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Monday, March 16, 2015

To the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina: social pastoral ministry to involve the people in reconstruction and growth

Vatican City, 16 March 2015 (VIS) – The prelates of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina were received in audience this morning by the Pope, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse he handed to them at the end of the visit the Holy Father, who will shortly visit Sarajevo, emphasised “the charity, the care and the closeness of the Church of Rome” with “the heirs of many martyrs and confessors, who during the troubled centuries-long history of the country have kept the faith alive”.

“Migration is justly one of the social issues close to your heart”, he writes. “It evokes the difficulty of return for many of your co-citizens, the scarcity of sources of work, the instability of families, the emotional and social laceration of entire communities, the practical precariousness of many parishes, and the still fresh memories of conflict, both at a personal and community level, in which wounded hearts are still painful. I am well aware that, in your hearts as Pastors, this gives rise to bitterness and concern. The Pope and the Church are with you in prayer and in active support for your programmes to assist those who live in your territories, without any form of discrimination. I therefore encourage you to spare no energies in supporting the weak, helping – in all ways possible – those who have a legitimate and honest desire to remain in the land of their birth, bring succour to the spiritual hunger of those who believe in the indelible values, born of the Gospel, that throughout the centuries have nurtured the life of your communities”.

“The society in which you live has a multicultural and multi-ethnic dimension. And you have been entrusted the task of being fathers to all, in spite of material limits and the crisis within which you work. May your heart always be large enough to accommodate all, just as the heart of Christ is able to receive in itself – with divine love – every human being. Every Christian community knows that it is called upon to open itself up and to irradiate the light of the Gospel; it cannot stay closed within its traditions, noble though they may be. It must come out of its 'enclosure', firm in faith, supported by prayer and encouraged by pastors, to live and announce the new life of which it is a depository, that of Christ, Saviour of all men. From this perspective, I encourage the initiatives that can extend the presence of the Church beyond liturgical parameters, assuming with imagination every other action that may affect society, bringing with it the fresh spirit of the Gospel. … Seek to promote a solid social pastoral ministry in relation to the faithful, especially the young, to ensure that consciences are formed, willing to remain in their own territories as agents and key actors in the reconstruction and the growth of your country, from which they cannot expect only to receive. In this educational and pastoral work, the social doctrine of the Church is of valid assistance. It is also a way of overcoming the residue of old materialism that still persists in the mentality and behaviour of some sectors of the society in which you live”.

The Pope remarks that the ministry of the prelates of Bosnia and Herzegovina assumes various dimensions – pastoral, ecumenical and interreligious – and underlines the intense work that they carry out in these sectors, an expression of their paternity towards the people entrusted to them. “I encourage you and remind you that, while with respect for all, this does not absolve you of the need to give open and frank testimony of your belonging to Christ. The priests, men and women religious and lay faithful, who live in close contact with citizens of different religious traditions, are able to offer you valid advice regarding your mixed communities. I consider an approach of this type to be wise as it may bear the seeds and fruits of pacification, understanding and collaboration”.

With reference to the relationship between clergy and men and women religious, Francis comments, “I know through direct experience the complexity of these relations, as well as the difficulties in harmonising their respective charisms. But the most important fact is that in both dimensions … a single mission is pursued: to serve the Kingdom of Christ. … In this year dedicated to Consecrated Life, we must show that all charisms and ministries are destined to the glory of God and the salvation of all men, taking care to ensure that these are effectively orientated towards the edification of the Kingdom of God and not contaminated by partial aims; that they are carried out in a regime of human and fraternal communion, bearing each other's burdens with a spirit of service”.

The Pontiff concludes with “a personal word between bishops, as is appropriate in full charity”. “I am aware that historical events make Bosnia and Herzegovina different in many areas. And yet you are a single body: you are Catholic bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter, in a frontier location. One word alone emerges spontaneously from my heart: you are in communion. Although at times imperfect, such communion is to be pursued vigorously at all levels, setting individual peculiarities aside. It is necessary to act on the basis of your belonging to the same Apostolic College; other considerations are of secondary importance and are to be analysed in the light of the catholicity of your faith and your ministry”.

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