Benedict XVI Encourages Zimbabwe's Bishops

Supports Their Work for Justice

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2005 ( Benedict XVI gave his public support to the bishops of Zimbabwe in their work to promote reconciliation and justice in their country.

The Pope addressed the situation of Church in Zimbabwe when he received the bishops on Saturday, at the end of their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.

«The recent elections in Zimbabwe have laid the basis for what I trust will be a new beginning in the process of national reconciliation and the moral rebuilding of society,» said the Holy Father.

«I appreciate the significant contribution to the electoral process which you offered to the Catholic faithful and to all your fellow citizens in your Joint Pastoral Statement published last year,» he added.

«As you rightly noted in that statement, responsibility for the common good demands that all members of the body politic work together in laying firm moral and spiritual foundations for the future of the nation,» explained Benedict XVI.

The bishops called on the government to uphold freedom of the press while the media were asked to be watchdogs of the human rights that are enshrined in the national constitution, and to be fair and truthful in their reporting.

The Pope also supported the recent pastoral letter «The Cry of the Poor,» published by the bishops of Zimbabwe.

In the document, the bishops’ conference decried a government program that has led to the demolition of shantytowns, and left innumerable families homeless.

Voice of Christ

With this letter, the Holy Father told the bishops, «you yourselves have brought the wisdom of the Gospel and the rich heritage of the Church’s social doctrine to bear upon the thinking and practical judgments of the faithful both in their daily lives and in their efforts to act as upright members of the community.»

«In the exercise of your episcopal ministry of teaching and governance, continue to provide clear and united leadership, grounded in an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation,» the Pope said to the bishops.

«In your preaching and teaching the faithful should be able to hear the voice of the Lord himself, a voice that speaks with authority of what is right and true, of peace and justice, of love and reconciliation, a voice that can console them in the midst of their troubles and show them the way forward in hope,» he stated.

Although the Holy Father referred to «the difficulties of the present moment,» he also said that «the Church in Zimbabwe can rejoice in the presence of so many communities vibrant in faith, a significant number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the presence of a committed laity devoted to various works of the apostolate.»

«As you return to your native land strengthened in faith and in the bond of ecclesial communion, I ask you to cooperate generously in the service of the Gospel, so that the light of God’s word will shine ever more brightly in the minds and hearts of Zimbabwe’s Catholics, inspiring in them a deeper love of Christ and a more firm commitment to the spread of his Kingdom of holiness, justice and truth,» said Benedict XVI.

In Zimbabwe, a country of 12.7 million inhabitants, Catholics comprise 8.5% of the population.

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