Vatican City, 16 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning the prelates of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops were received in audience by Pope Francis at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse he handed to them, the Holy Father writes that for many of them this visit to Rome will recall the time spent in the Italian capital during their preparation for ordination to the priesthood. “The many seminarians studying in this city, like the numerous seminarians in your own country, are an eloquent sign of God’s goodness to the universal Church and to your dioceses”.
“While the seeds of a priestly vocation are sown long before a man arrives at the seminary, first in the heart of the family”, he notes, “it pertains to seminary formators to nurture the growth of these vocations. For this reason, it is imperative that seminarians’ goodwill and earnest desires be met with a formation that is humanly sound, spiritually deep, intellectually rich, and pastorally diverse. I am aware of the challenges which this entails, and I encourage you to strengthen your efforts, individually within your Dioceses and collectively in your Episcopal Conference, so that the good work which the Lord is accomplishing in your candidates for priestly Orders will be brought to completion”.
“In this Year of Consecrated Life, my heart is also close to the men and women religious who have renounced the world for the sake of the kingdom thus bringing many blessings to the Church and society in Kenya. … The united and selfless efforts of many Catholics in Kenya are a beautiful witness and example for the country. In so many ways, the Church is called to offer hope to the broader culture, a hope based on her unstinting witness to the newness of life promised by Christ in the Gospel. In this regard, without wishing to interfere in temporal affairs, the Church must insist, especially to those who are in positions of leadership and power, on those moral principles which promote the common good and the building up of society as a whole. In the fulfilment of her apostolic mission, the Church must take a prophetic stand in defence of the poor and against all corruption and abuse of power. She must do so, in the first place, by example. … In a particular way, I wish to offer a word of appreciation to the many humble and dedicated workers in Church-run institutions throughout your country, whose daily activities bring spiritual and material benefit to countless people. The Church has contributed, and continues to contribute, to all of Kenya through a diverse array of schools, institutes, universities, clinics, hospitals, homes for the sick and dying, orphanages and social agencies”.
Pope Francis goes on to emphasise that “the Church in Kenya must always be true to her mission as an instrument of reconciliation, justice and peace. In fidelity to the entire patrimony of the faith and moral teaching of the Church, may you strengthen your commitment to working with Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, in promoting peace and justice in your country through dialogue, fraternity and friendship. In this way you will be able to offer a more unified and courageous denunciation of all violence, especially that committed in the name of God. This will bring deeper reassurance and solace to all your fellow citizens”. He affirms, “With you, I pray for all those who have been killed by acts of terror or ethnic or tribal hostilities in Kenya as well as other areas of the continent. I think most especially of the men and women killed at Garissa University College on Good Friday. May their souls rest in peace and their loved ones be consoled, and may those who commit such brutality come to their senses and seek mercy”.
The Pope encourages the prelates in their pastoral care for the family, and declares his conviction that as the Church prepares for the Ordinary Synod dedicated to the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation “you will continue to assist and strengthen all those families who are struggling because of broken marriages, infidelity, addiction or violence”, and asks them to “intensify the Church’s ministry to youth, forming them to be disciples capable of making permanent and life-giving commitments – whether to a spouse in marriage, or to the Lord in the priesthood or religious life”.
Finally, he prays with them the the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy may be “a time of great forgiveness, healing, conversion, and grace for the entire Church in Kenya” and that, “touched by Christ’s infinite mercy, may all the faithful be signs of the reconciliation, justice and peace that God wills for your country, and indeed, all of Africa”.