregation, who have placed themselves under the mantle of the Holy Spirit, must allow the Spirit “to enlighten you, to direct you, to push you where he wishes, without setting conditions, without excluding anyone, for it is he who knows what is needed in every age and at every moment,” Pope Francis said.