Evangelization in Africa was highlighted again by the Holy Father when he delivered a speech to bishops of Tanzania, in Rome for their ad limina visits.
The Pontiff first said that we must all give thanks to God for the many gifts with which the Church of Tanzania is blessed, especially its impressive history of missionary work throughout the region.
Pope Francis said: “Building upon the zeal and sacrifices of the first evangelizers, you must always maintain and foster this missionary imperative, so that the Gospel may increasingly permeate every work of the apostolate and shed its light on all areas of Tanzanian society. In this way, a new and dynamic chapter in the great missionary and evangelical history of your country will be written.”
He continued, the work of evangelization in Tanzania “is not merely a remarkable event of the past; no, it happens every day in the Church’s pastoral work in parishes, in the liturgy, in the reception of the sacraments, the educational apostolate, health care initiatives, catechesis, and in the lives of ordinary Christians. It is carried out whenever faithful believers stir up the minds and hearts of those who, for whatever reason, are weak in living out the grace of the Gospel. It happens above all – through words and through integrity of life – by proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified and risen to those who do not know the joy that comes from loving him and surrendering their lives to him.”
Pope Francis recognized the witness fof missionary discipleship. He noted the contributions of those who work in the Church’s healthcare apostolate and who care for those who suffer for HIV/AIDs. He also highlighted the work of those who educate others about sexual responsibility and chastity.
Pope Francis discussed the role of priests. The need for “holy, well-educated and zelous priests is always great,” he noted. He also said, “As men of deep wisdom and genuine spiritual leaders, priests will be a source of inspiration for their flock, and draw many young men to respond generously to the Lord’s call to serve his people in the priesthood.”
The Holy Father underscored the contributions of lay faithful to evangelization, which were particularly evident through two recent ecclesial events: the National Eucharistic Congress of 2012 and the Seminar held close to the Year of Faith. He said that when lay faithful make all possible efforts to provide catechists with a thorough understanding of Church doctrine, this act “will equip them not only to counter the challenges of superstition, aggressive sects and secularism, but even more importantly, to share the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith with others, particularly the young. In fidelity to the mission received at baptism, each member of the Church will then be able to renew the Church and society as a leaven from within.”
Toward his conclusion, the Holy Father stressed that the work of evangelization begins in the home. He noted that appreciation for family is a quality which is very alive in Africa.
Pope Francis elaborated: “May our encounter today be an incentive to review your common response to that Synod’s call for a more energetic apostolate to the family, through uncompromising and selfless spiritual and material assistance (cf. Africae Munus, 43). By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania, one which, coupled with her educational and healthcare apostolates, will surely foster greater stability and progress in your country.”
He closed with some final comments: “I am particularly encouraged to know that Tanzania is committed to ensuring the freedom that followers of various religions enjoy to practice their faith. The ongoing protection and promotion of this fundamental human right strengthens society by enabling believers, in fidelity to the dictates of their conscience and in respect for the dignity and rights of all, to advance social unity, peace and the common good.” He prayed that their example inspires others.
Lastly, he called for Mary’s intercession and imparted his Apostolic blessing. (D.C.L.)