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Friday, January 27, 2006


VATICAN CITY, JAN 27, 2006 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have just concluded their "ad limina" visit.

  In his address to them, the Pope recalled the "deep scars left in people's memory," by the bloody conflicts that have lacerated the country over the last few years, and praised Congolese bishops for calling on local leaders "to demonstrate their responsibility and courage, so that people may live in peace and security." The Pope encouraged the episcopal conference to "accompany the progress currently being made."

  The Holy Father made frequent reference to the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," the tenth anniversary of which was celebrated in 2005. "In calling that synodal assembly," said Benedict XVI, "John Paul II wished to promote an organic form of pastoral solidarity for the African continent, so that the Church can bring a credible message of faith, hope and charity to all men and women of good will, and give a new missionary impulse to particular Churches." He also recalled how certain dioceses are celebrating their first centenary of evangelization, an anniversary that provides a good occasion "to renew the apostolic enthusiasm of pastors and faithful," and for "moral, spiritual and material reconstruction to unite communities into one family, a sign of fraternity for your contemporaries."

  The Holy Father continued his address to the bishops: "You have highlighted the need to work for a profound evangelization of the faithful. The living and vibrant ecclesiastical communities in all your dioceses well reflect this 'hands-on' evangelization which makes the faithful ever more mature in their faith, in a spirit of evangelical fraternity that brings them to reflect together on the various aspects of ecclesiastical life. These communities also constitute a valuable bulwark against the onslaught of sects, which exploit the credulity of the faithful and lead them astray by proposing a false vision of salvation and of the Gospel, and loose morals."

  Benedict XVI stressed the need for "the permanent formation of the leaders of these communities, especially of catechists," and the importance that such groups "not only welcome the Gospel of Christ, but that they bear witness to Him before human beings. ... In these times, that are so important for the important for the life of your country, the lay faithful must be reminded of the urgent need to begin the renewal of the temporal world, calling them to 'bring to bear upon the social fabric an influence aimed at changing not only ways of thinking but also the very structures of society, so that they will better reflect God's plan for the human family'."

  The Pope then expressed his appreciation for all the priests and male and female religious who work on the African continent. "I am aware," he said, "of the difficult conditions in which many of them exercise their mission," and gave thanks for their "frequently heroic service." On this subject, he invited the bishops to watch over "the excellence of the moral and spiritual life of priests, particularly reminding them of the unique bond that ties the priest to Christ, of which priestly celibacy, lived in perfect chastity, is an expression of profundity and vitality."

  The Pope encouraged the Congolese prelates to "continue to develop the bonds of communion with your diocesan presbyterium," bearing in mind the fact that in the country "long-term conflicts have sometimes had negative repercussions on the unity of the presbyterium, favoring tribalism and power struggles, bringing fateful consequences for the construction of the Body of Christ and confusion to the faithful."

  "I exhort you all to rediscover the deep-rooted fraternity that is particular to priests," said the Holy Father, inviting the bishops to encourage priests "to exercise fraternal charity, particularly by offering them certain forms of communal life, in order to help them grow in sanctity and in faithfulness to their vocation and mission, and in full communion with you bishops."

  "At the end of our meeting," the Pope concluded, "I invite you to hope. For more than a century the Good News has been announced in your land. ... May your communities, supported by the witnesses to the faith in your country - especially Blesseds Marie-Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta and Isidore Bakanja - be prophetic signs of a humanity renewed in Christ, a humanity liberated from rancor and fear!"
AL/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC CONGO/...                    VIS 20060127 (750)

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