Pope's Address to European, African Bishops

«May the Family Be at the Center of Your Attention as Pastors»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday when he received participants in the Second Symposium of European and African Bishops, which began Monday. The prelates examined the theme of «Evangelization today: pastoral communion and cooperation between Africa and Europe.» The symposium concluded today with a pilgrimage to the Italian shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to receive you at the end of the Symposium of Bishops of Africa and Europe and I greet you all with great affection, in particular Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, and Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, president of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, thanking them for the kind expressions with which they opened our meeting. I express my heartfelt appreciation to all those who promoted the days of study, during which you addressed the topic of evangelization today in your lands, in the light of the reciprocal communion and pastoral collaboration that was established during the first symposium in the year 2004.

With you I thank God for the spiritual fruits that have flowed from the relationships of friendship and cooperation between the ecclesial communities of your Continents in the course of these years. Beginning from different cultural, social and economic environments, you have valued the common apostolic tension to proclaim to your people Jesus Christ and his Gospel, in the style of «exchange of gifts.» Continue on this fruitful path of active fraternity and unity of intentions, widening ever more the horizons of evangelization. For the Church in Europe, in fact, the meeting with the Church in Africa is always a moment of grace because of the hope and joy with which the African ecclesial communities live and communicate the faith, as I have been able to see in my apostolic journeys. Moreover, it is beautiful to see how the Church in Africa, though living amid so many difficulties and with the need of peace and reconciliation, is willing to share her faith.

In the relations between the Church in Africa and the Church in Europe, you must take care to have present the fundamental bond between faith and charity, so that they illumine one another in their truth. Charity fosters openness and encounter with the man of today, in his concrete reality, to take to him Christ and his love for every person and every family, especially for those who are poorest and alone. «Caritas Christi urget nos»(2 Corinthians 5:14); it is in fact the love of Christ that fills hearts and drives to evangelize. The divine Teacher, today as then, sends his disciples on the roads of the world to proclaim his message of salvation to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7).

The challenges you have before you today are demanding. I am thinking, in the first place, of religious indifference, which leads many people to live as if God does not exist or to be content with a vague religiosity, incapable of contending with the question of truth and the duty of coherence. Today, above all in Europe, but also in some parts of Africa, the weight is felt of the secularized environment, often hostile to the Christian faith. Another challenge for the proclamation of the Gospel is hedonism, which has contributed to making the crisis of values penetrate daily life, the structure of the family, and the very way of interpreting the meaning of existence. Symptom of a situation of grave social unease is also the spread of phenomena such as pornography and prostitution. You are well aware of these challenges, which stir your pastoral conscience and your sense of responsibility. They must not discourage you but, rather, constitute an occasion to renew your commitment and hope, hope that is born from the awareness that the night is far gone, the day is at hand (cf. Romans 13:12), because the Risen Christ is always with us. In the societies of Africa and Europe not a few good forces are present, many of which lead to the parishes and are distinguished for their commitment to personal holiness and the apostolate. I hope that, with your help, they will be able to become increasingly living and vital cells of the New Evangelization.

May the family be at the center of your attention as Pastors: it, the domestic Church, is also the most solid guarantee for the renewal of society. In the family, which guards usages, traditions, customs, rites permeated by faith, the most adequate terrain is found for the flowering of vocations. Today’s consumerist mentality can have negative repercussions on the awakening and care of vocations; hence the need to pay particular attention to the promotion of priestly vocations and special consecrations. The family is also the formative fulcrum of youth. Europe and Africa need generous young people, who are able to take responsible charge of their future, and all the Institutions must have very present that the future is enclosed in these young people and that it is important to do everything possible so that their path is not marked by uncertainty and darkness. Dear Brothers, follow with special care their human and spiritual growth, encouraging also initiatives of volunteer work that can have educational value.

The cultural dimension assumes an important role in the formation of the new generations. You know well how much the Church esteems and promotes every genuine form of culture, to which she offers the richness of the Word of God and of the grace that flows from the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Church respects every discovery of truth, because all truth comes from God, but she knows that the gaze of faith fixed on Christ opens the mind and heart of man to the First Truth, which is God. Thus culture nourished by faith leads to true humanization, whereas false cultures end by leading to de-humanization: we have had sad examples in Europe and Africa. Culture, therefore, must be a constant concern in your pastoral action, always having very present that the light of the Gospel is inserted in the cultural fabric elevating it and making it fertilize the riches.

Dear friends, your Symposium has offered you the occasion to reflect on the problems of the Church in the two Continents. They are certainly never lacking and at times considerable; but, on the other hand, they are also the proof that the Church is alive, that she is growing, and is not afraid to fulfill her evangelizing mission. Because of this, she is in need of prayer and of the commitment of all the faithful; in fact, evangelization is an integral part of the vocation of all the baptized, which is a vocation to holiness. Christians who have a lively faith are open to the action of the Holy Spirit becoming witnesses with the word and life of the Gospel of Christ. Entrusted to Pastors, however, is a particular responsibility. Hence, «Your own holiness must be outstanding, to the benefit of those entrusted to your pastoral care, those whom you must serve. Your life of prayer will nourish your apostolate from within. The bishop must be someone in love with Christ. The moral authority and the prestige that uphold the exercise of your juridical power can only come from the holiness of your life» (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus, 100).

I entrust your spiritual proposals and your pastoral projects to the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization, while imparting from my heart to you, to the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Europe and to all your priests and faithful, a special Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation