VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Compassion and a constant effort to reach out to others are essential elements of being “missionary disciples,” even in the midst of a pandemic, Pope Francis said in his message for World Mission Sunday.

“In these days of pandemic, when there is a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, there is urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion,” the pope wrote in his message for the celebration, which will be held Oct. 17.

The theme chosen for the 2021 celebration is taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.” The Vatican released the pope’s message Jan. 29.

“Our life of faith grows weak, loses its prophetic power and its ability to awaken amazement and gratitude when we become isolated and withdraw into little groups,” the pope wrote.

“By its very nature, the life of faith calls for a growing openness to embracing everyone, everywhere,” he said. “The first Christians, far from yielding to the temptation to become an elite group, were inspired by the Lord and his offer of new life to go out among the nations and to bear witness to what they had seen and heard: the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Christ calls every believer to share the good news of God’s love and his offer of salvation in