Pope Urges Exanimation of Conscience for Catholics in Central Africa

Concern for Ethnic Conflicts arising in Great Lakes Region

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).-Amidst arising ethnic conflicts in the Great Lakes Region, John Paul II urged the Central African Bishops to encourage Catholics to examine their conscience on the consistency of their witness.

This appeal is included in a letter published by the Vatican today, addressed to Bishop Frederic Rubwejanga of Kibungo, president of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa, which held an extraordinary assembly in Kigali Rwanda´s capital.

The Holy Father told the African Bishops, that in order to fulfill «just aspirations for peace, justice, and solidarity, it is of utmost importance that the Church in your region truly question itself, not only on the credibility of your presentation of its message, but also on the credibility of those who transmit it.»

«The credibility of the Church in Africa depends on the witness given by its members, inspired by a profound evangelical and moral sense,» the Pope added.

«By always being an example to the Christian people, you will help the faithful in their relentless battle against the seeds of division and ethnic struggles, which weaken the Church´s witness and fuel fraternal hatred,» the papal letter continued.

The Bishops of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa are from Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, three countries marked by ethnic violence.

John Paul II was severe in his condemnation of these acts of violence, «which not only constitute a permanent denial of God´s plan to bring together in unity all his scattered children,» but, moreover, «deny the vocation of man, to whom the Creator has entrusted the responsibility to cooperate with his work, working tirelessly in unconditional respect for life and the dignity of every human being.»

«To promote respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and human groups in keeping with their integral development, the Catholic Church is called to be committed on the side of all those men and women of good will in order to foster a new era of peace, justice, and effective solidarity in the Great Lakes region,» the Pope said.

«May courageous witnesses of a new hope for the whole region arise in the Africa of the Great Lakes,» the Pope concluded.

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