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Friday, October 19, 2007


VATICAN CITY, OCT 19, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received eight prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Congo who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  In his address to them the Holy Father highlighted "the specific and concrete contribution of bishops in establishing peace and reconciliation in the country," and made a call "to Christians and to the population entire to open the way to reconciliation so that ethnic and social differences, experienced with mutual respect and love, become a shared wealth and not a cause for division."

  Referring then to the bishops' reports in which they identify "the urgent need to create real dynamism in the local Churches," Benedict XVI pointed out how evangelizing activity depends upon "living ecclesial communities. Places in which the Gospel is lived and charity (especially with the poor) is practiced, demonstrate a form of pastoral care based on the idea of proximity, and also constitute a strong bulwark against the sects," he said.

  The Pope invited the prelates to concern themselves "with the initial and permanent Christian formation of the faithful, ensuring they understand the Christian mystery, and base themselves on the reading of Scripture and sacramental life." In this context, he thanked the people involved in the formation of the laity, in particular catechists and their families.

  The Holy Father asked the bishops to support and help priests to lead "an ever more dignified and holy existence, rooted in a profound spiritual life and an emotional maturity lived in celibacy."

  "By remaining close to priests," he continued, "you will be for them models of priestly life and help them to a greater awareness of the sacramental fraternity that comes into being with ordination. I call upon the many Congolese priests who live outside their country to give serious consideration to the pastoral needs of their dioceses, and to take the necessary decisions in response to the urgent appeals of their diocesan Churches."

  Benedict XVI warned that "the noticeable reduction in the number of canonical marriages is a real challenge facing the family. ... Civil legislation, the weakening of the family structure, and the weight of certain traditional practices, especially the exorbitant cost of dowries, are a real brake on young people's commitment to marriage."

  "What is needed," the Holy Father concluded, "is a profound pastoral reflection in order to promote the dignity of Christian marriage, the reflection and realization of Christ's love for His Church. It is important to help couples to achieve the human and spiritual maturity necessary to undertake ... their mission as Christian spouses and parents, reminding them that their love is unique, indissoluble, and that marriage contributes to the full realization of their human and Christian vocation."
AL/.../REPUBLIC OF CONGO                    VIS 20071019 (470)

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