The Pope received prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Togo, who have just completed their ad limina visit.
The Holy Father began his address to the bishops by thanking them for "your perseverance and courage in the face of the numerous difficulties your country has had to face over past years. On many occasions," he told them, "you have contributed to dialogue for national reconciliation, reminding everyone of the requirements of the common good, in faithfulness to the truth of God and of humanity. I ask the Lord to render your efforts fruitful that your country may enjoy a prosperous life in harmony and fraternity."
After highlighting the African prelates' commitment "to protecting and respecting life," Benedict XVI explained that "the promotion of the truth and dignity of marriage, and the defense of essential family values, must be one of your major priorities. The pastoral care of families is an essential element of evangelization that brings young people to discover the meaning of a unique and faithful commitment." In this context, he exhorted the bishops "to pay particular attention to the formation of couples and families."
The Pope also encouraged them "to continue in efforts to promote Catholic schools, which are places of integral education at the service of families and of the transmission of the faith. Despite the difficulties they may encounter, the schools' role is essential to ensure that young people receive a solid human, cultural and religious formation. May the educators and professors themselves," he exclaimed, "be models of Christian life for the young!"
Going on to refer to the urgent need for evangelization, the Holy Father recalled the work of catechists and other pastoral care operatives. "Inculturation of the evangelical message and faithfulness to the doctrine of the Church," he said, "contribute to the effective foundation of the faith among your people, allowing them to welcome the figure of Jesus Christ into all dimensions of their lives. While respecting the rich traditions that are a living expression of your people's soul, Christians must decisively reject anything that runs counter to the liberating message of Christ and entraps and alienates mankind and society."
Benedict XVI also stressed the importance of the formation of priests, consecrated people and the laity, so as to help them "face the difficult situations with which they are confronted and transmit the contents of the faith through the witness of their lives, upheld by strong personal convictions. Such formation must help the lay faithful to acquire skills that enable them to commit themselves to social life and to working towards the common good. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a valuable instrument for the formation of everyone and particularly of the laity."
At the end of his address, the Holy Father referred to the need "to pursue and develop the cordial relations that exist with Muslims in Togo. Such relations, he concluded, "are indispensable for ensuring concord and harmony among all citizens, and for promoting the shared values of humanity."