VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received prelates from Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
Speaking English the Pope referred to the bishops' five-yearly reports, telling them of his pleasure at their efforts "to preach the Gospel at confirmations, in your visits to parishes, when meeting with groups of priests, religious or lay people and in your pastoral letters".
"Strive to build", he went on, "vibrant and expansive communities of men and women strong in their faith, contemplative and joyful in the liturgy, and well instructed on 'how to live in the way that pleases God'. In an environment marked by divorce and polygamy, promote the unity and well-being of the Christian family built on the Sacrament of Marriage. Initiatives and associations dedicated to the sanctification of this basic community deserve your full support. Continue to uphold the dignity of women in the context of human rights and defend your people against attempts to introduce an anti-birth mentality disguised as a form of cultural progress.
"Your mission also requires that you give attention to the adequate discernment and preparation of vocations and to the ongoing formation of priests, who are your closest collaborators in the task of evangelisation", he added. "Continue to lead them by word and example to be men of prayer, sound and clear in their teaching, mature and respectful in their dealings with others, faithful to their spiritual commitments and strong in compassion towards all in need. Likewise do not hesitate to invite missionaries from other countries to assist the good work being done by your clergy, religious and catechists".
The Holy Father went on: "I appreciate in a special way the assistance you offer to refugees and immigrants and I urge you to seek, when possible, pastoral co-operation from their countries of origin. The struggle against poverty must be carried out with respect for the dignity of all concerned by encouraging them to be the protagonists of their own integral development. Much good can be done through small-scale community engagements and microeconomic initiatives at the service of families. In developing and sustaining such strategies, improved education will always be a decisive factor".
"You rightly encourage people in positions of authority to lead in the struggle against corruption by calling attention to the gravity and injustice of such sins. In this regard, the spiritual and moral formation of lay men and women for leadership, through specialised courses in Catholic Social Doctrine, is an important contribution to the common good".
Benedict XVI commended the bishops "for your attention to the great gift which is peace. I pray that the process of reconciliation in justice and truth, which you have rightly supported in the region, may produce lasting respect for all God-given human rights and defuse tendencies to retaliation and vengeance.
"In your service to peace continue to promote dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam, so as to sustain the existing good relations and forestall any form of intolerance, injustice or oppression, detrimental to the promotion of mutual trust. Working together in the defence of life and in the struggle against disease and malnutrition will not fail to build understanding, respect and acceptance. Above all, a climate of dialogue and communion must characterise the local Church. By your own example", the Pope concluded, "lead your priests, religious and lay faithful to grow in understanding and cooperation, in listening to one another and in sharing initiatives".
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