CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made an impassioned appeal to overcome the violence bloodying regions of Uganda.
The Pope made his appeal when he met with bishops of Uganda who have been in Rome since Sept. 10 on their five-yearly “ad limina” visit.
“Sadly, parts of your country are currently embroiled in situations of armed conflict and anarchy,” the Holy Father lamented on Saturday. “In the north especially, the bane of warfare is bringing untold misery, suffering and death, striking out even at the Church and targeting her ministers and her children.”
In those areas, rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army trying to topple the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni are battling with the Acholi, Teso and Lango peoples. Along with their killing, they are kidnapping hundreds of minors and turning them into child-soldiers. They are also forcing women to become concubines for rebel leaders.
“In the west and the northeast, too, episodes of violence and hostility afflict the land, draining the life and energies of your people,” the Pope added. “Assuring you and your people of my spiritual closeness in these dire circumstances, I join you in condemning every act of bloodshed and destruction.”
“I make an urgent appeal to the parties involved to reject aggression and to commit themselves to working with their fellow citizens, courageously and in truth, to build a future of hope, justice and peace for all Ugandans,” he exhorted.
The Pontiff urged the bishops “to do all that you can to foster among yourselves a true spirit of solidarity and fraternal concern, especially by sharing resources, both material and spiritual, with other local Churches that are in need.”
“As bishops, you have a serious duty to address issues of particular importance for the social, economic, political and cultural life of your country, to make the Church ever more effectively present in those areas,” he said.
“This is the time for Catholics — together with other Christians — to bring the freshness of the Gospel to the struggle to defend and promote the fundamental values upon which a society truly worthy of man is built,” he stressed.
“Especially important in this same context,” the Pope added, “are efforts aimed at overcoming tribal conflicts and ethnic tensions, for such rivalries have no place in the Church of Christ and serve only to weaken the overall fabric of society.”