Open the Doors of Hope to the People of Africa

The Pope received prelates from the Central African Episcopal Conference who have just completed their ad limina visit.

"You must accomplish your mission of serving people, which the Lord entrusted to you in difficult circumstances," the Pope told them. "When facing the challenges to the Church in your country, real collaboration is a guarantee of greater effectiveness; but such collaboration must be based above all on a living awareness of the collegial dimension of your ministry. You are called to bear witness among your people through ever stronger communion and an exemplary daily life."

Going on to consider the most urgent problems facing the Central African Church today, the Holy Father mentioned the question of "peace and national harmony." And he highlighted how "the poorest are, above all, the victims of dramatic situations that inevitably lead to profound divisions in society and to despair." On this matter, he recalled the fact that the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, currently being prepared, "will provide an opportunity for profound reflection upon the announcement of the Gospel in a context marked by many signs of hope but also by worrying situations."

"It is my heartfelt hope that this rapidly-changing world does nor forget Africa and that hope may open its doors to the peoples of that continent."

"The Church has the duty to defend the weakest and to be the voice of those who have no voice. For this reason I wish to encourage people to commit themselves in the defense of the dignity of individuals and their inalienable rights. Promoting peace, justice and reconciliation is an expression of Christian faith in the love that God nourishes for each human being."

"Through her social work, especially in the fields of healthcare and the education of young people, the Church also contributes, in her own way, to the construction of the fraternal and united society to which your people aspire," said the Pope.

However, he went on, "in order for society to have access to real spiritual and human development, it is also necessary to change its mentality," and "this painstaking task especially involves the family and marriage." The Holy Father stressed that "Christians show everyone the greatness and truth of marriage when they undertake to practice conjugal fidelity and to live in the unity of the couple," and he insisted that marriage "is always founded upon a 'yes' freely and knowingly pronounced by a man and a woman."

Benedict XVI then went on to speak of the importance — "an importance that cannot be underestimated" — of the formation of candidates to the priesthood. "It is more than ever necessary to be exigent," he said, "because priests are called to bear weighty responsibilities." Hence, "candidates must be required to have an assortment of human qualities that make them capable of achieving a real discipline of priestly life." It is of particular importance "to ascertain the emotional balance of seminarians and to form their sensibilities so as to ensure they possess the right attitude to practice the requirements of priestly celibacy. This human formation must be accompanied by a solid spiritual formation, because it is vital that a priest's life and activities be rooted in a living faith in Jesus Christ."

Finally, the Pope affirmed the importance of "the active and fruitful participation of the faithful in the 'Sacrament of Love'," observing that "appropriate adaptation to the various cultural contexts must be based on an authentic understanding of inculturation, so that the Eucharist truly remains 'a criterion for our evaluation of everything that Christianity encounters in different cultures'."

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