(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has encouraged Bishops from Benin to support families, to pursue the formation of young people and to promote inter religious dialogue.
The Pope was receiving a group of Bishops from the West African Nation who are in the Vatican for their ad limina visit.
In his message to them, Pope Francis thanked the Bishops for the successful exercise of their ministry which shines through in the great enthusiasm and in the visible expression of the faith of God's people in Benin.
“Parish life – he pointed out - is animated, the faithful participate in large numbers in the celebrations, conversions to Christ are many and priestly and religious vocations”.
However, acknowledging the bishops’ concern for a series of problematic issues, the Pope said he thinks “particularly of the major challenges related to family, to which the next Synod in Rome will attempt to answer”.
And he encouraged them to “continue with determination efforts to support families, both in their faith in their daily lives”.
Although the marriage ministry is a difficult one – Pope Francis said – “given the concrete situation, social and cultural life” of the people, he told them to persevere constantly because the family is a reality desired by God: “it is a gift from God that brings, for people and communities, joy, peace, stability, happiness”.
The family, the Pope said, is the basic unit of society.
The Pope acknowledged that another important challenge faced by the Bishops of Benin is youth and education, and he thanked them for the many Catholic schools they have opened in their Dioceses.
He spoke of the importance of the encounter between cultures and dialogue between religions, especially with Islam.
“It is known that Benin is an example of harmony between religions on its territory. It is necessary to be vigilant, given the current global climate, in order to preserve this fragile heritage” he said.
So: “In promoting harmony and justice in your local Churches, dear Brothers, gives you a major role to play in the onward march of your country” he said.
And speaking of the global economic crisis which is affecting many countries, Pope Francis said “it is necessary to go courageously against the current, struggling against the culture of ‘waste’ spread everywhere, (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, n.53) and disseminating Gospel values of hospitality and encounter”.
The Pope reminded the bishops that the service of charity is a constitutive dimension of the mission of the Church, and is “an expression of its essence" and he invited all religious to live intensely this Year of Consecrated Life and acknowledged the generous commitment of the priests in the service of the Gospel.
And remarking on the many priestly vocations in Benin, he said that bishops must be fathers to their priests, fostering communion and fraternity within the priestly family and caring for those in need.
Moreover – he said - since vocations are not lacking, he encouraged them to generously share their resources with other regions which lack churches.
Pope Francis concluded his address noting that the Church in Benin has a good relationship with the civil authorities.
“The voice of the Church is heard – he said - and action is appreciated”. And he invited them to continue to take their place in the public life of the country, encouraging relationships between different components of society.
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