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Monday, February 20, 2006


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received in audience prelates from the Conference of Bishops of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  Benedict XVI noted how the great variety of human and ecclesial situations in these particular Churches makes it difficult to harmonize pastoral activities. Nonetheless, he said, "the ties of communion are essential for an ever-greater apostolic fruitfulness and in order to carry out the mission received from the Lord."

  "Walking alongside their people," said the Pope, "bishops must guide, encourage and coordinate evangelizing action, that the faith may grow and spread among human beings. In this way, the Gospel must take full root in the cultures of your peoples."

  The Holy Father emphasized that "in order to remain faithful to baptismal commitments, each individual must receive a solid education in the faith, so as to be able to face up to the new phenomena of modern life, such as growing urbanization, the unemployment of many young people, material seductions of all kinds and the influence of ideas of varying provenance."

  After dwelling on the generous collaboration of priests in the work of evangelization, the Pope called for their initial and permanent formation to render them "humanly and spiritually balanced, capable of responding to the challenges they must face, both in their personal and their pastoral lives." He also mentioned the need for "a solid spiritual formation to fortify their intimate life with God in prayer and contemplation, and to enable them to discern the presence and action of the Lord in the persons entrusted to their pastoral mission."

  Benedict XVI indicated how the Church in this region "expresses her love for others in a very visible way, with her commitment to social development", embodied in numerous ecclesial structures at the service of the poorest. He also pointed out how many non-Christians, especially Muslims, collaborate in this service. "Efforts made towards a meeting in truth of believers from different religious traditions will contribute to achieving the real good of people and of society."

  "It is vital," he added, "that fraternal relations between communities be rendered more profound, in order to favor the harmonious development of society, recognizing the dignity of each individual and allowing everyone the free expression of their religion."

  Referring in closing remarks to current tensions in Guinea-Bissau, the Pope recalled the efforts of the local Church "to promote dialogue and cooperation among all the elements of the country," and he called on the prelates - "through the word illuminated by faith, constant witness of faithfulness to the Gospel and generous pastoral service" - to continue to be "sure points of reference and guidance for all your countrymen."

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