Pope Francis received the bishops of Congo on the occasion of their ad limina visit this morning and exhorted them to freely proclaim the Gospel in a credible way.
After praising the vitality of the Church in their nation, Francis lauded the bishops’ promoting the mission of the laity in the Church and society.
Priests, the Pope went on to say, are the bishops’ first collaborators and as a result, their living conditions and sanctification must be central to their concerns.
“The immense pastoral needs of the local Church require rigorous discernment, so that the People of God are able to count on zealous pastors who edify the faithful through their testimony of life, especially in relation to celibacy and the spirit of evangelical poverty.”
The Pope also said that in some dioceses there are great difficulties due to the lack of available financial and material resources.
While acknowledging the magnitude of the problems and the worries related to this situation in the heart of a pastor, the Argentine Pontiff exhorted the bishops “to resolutely engage your dioceses in embarking on the path of autonomy, a gradual takeover of control and solidarity between the particular Churches in your country, following a tradition that dates back to the first Christian communities.”
“In this respect, you must be careful to ensure that economic aid to your particular Churches in support of your specific mission does not limit your freedom as pastors or obstruct the freedom of the Church, which must have a free hand to proclaim the Gospel in a credible way,” he said.
In-depth evangelization, the Jesuit Pope acknowledged, is another great challenge for the bishops, and requires “special attention to the concrete conditions of life for the populations; that is, ultimately, to the development of the human person.”
"As pastors,” Francis reminded them, “continue to ensure that your social ministry is increasingly carried out in the spirit of the Gospel and perceived as a work of evangelization, and not as the action of a non-governmental organization.”
Pope Francis concluded, noting that in certain sectors of society, Congo still suffers from crises it has endured. “In this respect, in particular, the Church, strong in the Gospel of Jesus, has received the mission of building new fraternity anchored in forgiveness and solidarity. You, pastors, continue to be models and prophets in this sense!” (D.C.L.)