Vatican City, 24 April 2015 (VIS) – Today Pope Francis received in audience the bishops of Lesotho and Namibia, “lands known for their flourishing Christian faith”, at the end of the “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse he handed to the prelates, the Pope recalled the labours and sacrifices of many missionaries, who were supported by generations of indigenous companions in lands which have often presented great challenges, both environmental and social, but which are known for their churches and chapels, parishes, mission stations and outstations, “which draw many to a community life centred on prayer and work”.
“Renowned too are your numerous schools at every level, your clinics and hospitals, built with love and faithfulness from the materials of Namibia’s soil and Lesotho’s mountains. I encourage you to continue supporting and nurturing these great blessings, even when resources are sparse, for the Lord promises that he will not fail to bless us”.
He continued, “I know that your communities face many challenges daily, and I am sure that this weighs heavily on your hearts. Strengthen them in love to overcome selfishness in private or public life; be generous in bringing them the tenderness of Christ where threats to human life occur, from the womb to old age – and I think particularly of those suffering with HIV and AIDS”. He encouraged them to “not only win them to the cause of Christ but also make them protagonists of a renewed African society”.
The Pope goes on to mention Christian families that are fragmented due to employment far away from home, or because of separation or divorce and urged the bishops to continue offering them help and guidance, preparing couples for Christian marriage, and constantly sustaining families by offering generously the Church’s Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of mercy. “I thank you for your efforts in promoting healthy family life in the face of distorted views that emerge in contemporary society. … The family is the best setting for learning and applying the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. … From healthy families will come numerous priestly vocations, families where men have learned to love inasmuch as they have been unconditionally loved ...having learned respect, justice, the role of authority expressed by parents and loving concern”.
“In a time of an apparent decrease in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, it is important to speak openly about the fulfilling and joyful experience of offering one’s life to Christ”, continues the Holy Father. “For when your Christian communities are built up by your own continued example of 'living in truth and joy your priestly commitments, celibacy in chastity and detachment from material possessions', then vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life will most certainly abound”. He thanks God for “the continued witness and service of so many communities of religious brothers and sisters who are vital to the praying heart of the Church, along with the many committed sodalities and other lay associations of the Church in Lesotho and Namibia”. He also notes, when developing pastoral plans, in paying careful spiritual attention to the poorest in society. “I ask you to be particularly mindful of those most in need in your Churches, entrusting all your initiatives to God's care”.
Finally, he exhorts the bishops to “persevere as men of deep and constant prayer, in the way of Blessed Joseph Gerard, who listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in all matters. Prayer precedes and leads to authentic evangelisation. As you know from experience, when the Church summons all Christians to constantly take up anew the task of evangelising the world, 'she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment'; that is, she is showing us the path to our deepest happiness”.