Pope: Even Where Church Is the Minority, We See Her Contributions

Lauds African Bishops Who Form 1 Episcopal Conference From 4 Countries

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Pope Francis says that the key to overcoming difficulties is to attach oneself to Christ.

Speaking to the bishops of the episcopal conference of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, on the occasion of the visit “ad Limina Apostolorum,” the Holy Father told them that despite the difficulties in their countries, including having a Christian minority, they can have “peaceful coexistence” if their people have deep-rooted faith and families are strengthened.

Although their episcopal conference gathers bishops from four countries, which are different in language, geography, culture and history, he applauded that they feel «compelled» to meet and to support one another mutually in the ministry, and do so.

“It is important that you be able to manifest this communion in difference, which is, already in itself, a genuine witness rendered to the Risen Christ,” he said, especially in a world “where too many conflicts divide peoples.»

What is needed, the Pontiff stressed, is a more “profound rooting of the faith in hearts,” so that it is really put into practice in life.

He reminded them that faith is a gift which must “always be strengthened,” and which today is “menaced in many ways.”

To remain always faithful to Christ, despite the difficulties, he said, is necessary “to love and attach oneself to Him with ardor.” 

Given this, he said, it is appropriate for laity to “receive a solid doctrinal and spiritual formation, and constant support, to be capable of rendering witness to Christ.”


Recalling the emphasis placed on family ministry during the Synod of Bishops this October in the Vatican, he said this must be the “object of particular attention,” because the family is the basic cell of society and of the Church.

“It is the place where the rudiments of faith and elementary principles of common life are taught and, very often, the place where priestly and religious vocations are born, of which your Churches are in need,” the Pope said.

In addition, he said the formation of priests plays a pivotal role for the nations’ future.

“Your countries experience very different situations, but the primacy of quality over quantity remains necessary everywhere. On one hand, it entails that priestly formation, which must be at the same time in an interactive manner, spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and pastoral, must be of quality.”

«Likewise, contact with other religions is a particularly present reality in certain of your dioceses, especially because «Islam is greatly in the majority there, in conditions of mutual relations between very different communities from one place to another.»

He stressed how important it is that clerics receive in the seminary a formation that «is even more structured,» in order to develop «on the spot, a constructive dialogue with Muslims,» one that is «increasingly necessary to live with them in a peaceful coexistence.»

“Even where the Church is much in the minority – even totally on the margin of civil life – she is, nevertheless, appreciated and recognized for her significant contribution in the areas of human promotion, health and education.”

The Pope concluded, saying, “Some of your Churches are small, fragile, but they are courageous and generous in the proclamation of the faith, and you have given witness of their real dynamism. I thank God for the wonders that He accomplishes among you.”


On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full Translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-bishops-of-senegal-mauritania-cape-verde-and-guinea-bissau

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