Pope Francis says that when family life is endangered, then the life of faith is also put at risk, which is why bishops must be actively building up the family.
Addressing Zambian bishops at the Vatican this morning on the occasion of their ad limina meetings, Pope Francis acknowledged, “Despite great challenges which militate against stability in social and ecclesial life,” Zambians continue “to seek a happy and fulfilling future in the Church and in society.”
After reflecting on the beginnings of the Church in Zambia and how it is active and strong today, he drew attention to areas where work can be done.
Since the family is the fundamental cell of society, Francis said, it is especially important for bishops to give them support, especially through catechizing. “For it is here that the Church’s well-being in Zambia must grow and be fostered.”
If families understand and love the truths of the faith more deeply, he said, they will “be protected from those currents which may tempt them to fall away.”
The Pope also urged the African bishops to be close to their young people as they seek to establish and define their identities “in a ‘disorienting age’” and to help them to find their purpose, their vocation.
The Jesuit Pope also told the bishops to invite those “who have grown lukewarm and feel lost” to return to the full practice of the faith.
As pastors of the flock, he said they cannot forget to seek out the weakest members of Zambian society, including those who are materially poor and afflicted with AIDS.
“Despite all that the Church in Zambia faces,” he said, “it is a time not to be discouraged but rather to offer the true freedom which only the Lord can give, sustained by the sacraments.”
“I encourage you to remain sensitive as shepherds to the spiritual and human needs of your closest coworkers: never tire of being kind and firm fathers to your priests, helping them resist materialism and the standards of the world, while recognizing their just needs.
The Holy Father reminded them that the Church’s mission to evangelize never ends.
Given this, Pope Francis said, “It is imperative to evangelize cultures in order to inculturate the Gospel… Each culture and social group needs purification and growth. Then the People of God in Zambia will receive the gift of the Gospel from you with fresh vigour.”
Zambia is a mostly Christian country, though it is three-quarters Protestant, with Catholics making up about 20% of the population. It has 11 dioceses/archdioceses.
On Zenit’s Web page: