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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pope Francis to the bishops of Ghana: the importance of the healthcare apostolate

Vatican City, 24 September 2014 (VIS) – The tragedy of the Ebola outbreak and the healthcare apostolate, the need for testimony of integrity in the face of corruption, and ecumenical cooperation were the main themes of the written discourse the Holy Father handed to the bishops of the Ghana Bishops' Conference yesterday afternoon, at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit.

In the document, the Pope comments that “The 2009 Synod on Africa noted as a principal concern the need for the Church's pastors to 'inspire in Christ's disciples in Africa the will to become effectively committed to living out the Gospel in their daily lives and in society … and to obery Christ who calls constantly for metanoia, for conversion'”.

In this regard, he notes that “The work of conversion and evangelisation is not easy, but it bears precious fruit for the Church and the world. Out of the spiritual vitality of all the faithful come the Church's numerous charitable, medical and educational endeavours, and her works of justice and equality. The varied services, carried out in God's name, especially for the poor and weak, are the responsibility of the entire local Church, under the prayerful oversight of the bishop. I think in a particular way about the importance of the Church's healthcare apostolate, not only in Ghana, but throughout western Africa, which is suffering at this time from the outbreak of Ebola. I pray for the repose of the souls of all who have died in this epidemic, among whom are priests, men and women religious and healthcare workers who contracted this terrible disease while caring for those suffering. May God strengthen all healthcare workers there and bring an end to this tragedy”.

He continues, “The Church in Ghana is justly respected for the contribution she makes to the integral development of individuals and the entire nation. At the same time, she often finds herself lacking in the material resources necessary to fulfil her mission in the world. In this regard, I would offer you two thoughts. First, it is imperative that whatever temporal means the Church has at her disposal continue to be administered with honesty and responsibility, in order to provide good witness, especially where corruption has hindered the just advancement of society. … Second, material poverty can be an occasion to draw greater attention to the spiritual needs of the human person, thus leading to a deeper reliance on the Lord, from whom all good things come. While your communities rightly make many efforts to alleviate extremes of poverty, so too the Church is called, in imitation of Christ, to work with humility and honesty, using the goods at her disposal to open minds and hearts to the riches of mercy and grace flowing from the heart of Christ”.

Finally, the Pope advises the bishops, “Be close to other Christian leaders and the heads of other religious communities. Ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, when carried out with respect and an open heart, contribute to the social harmony of your country, and enable growth in understanding of the dignity of each person and a greater experience of our common humanity. Thankfully, Ghana has been spared many of the tribal, ethnic and religious divisions that have afflicted too many other parts of Africa, a continent whose promise, in part due to these divisions, has yet to be fulfilled. I pray that you will be ever greater promoters of unity and leaders in the service of dialogue. May you be firm in upholding the Church's teaching and discipline, and unyielding in your charity. And may your generosity in offering Christ be matched only by your humble and patient openness to others”.

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