Cardinal Martino Urges African Bishops to Tackle Root of Conflicts

Suggests They Set Up a “Social Analysis Lab” to Study Continent’s Problems

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KINSHASA, Congo, JULY 8, 2004 ( A Vatican official urged Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian bishops to question themselves about “the social mission of the Church today” and its role in the beleaguered Great Lakes region.

“The Church has the right to express herself on politics and other issues of life because she is mother, teacher and ‘expert in humanity,'” Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Tuesday when addressing the Association of the Central African Episcopal Conferences.

Cardinal Martino reminded the bishops that John Paul II recently underlined the challenges Africa must address and the need to continue the efforts to put into practice the decisions made at the end of the African Synod of 1994, the pontifical council said in a note sent to the Missionary Service News Agency.

He suggested that the bishops provide themselves with “a social analysis laboratory to study the problems of the continent.”

The bishops’ “reflections” and “social analyses” must be followed by “deeds that lead to a concerted action by the local Churches, both at the level of a national episcopal conference as well as among the respective episcopal conferences gathered in regional associations,” the cardinal said.

He also encouraged the bishops to “promote a constructive dialogue with political leaders at different levels on national and regional interests.”

The cardinal highlighted the courage of the region’s bishops, reflected in their pastoral letters and in their “contribution to the process of pacification and democratization” of their countries. He also stressed the importance of collaboration with other creeds.

It “is not enough to condemn the manipulation of the ethnic factor to cause conflicts or fuel existing ones,” Cardinal Martino said.

“It is also necessary that the Church question herself on her universal mission in relation to these particularities and be determined to reject all exclusions of the other of a racial, ethnic or tribal base,” he said.

“It is important to combat the causes of war,” the cardinal said, highlighting the need to struggle against the “poverty and misery of the people, the idolatry of ethnicity and all kinds of extremism, conflicts and economic interests, corruption, and poor public management, loss of spiritual identity and ethical points of reference” to “avoid their becoming detonators of new tensions.”

The cardinal added that the Church can contribute by committing itself in the field of education so as not to lose contact with the family dimension, in addition to the health sector, “in particular, to address AIDS and other pandemics such as tuberculosis.”

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