Pope to DRC Bishops: Work for Society Based on Respect for Human Dignity

Shares His Concerns for Congolese Youth, Urges Fidelity to the Gospel in Ad Limina Message

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The education of young people in order to overcome violence and inequality, the participation of the Church in building society and the consolidation of peace and her mission in aid of “those whom life has wounded” were the main issues in the discourse Pope Francis handed to the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

“The Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a young Church”, writes the Holy Father. “However, it is also a Church of youth. Children and adolescents, in particular, need God’s strength to help them resist the many temptations of a precarious life in which they are unable to study or find work.I am sympathetic to their plight, and I know you share their sorrows, their joys and hopes. I think with horror especially of those children and young people conscripted into militias and forced to kill their own countrymen. I encourage you, therefore, to pursue the pastoral care of youth. By providing the greatest assistance possible, especially through the creation of spaces for human, spiritual and professional formation, you can help them discover their deepest vocation that predisposes them to encounter the Lord”.

“The most effective way to overcome violence, inequality and ethnic divisions is to equip the young with a critical mind and to offer them the opportunity to mature an understanding of Gospel values. It is also necessary to strengthen pastoral care in universities and in Catholic and public schools, combining education with the clear proclamation of the Gospel. … Similarly, to face the problem of family breakdown, caused in particular by war and poverty, it is essential to promote and encourage all initiatives to strengthen the family, the source of brotherhood and the foundation and first road to peace”.

“Fidelity to the Gospel also implies that the Church participates in the construction of the city. One of the most valuable contributions that the local church can offer your country is to help people rediscover the relevance of faith in daily life and the need to promote the common good. Similarly, leading figures in the nation, enlightened by pastors and in relation to their skills, can also be supported in incorporating Christian teachings in their personal lives and in the exercise of their duties in the service of the state and society. In this sense, the Magisterium of the Church, especially the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation “Africae munus” and the recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”, are invaluable tools”.

The Pope urges the Congolese bishops to “work tirelessly for the establishment of a just and lasting peace through a pastoral of dialogue and reconciliation among the various sectors of society, supporting the process of disarmament, and promoting effective collaboration with other religious denominations”. He emphasises that at this time, when the country is currently experiencing political events that are important for the future, “it is necessary for the Church to make her contribution, avoiding the risk of becoming substitute for political institutions and temporal realities that must retain their autonomy”. In particular, pastors must be careful not to take on roles that rightfully belong to the lay faithful, whose mission is justly that of bearing witness to Christ and the Gospel in politics and in all other areas of their activities”.

After highlighting the need for collaboration between all pastoral workers in the various fields of the apostolate, especially in education, health and charitable aid, Francis reminds the prelates that there are high expectations of them “in defence of spiritual and social values”, and he urges them to “provide guidance and solutions for the promotion of a society based on respect for the dignity of the human person”. In this regard, “attention to the poor and needy, as well as the elderly, the sick and disabled, should be the subject of adequate pastoral care under constant review”. Indeed, “the Church is called to be concerned with the wellbeing of these people and to bring the attention of society and public authorities to their situation”.

The Holy Father concludes by encouraging the bishops to be “men of hope for the people” and gave thanks for the work of all missionaries, priests, religious and other pastoral workers dedicated to the service of “those who have been wounded by life, the victims of violence, especially in the most isolated and remote areas of the country”, and reserved special mention for “the internally displaced and the many people who come from neighbouring countries”.

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