On Sept. 6, the Holy Father received in audience, in the Clementine Hall, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, on the occasion of their visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.”
Here is a translation of the text of the address the Pope gave to the Prelates in the course of the meeting.
THE HOLY FATHER’S ADDRESS
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I give you my welcome. I am very happy to meet with you on the occasion of your visit ad limina! I thank Monsignor Samuel Kleda, President of your Episcopal Conference, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf. I ask you to transmit my warm greetings to all your diocesans, in particular to the priests, the men and women religious, the laity engaged in pastoral service as well as all the inhabitants of Cameroon. I also address a fraternal greeting to Cardinal Christian Tumi. May your prayer at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul comfort you in faith and perseverance for the exercise of your pastoral charge, at the service of the people entrusted to you. They are for us the models we must follow in the total gift that they have made of themselves – to the price of their blood – to Christ and to his Gospel.
Your visit gives me the occasion to renew to you my encouragement and my confidence, and to stress the spirit of communion that you have at heart to keep with the Apostolic See. For the Gospel to touch and convert hearts profoundly, we must in fact remember that it is only by being united in love that we can give witness in a genuine and effective way. Unity and diversity are for you realities to maintain firmly connected to do justice to the human and spiritual richness of your dioceses, which is expressed in many ways. Moreover, I hope that the good collaboration between the Church, the State and the Cameroonian society as a whole, which was manifested recently by the signing of an Agreement
-Framework between the Holy See and the Republic of Cameroon, will bear abundant fruits. I invite you to put that Agreement to work concretely, as the juridical recognition of numerous ecclesial institutions will give them greater influence, for the benefit not only of the Church , but of the whole of Cameroonian society.
In this connection, I wish to greet the considerable engagement of your local Churches in a great number of social works. This engagement in educational, health, and charitable areas is recognized and appreciated by the Civil Authorities; it must be the place of a fruitful collaboration between the State and the Church, in full respect of the latter. Engagement in social works is an integral part of evangelization, as there is a profound connection between evangelization and human promotion. The latter must be expressed and developed in all evangelizing action (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 178). Therefore, I encourage you to persevere in the care you give to the weak, by supporting materially and spiritually all those who consecrate themselves there, in particular the members of the religious Institutes and the associated laymen. My heartfelt thanks to them all for the dedication and genuine witness they give of the love of Christ for all men.
Your evangelizing action will be rendered that much more effective, so that the Gospel is really lived by those who have received it and professed it. Found there is the means to attract to Christ those who still do not know him, by showing them the strength of his love which is capable of transforming and illumining men’s life. It is only in this way that we can face, in vigilance but with serenity, the development of many new propositions that seduce spirits without renewing hearts profoundly. Moreover, the important presence of Muslims in certain of your dioceses, is a pressing invitation to witness courageously and joyfully faith in the Risen Christ. To develop the dialogue of life with Muslims, in a spirit of mutual trust is indispensable today to maintain a climate of peaceful coexistence, and to discourage the development of violence of which Christians are victims in certain regions of the Continent.
It seems to me essential, then, as a priority, to pursue your action aimed at implanting and strengthening the faith in the hearts of the faithful. Formation is an essential element in the development of the People of God, particularly in these times when relativism and secularization are beginning to take root in Africa. Very many lay persons are involved in their parishes and in movements, and they are indeed vital to the handing on of the faith. Their formation must be solid and ongoing. I ask you to convey to these lay faithful and to all involved in this work of formation my appreciation and my warmest encouragement.
Families, equally, must continue to be the focus of your particular care, especially today as they experience grave hardships – be they poverty, displacement of peoples, lack of security, the temptation to return to ancestral practices incompatible with the Christian faith, or even new lifestyles proposed by a secularized world. I invite you to take full advantage of the tenth Plenary Assembly of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa held in the Congo, in whose work you took part, and which – I have no doubt – will bear abundant fruit.
Moreover, it is essential that the clergy give witness of a life inhabited by the Lord, coherent with the exigencies and principles of the Gospel. I wish to express to all the priests my thanks for the apostolic zeal of which they make proof, often in difficult and precarious conditions, and I assure them of my closeness and my prayer. It is appropriate, nevertheless, to remain vigilant in the discernment and support of priestly vocations – thanks be to God, numerous in Cameroon – and also to support the permanent formation and the spiritual life of priests for whom you are attentive fathers, while the temptations of the world are numerous, in particular those of power, of honors and of money. On this last point in particular, the adverse witness that could be given by bad management of goods, personal enrichment or waste would be particularly scandalous in a region where many people lack the necessary.
Moreover, the unity of the clergy is an indispensable element of witness rendered to the Risen Christ: “that they may all be one, so that the world will believe” (John 17:21); it is a question of the unity of Bishops, often confronted by the same challenges and called to contribute common and concerted solutions, or of the unity of the presbyterium which the Lord calls to build each day overlooking the prejudices, notably the ethnic.
Finally, consecrated life calls for such support, so that, rooted in Christ at the service of the Kingdom, it remains always a prophetic witness and a model in the matter of reconciliation, of justice and of peace (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 117). I invite you to contribute your support to the religious Institutes in their efforts of human and spiritual formation, and to accept and support, with prudent discernment, new initiatives.
Dear brothers, may the courageous efforts of evangelization that you deploy in your pastoral ministry bear numerous fruits of conversion. I invite you to render thanks without ceasing and to renew the gift of yourselves to Christ and to the people entrusted to you. Without fearing the difficulties, you will go forward courageously, with a renewed missionary spirit, in order to take the Good News to all those that still await it or who are in greatest need of it. I entrust you all, as well as your dioceses, to the intercession of Saint John Paul II, who visited your country twice, and to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. May God bless you!
[Original text: French]
[Translation by ZENIT]