Pope Encourages Malawian Bishops to Nurture, Protect, Strengthen Families

Addresses African Prelates During Ad Limina Visit

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Pope Francis is calling on the bishops of Malawi to always keep in mind the realities of families in their efforts to spread the Gospel.

Speaking to the seven prelates of the bishops’ conference of Malawi on Thursday at the conclusion of their five-yearly “ad limina” visit, the Pope expressed his esteem for and confidence in the bishops.

“The effectiveness of your pastoral and administrative efforts is the fruit of your faith as well as of the unity and fraternal spirit that characterize your episcopal conference,” the Pope said. “I pray that your fellowship in ‘one heart and one soul’ may continue to be a hallmark of your ministry, and that it may always grow and continue to bear rich fruit.”

The Pope also praised the Malawian people who, despite developmental and economic problems, have remained committed to family life. He also reminded the bishops that it is their duty to nurture, protect and strengthen them.

“There is no aspect of family life – childhood and youth; friendship, engagement and marriage; spousal intimacy, fidelity and love; interpersonal relations and support – which is excluded from the healing and strengthening touch of God’s love, communicated through the Gospels and taught by the Church,” he said.

“There is scarcely a greater commitment that the Church can make to the future of Malawi – and indeed, to her own development – than that of a thorough and joyful apostolate to families.”

A more ‘complete human formation’

Regarding vocations in the southeast African country, Pope Francis said that the result of an apostolate to families would bring an increase in the numbers of those who enter the priesthood or religious life. With a genuine love for Christ and neighbor, he added, “there will be no shortage of generous priests and men and women consecrated to God in the religious life.”

The Pope also called on the prelates to support and listen to their priests, making them feel loved as a father loves a child. He highlighted the need for a more “complete human formation.” The 77-year-old Pontiff stressed that seminarians and religious must be adequately prepared for their pastoral ministry in Malawi.

“Well formed priests and religious in turn will be able joyfully and selflessly to offer the fruits of their formation in the service of the new evangelization, so necessary for Malawi and the whole world,” he said. He also reminded them of the Church’s responsibility to the youth, calling on the prelates to show them the fruits and joy of living according to the “moral demands of the Gospel.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, in particular the orphaned as well as parents who have lost their children to the disease. He called on the bishops to stay close to them, as well as expressing his gratitude for Catholic healthcare institutions in Malawi.

“How else could we be followers of the Lord if we did not personally engage in ministry to the sick, the poor, the dying and the destitute?” he asked them.

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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