2015-05-04 15:03:00

Pope thanks Congolese bishops for remarkable evangelization

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday encouraged bishops from the Republic of Congo to continue in their efforts of cooperation with other faiths because “unity in diversity is a feature of the Church’s requirements”.

The Pope was addressing the Bishops from Congo who are in the Vatican for their Ad Limina visit.
In his discourse the Pope expressed his joy before the “young and dynamic Christian communities seeking to take root in the love of the Lord”.

He said the recent creation of three new dioceses shows the vitality of the Catholic Church in Congo, and the zeal of its pastors in their push for evangelization. 

Pope Francis had special words for the mission of the laity in the Church and in society. Commenting with gratitude on their “remarkable contribution to the work of evangelization” he reminded the bishops that it is important that they receive adequate pastoral help so they are able to rediscover and strengthen their vocation as "credible witnesses.”

Lay people – he said - have a need to be accompanied and to be trained in their witness to the Gospel in socio-political areas. And he specifically pointed out their role in the Pastoral care of families.

And regarding the pastoral care of families the Pope said the faithful in Congo are in need of support which involves not only inculturation but also attention towards local culture.

In this regard – the Pope said – “I want to thank you for the contribution of your Dioceses to the Synod of Bishops on the family”.

Pope Francis then reminded the bishops that priests are their first collaborators. Consequently – he said: “their living conditions and their sanctification shall not cease to be the heart of your concerns”.

And in particular he indicated education as the indispensable tool so they can always better serve the people of God offering appropriate spiritual support and worthy liturgical celebrations with good homilies that nourish the faith of believers. 

In this regard – he said: “I invite you to continue to ensure the conditions for sending priests of your dioceses to study abroad, to support them during their time of stay outside the country and to facilitate their return so the good of the Church may always be safeguarded”.

The Pope gave thanks for the many priestly and religious vocations which flourish in the dioceses of the Republic of Congo, vocations – he said – which speak to your apostolic zeal.

He pointed out that the immense pastoral needs of the local Church require zealous pastors who with their own witness can give guidance in all sorts of areas.

In this Year of the consecrated life – Pope Francis continued - “I welcome the commitment of men and women religious serving the populations in the Congo, and providing both spiritual and material assistance with dedication and by being witnesses to Christ with a lifestyle which is chaste, poor and obedient”.

He called for the harmonious collaboration between Bishops and consecrated people which - he said - promotes the preaching of the Gospel and promotes the growth of the local Church in the diversity of all the charisms which are present.

And referring to the difficulties experienced by some dioceses because of the lack of material and financial resources, the Pope encouraged the bishops to show solidarity and to continue to ensure economic aid to some Churches in order to support their mission.

In this regard he invited the bishops never to limit the freedom of the pastors or the particular Church which must be able to be autonomous and must always have free hand to announce the Gospel with credibility.

“As for mutual aid and solidarity among local Churches – Pope Francis said -  these  must be reflected in the promotion of the missionary spirit first promoted within Africa: I readily recall the solemn appeal by my predecessor Blessed Pope Paul VI in Kampala: ‘You Africans you are now your own missionaries’"

Pope Francis continued his address inviting all Church members to speak with one voice, enunciating strong words that inspired by the Gospel.

He said they are called to guide and to enlighten their compatriots on numerous aspects of community life, in difficult times for the nation or when circumstances require. 

In this sense – he said – “your efforts of ever greater cooperation are to continue because unity in diversity a feature of the Church's requirements, as Body of Christ. Not only this cohesion will still allow you to defend the common good and the good of the Church before any court, but it will also encourage your efforts to face together the many pastoral challenges, including the proliferation of sects”.

The Pope also called on the Bishops of Congo to promote the human person.

“Here too, the commitment of the Catholic Church in Congo is important: whether be it in the field of education, health, and assistance to various categories of people in need including refugees from neighboring countries neighbors”. In all of these – he said – “your diocesan communities contribute significantly”. 

And encouraging the bishop to continue to ensure that the social ministry is realized in the spirit of the Gospel, the Pope said it must be perceived as a work of evangelization, and not as the action of a Non-Governmental Organization.

In this regard the Pope recalled the wounds inflicted on society by the serious crisis that affected the Congo in the late 1990s “leaving deep scars that sometimes are not yet completely healed”.

He said that in this area in particular, the Church received the mission to reconcile hearts, reconcile divided communities and build a new fraternity rooted in forgiveness and solidarity: “You pastors continue to be models and prophets in this sense!”


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