Vatican City, 7 April 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the bishops of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, at the end of their five-yearly “ad limina” visit and, in the written address that he handed to them, he praises “the impressive history of missionary work throughout the region”, encouraging the prelates to “maintain and foster this missionary imperative, so that the Gospel may increasingly permeate every work of the apostolate and shed its light on all areas of Tanzanian society”.
“The work of evangelisation in Tanzania, then, is not merely a remarkable event of the past”, he writes; “no, it happens every day in the Church’s pastoral work in parishes, in the liturgy, in the reception of the sacraments, the educational apostolate, health care initiatives, catechesis, and in the lives of ordinary Christians”. The Pope mentions in particular the witness of healthcare workers who “care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, and by all who strive diligently to educate people in the area of sexual responsibility and chastity”, and “all those who devote themselves to the integral development of the poor, and in particular, of destitute women and children”. He exclaims, “May the Holy Spirit who gave strength, wisdom and holiness to the first missionaries in Tanzania continue to inspire the entire local Church in this vital witness”.
He also repeats the importance of “holy, well-educated and zealous priests” and of ensuring they “receive an adequate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation”. With reference to the role of the laity, he asks that bishops make special efforts to “provide catechists with a comprehensive understanding of the Church’s doctrine. This will equip them not only to counter the challenges of superstition, aggressive sects and secularism, but even more importantly,to share the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith with others, particularly the young”.
With regard to the theme of the family, Pope Francis affirms that “The gift that healthy families represent is felt with particular vitality in Africa” and recalls that “the Church’s love for, and pastoral solicitude towards the family is at the heart of the new evangelisation. … By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service to one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania, one which, coupled with her educational and healthcare apostolates, will surely foster greater stability and progress in your country. There is scarcely a finer service which the Church can offer than to give witness to our conviction of the sanctity of God’s gift of life and to the essential role played by spiritual and stable families in preparing the younger generations to live virtuous lives and to face the challenges of the future with wisdom, courage and generosity”.
He concludes, “I am particularly encouraged to know that Tanzania is committed to ensuring the freedom that followers of various religions enjoy to practice their faith. The ongoing protection and promotion of this fundamental human right strengthens society by enabling believers, in fidelity to the dictates of their conscience and in respect for the dignity and rights of all, to advance social unity, peace and the common good. I am grateful for your ongoing efforts to promote forgiveness, peace and dialogue as you shepherd your people in difficult situations of intolerance and, at times, of violence and persecution. … I urge you also to work with government and civic institutions in this area so as to ensure that the rule of law prevails as an indispensable means for guaranteeing just and pacific social relations. I pray that your example, and that of the entire Church in your country, will continue to inspire all people of good will who long for peace”.