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Friday, March 11, 2005


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2005 (VIS) - Made public this afternoon was a Message from Pope John Paul to Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dal-es-Salaam and Bishop Severine Niwemugizi of Rulenge, Tanzania, who is also the president of the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania, who were welcomed by the Pope at 12:30 p.m. today in Gemelli Hospital. The prelates are in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

  "I greet you from Gemelli Hospital," writes the Holy Father, "where I offer my prayers and my sufferings for you: in these days I feel especially close to you." He says he wishes, in his Message, to underscore "three integral parts of your pastoral ministry; care of the family; care of the clergy and care for the common good of society in your region."

  "The world can learn much," the Pope writes, "from the high value that is placed upon the family as a building block of African society." The Church must give "special priority to the pastoral care of the family, because of the great cultural changes taking place in the modern world. ... For example, the unjust practice of linking programs of economic assistance to the promotion of sterilization and contraception must be strenuously resisted" as they are "affronts to the dignity of the person and the family."

  The Pope says marriage is "sacred, ... one and indissoluble by nature" and "has to remain open to the generation of new life. ... The promotion of genuine family values is all the more urgent on account of the terrible scourge of AIDS afflicting your country and so much of the African continent. Fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside it are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of infection. ... It especially grieves me to consider the many thousands of children left as orphans in the wake of the merciless virus."

  Turning to care for the clergy, John Paul II indicates that a bishop must be "a father, brother and a friend" to his closest collaborators. He urges prelates to help priests "grow in holiness and in single-hearted commitment to discipleship" and "to enkindle within them a genuine longing for the Kingdom of God. Continue to encourage them in their gifts, sustain them in their difficulties and form them to meet the demands of priestly life today. I know that you appreciate the importance of seminary formation and the need to assign your best priests to this task."

  On the question of the Church's care for the common good, the Holy Father underlines the steps taken by the episcopal conference "to combat the material deprivation afflicting so many of your people" and says that "cooperation between Church and State on such matters of great social concern deserves to be commended." He also notes Tanzania's contributions "to building peace and stability in East Africa" and its generosity "in providing a home for thousands of refugees fleeing persecution in their own countries."

  He closes his remarks by stressing the challenge "to maintain and strengthen respectful relations with the Muslim community" and the "serious commitment to inter-religious dialogue."
AL/.../TANZANIA:GEMELLI                    VIS 20050311 (500)

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