Pope Francis' Ad Limina Address to Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo

«The most effective means to overcome violence, inequality as well as ethnic divisions, is to give the young a critical spirit and to propose a course to allow them to mature in Gospel values.»

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At 12 o’clock this afternoon, the Holy Father Francis received in audience, in the Hall of the Consistory, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the occasion of their Visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.”

Here is a translation of the text of the Pope’s address to the Prelates in the course of the meeting:



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

It is with great joy that I address to Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, and to each of you, my fraternal greetings, on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I thank Monsignor Nicolas Djomo Lola, President of your Episcopal Conference who, with your sentiments of faithful communion, presented some features of the life of the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, united in their witness to the dead and resurrected Christ to the supreme sacrifice, strengthens your bonds of communion with the Apostolic See, but also among you and with the Bishops of the whole world. In return, manifesting to you wholly my heartfelt appreciation for your dedication and zeal in the proclamation of the Gospel, I would also like to greet and encourage the priests, the consecrated persons and other pastoral agents who collaborate with you, as well as all the lay faithful of your dioceses.

With you, I am grateful to the Lord for the many gifts He has given the Church in your country. Family of God on the way to the Kingdom, it is made up of living communities whose members take part actively in liturgical celebrations and give a courageous witness of charity. According to the beautiful formula of the Psalmist, the Lord gave what is good and our land yielded its increase (cf. Psalm 85:13).

Fidelity to the Gospel implies that the Bishop lead and govern, with wisdom, the flock entrusted to him. The good shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him (cf. John 10:14). The presence, closeness and stability of the Bishop in his diocese is necessary to reassure the priests and the candidates to the priesthood, and for all the faithful to feel supported, followed and loved.

A major characteristic of the Church in your country is that she finds herself in full growth. It is such joy to see that Christian communities are developing! However, you know that the essential, for the Church, is not first of all a question of numbers but of a total adhesion without reservations to God revealed in Jesus Christ. The quality of faith in Christ dead and resurrected, profound communion with Him is at the base of the solidity of the Church. Consequently, it is of vital importance to evangelize in depth. Fidelity to the Gospel, to the Tradition and to the Magisterium are sure signs that guarantee the purity of the source to which you lead the People of God (cf. Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei, n. 36).

The Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which certain dioceses recently celebrated the first centenary of their evangelization, is a young Church. However, it is also a Church of the young. Children and adolescents, in particular, are in need of God’s strength to resist the many temptations stemming from the precariousness of their life, from the impossibility to purse studies or to find work. I am sensitive to their difficult situation, and I know that you share their sorrows, their joys and their hopes. I am thinking particularly with dread of those children and youths forcefully enrolled in militias and constrained to kill their own compatriots! Therefore, I encourage you to deepen the pastoral of the young. By offering them all the help possible, especially through the creation of places of human, spiritual and professional formation, you can reveal their profound vocation to them, which predisposes them to encounter the Lord.

The most effective means to overcome violence, inequality as well as ethnic divisions, is to give the young a critical spirit and to propose a course to allow them to mature in Gospel values (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 64). It is also necessary to reinforce the pastoral in Universities as well as in Catholic and public schools, by combining the educational task with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 132-134). Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I invite you to be apostles of youth in your dioceses.

In the same spirit, given the disintegration of the family, caused, in particular, by war and poverty, it is indispensable to appreciate and encourage all initiatives geared to consolidating the family, source of all fraternity, foundation and first path of peace (cf. Message for the XLVII World Day of Peace, 29014, n. 1).

Fidelity to the Gospel also implies that the Church participate in the building of the city. One of the most precious contributions that the local Church can make to your country is to help people to rediscover the pertinence of faith in daily life and the need to promote the common good. Likewise, the leaders of the country, on being enlightened by the pastors, and in respect of the competencies, can also be supported to integrate Christian teaching in their personal life and in the exercise of their function at the service of the State and of society. In this connection, the Magisterium of the Church, in particular the Encyclical Caritas in veritate, the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus as well as the recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, are a precious aid.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I invite you to work without respite for the instauration of a lasting and just peace, by a pastoral of dialogue and of reconciliation among the different sectors of the society, while supporting the process of disarmament, and by promoting an effective collaboration with the other religious confessions. When your country is going to hold important political meetings for its future, it is necessary that the Church make her contribution, while avoiding substituting the political institutions and temporal realities which keep their autonomy (cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 36). In particular, pastors must take care not to take the place that corresponds by right to the laity, whose mission in fact is to witness Christ and the Gospel in politics and in all the other areas of their activities (cf. Conciliar Decree Apostolicam actuositatem, nn. 4;7). Consequently, therefore, it is essential that the lay faithful are formed , and that you not cease to support them, to guide them and to issue criteria of discernment to enlighten them. In this connection, I do not doubt that you will continue to work to sensitize the public authorities in view to end the negotiations for the signing of an Agreement with the Holy See.

It is to be hoped that, in a spirit of solidarity and sharing, a closer collaboration is developed with all the pastoral actors who work in the different areas of the apostolate and of the social pastoral, in particular education, health and charitable aid. Many expect from you vigilance and solicitude in the defense of spiritual and social values: you are called to propose guidelines and solutions for the promotion of a society founded on respect of the dignity of the human person. To this effect, the care of the poor and the needy, such as aged, the sick or those suffering from handicaps, should be the object of an appropriate pastoral, re-examined ceaselessly. In fact, the Church is called to be concerned with the good of these people and to draw the attention of society and of public authorities to their situation. I greet and encourage the work of all the missionaries, priests, men and women religious and other pastoral agents who dedicate themselves to the service of the wounded in life, victims of violence, especially in the most isolated and remote regions of the country.  On evoking that subject, I have a spec
ial thought for internal refugees and those, numerous, who come from neighboring countries.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I would like to reiterate to you all my affection and my encouragement. Persevere in your generous engagement at the service of the Gospel! Be men of hope for your people! May the luminous witness of Blessed Marie Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta and of Blessed Isidore Bakanuja not cease to inspire you! While entrusting you to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I give you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing which I gladly extend to your collaborators, priests, religious and laymen, and to each of your dioceses.

[Original text: French] [Translation by ZENIT]
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