Pope: No Room in Church for Narrow Minds

Urges Nigerian Bishops to Promote Unity in Face of Diversity

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Church doesn’t have room for narrow minds and ethnic conflicts, and needs to work toward unity in the face of diversity, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this Saturday when he received in audience bishops from Nigeria at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

He noted that one of the themes to be addressed at the upcoming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will be that of ethnic unrest: «The marvelous image of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the gathering of innumerable men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who have been ransomed by the blood of Christ, encourages you to confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church.»

The Holy Father expressed his appreciation for those who have «accepted a pastoral mission outside the limits of your own regional or linguistic group» and those who have welcomed and supported them in their mission. «Your readiness to adapt to others is an eloquent sign that, as the new family of all who believe in Christ.»

«There is no place in the Church for any kind of division,» he continued. «Catechumens and neophytes must be taught to accept this truth as they make their commitment to Christ and to a life of Christian love.

«All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives.»

Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops to continue to promote «important social and ecclesial reality of marriage and family life.»

«Courses for engaged couples, and general and specific catechetical teaching on the value of human life, marriage and the family will strengthen your faithful people for the challenges presented to them by changes in society,» he said. «Likewise do not fail to encourage associations or movements that validly assist married couples in living their faith and marriage commitments.»

The Pope praised the bishops of Nigeria for their efforts in interreligious dialogue, in particular with Islam. «With patience and perseverance, strong relations of respect, friendship and practical cooperation are being forged with other religious people.

«Through your efforts as diligent and untiring promoters of goodwill, the Church will become a clearer sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race.»

With regard to the bishops’ role in politics, the Holy Father noted the conference’s «dedication to derive from Catholic principles enlightened comments on current national problems.»

«With confidence in the Lord, continue to exercise your episcopal authority in the struggle against unjust practices and corruption and against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping,» he said. «By promoting Catholic social doctrine you offer your loyal contribution to your country and assist in the consolidation of a national order based on solidarity and a culture of human rights.»

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