Pontiff Thanks Bishops for Welcoming Refugees

Meets With West African Prelates

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is lauding the bishops of West Africa for assistance given to refugees and immigrants.

The Pope stated this today when he received in audience bishops of three West African countries where the pastors are united in one episcopal conference. These leaders, who were in Rome on their five-yearly visit, came from Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

«In your countries the Church is held in high regard for her contribution to the good of society especially in education, development and health care, offered to all without distinction,» the Pontiff stated.

He expressed particular appreciation for «the assistance you offer to refugees and immigrants» and he urged the bishops «to seek, when possible, pastoral cooperation from their countries of origin.»

The Holy Father affirmed, «The struggle against poverty must be carried out with respect for the dignity of all concerned by encouraging them to be the protagonists of their own integral development.»

He told the prelates: «You rightly encourage people in positions of authority to lead in the struggle against corruption by calling attention to the gravity and injustice of such sins. 

«In this regard, the spiritual and moral formation of lay men and women for leadership, through specialized courses in Catholic Social Doctrine, is an important contribution to the common good.»


Benedict XVI lauded the bishops for their «attention to the great gift which is peace,» and expressed a prayer «that the process of reconciliation in justice and truth, which you have rightly supported in the region, may produce lasting respect for all God-given human rights and defuse tendencies to retaliation and vengeance.»

He continued, «In your service to peace continue to promote dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam, so as to sustain the existing good relations and forestall any form of intolerance, injustice or oppression, detrimental to the promotion of mutual trust.»

«Working together in the defense of life and in the struggle against disease and malnutrition will not fail to build understanding, respect and acceptance,» the Pope said.

«Above all, a climate of dialogue and communion must characterize the local Church,» he said. «By your own example, lead your priests, religious and lay faithful to grow in understanding and cooperation, in listening to one another and in sharing initiatives.»

«The Church as the sign and instrument of the one family of God must bear clear witness to the love of Jesus our Lord and Savior,» the Pontiff affirmed, «that extends beyond ethnic frontiers and embraces all men and women.»


The majority of the population in Gambia (1.7 million inhabitants) is Muslim (90%), with some 8% Christian.

In Liberia, followers of traditional African religions represent 40% of the population of 4 million, Christians 40% and Muslims 20%. 

In Sierra Leone, the majority of the population of 6.4 million is Muslim (60%), but there are also followers of traditional African religions (30%), and Christians (10%). 

In that country, Christians, though a minority, are very active, said Bishop George Biguzzi of Makeni, Sierra Leone, on Vatican Radio.

«The Church is present in the whole national territory, both in Gambia as well as in Sierra Leone, thanks to schools, social works, the work of Caritas and development projects,» he explained. 

The bishop added, «It is a respected, significant presence that exceeds the number of Christians.» 

He stated that Sierra Leone and Gambia are also noting an increase in vocations to the priesthood, and the communities are characterized by the commitment of the laity in activities favoring the poor. 

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Benedict XVI’s address: www.zenit.org/article-29077?l=english

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