VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed to the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea to be an instrument of peace and healing in the troubled East African nations.
The Pope’s words, spoken in English, resonated today at the Ethiopian College, the only center of formation for seminarians and priests that is located inside the Vatican.
The Holy Father’s visit to the college was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its foundation, as well as the conclusion of the Eritrean and Ethiopian bishops’ five-yearly “ad limina” visit.
Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia with a referendum held in 1993, following three decades of war. As a sign of reconciliation, the bishops of Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to have only one episcopal conference, which has been meeting these days in Rome.
“The united witness that you give, transcending all political and ethnic divisions, has a vital role to play in bringing healing and reconciliation to the troubled region in which you live,” Benedict XVI told the bishops.
“When there is genuine commitment to following Christ, ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life,'” the Pope continued, “difficulties and misunderstandings of whatever kind can be overcome, because in him God has reconciled the world to himself and in him all people can find the answer to their deepest aspirations.
“As authentic teachers of the faith, help your people to understand that there can be no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness. In this way, you will be true sons of your Father in heaven.”
In Ethiopia, Catholics number about 465,000 in a country of 73 million. Almost half the population is Muslim and 35-40% Ethiopian Orthodox.
In Eritrea, Muslims are the majority, followed by Coptic Christians. Catholics number 137,000 in a population of 4.5 million.
The Holy Father called for ecumenical dialogue and encouraged the establishment of a Catholic university in Ethiopia.