Vatican City, 5 May 2014 (VIS) – Collaboration with civil society, the evangelisation of a divided society and the formation of future clergy were the central themes of the written discourse that the Pope handed to the bishops of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi, whom he received today at the end of their “ad limina” visit.
The Holy Father mentions the collaboration between the Holy See and the Republic of Burundi, formalised in the framework Agreement signed in November 2012, which came into effect last February, and which promises “a rich future for the proclamation of the Gospel”. He encourages the bishops to take their place, as they have already done, in social and political dialogue, and to meet with political figures without hesitation. “Persons in positions of authority are the first to be in need of your witness of faith and your courageous proclamation of Christian values, to know better the social doctrine of the Church, appreciate its value and to be inspired by it in the administration of public affairs”.
Burundi in its recent past, has experienced terrible conflicts that continue to influence the unity of the people, causing deep wounds that are yet to heal. “Only an authentic conversion of hearts to the Gospel can turn men to fraternal love and forgiveness, as to the extent that He reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for all. The profound evangelisation of your people remains your first concern for ensuring true reconciliation”.
If the first witnesses called upon to live the authenticity of this conversion are naturally priests, it is necessary for future clergy to receive, “as well as the necessary intellectual formation, a solid spiritual, human and pastoral formation. These are the four pillars of formation. Because it is through their lives, through their daily relations, that they bring the Gospel to all. An administrative approach should not prevail over a pastoral approach, and neither should concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelisation”.
Pope Francis notes the admirable work of religious congregations in education, hospitals and assistance to refugees, and reminded the prelates that many new communities that are formed require “careful and prudent discernment to guarantee a sound formation for their members, and to accompany the evolution they are called upon to live for the good of all the Church”.
“The recent history of your country has been difficult”, he concludes, “marked by division and violence in a context of extreme poverty, which unfortunately continues. In spite of this, the courageous efforts of evangelisation in your pastoral ministry bear fruit in the form of conversion and reconciliation. I invite you to not falter in hope, but to go forward boldly with a renewed missionary spirit, to bring the Good News to all those who are still waiting or who most need to finally know the Lord's mercy”.