(Vatican Radio/VIS) The peaceful coexistence among believers of different religions, the safeguarding of interreligious dialogue, the common commitment of Christians and Muslims in defense of cultural heritage, promotion of women, and the consolidation of the family were some of the topics that Pope Francis addressed in the speech he delivered this morning to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, at the end of their “ad limina” visit. Following are extensive excerpts from the address.
I would like to direct your attention toward the person of Christ in the delicate situation that your country has faced in recent years, including security challenges. At times, this situation has undermined the coexistence between the various sectors of society as well as the harmony between men and women of different religions present in the land of Mali, which is rich with a glorious past, synonymous with admirable traditions among which are tolerance and cohesion. I thank your Episcopal Conference for knowing how to preserve the spirit of interreligious dialogue in this delicate context. The common commitment of Christians and Muslims to safeguard the Mali's cultural treasures, especially the large libraries of Timbuktu, patrimony of humanity, is an eloquent example. When you return, I want you to express my nearness, not only to your faithful, but also to your fellow citizens of all social classes and religions, men and women of good will involve in the fight against intolerance and exclusion.
In this situation, the Christian communities and their pastors are called to give an even greater witness to their faith based on the unconditional acceptance of the Gospel values. You are already following this path in translating the Bible into local languages because, in order to live the Word of God and to witness to it faithfully, we must first know it, diligently study it, and assimilate it. In this sense, the efforts made in your dioceses to develop new Catechesis manuals are to be welcomed. Thanks to a solid formation, the lives of the faithful will be even more rooted in faith and strengthened to withstand all threats.
Despite the serious problems facing it, the Church in Mali shows a beautiful dynamic in its work of evangelization, preserving a profound respect of conscience. Christ's followers grow in number and fervor. But the Christian witness of the family still needs greater coherence. In your cultural context, also marked by divorce and polygamy, Catholics are called upon to concretely proclaim, through their witness, to the Gospel, life, and the family. I also encourage you to continue your pastoral work, paying particular attention to the situation of women: promoting the role of women in society and fighting against abuse and violence toward women is also a way of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who chose to be born of a woman, the Virgin Mary.
If in any particular church the synergy inspired by charity is needed to ensure its credibility, then your context of the charity and unity lived in the Church are among the most important signs of fruitful dialogue with other religions, an expression of authentic Christian witness... It is to be hoped that even nowadays these witnesses of members of other religions toward our Christian communities multiply.
Likewise, the Gospel lived in its authentic dimension of charity should inspire social ministry. The Church is present in Mali in the areas of education for peace and your Christian communities actively contribute to promoting genuine national reconciliation. In congratulating you for your pastoral sensitivity in the field of promoting the human person without consideration limited to ethnic or religious affiliation, I would like to pay tribute to the many Christians who spread the culture of solidarity and hospitality, especially in facing the violence of the last years.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, strengthened by the Lord's promise to be with his family until the end of time, I am convinced that despite the difficulties on their path, the Church in Mali will continue to be a testament to hope and peace.
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