Pope Francis has stressed the importance of collaboration with civil society, evangelization of a divided society, and formation of future clergy in an address to the bishops of Burundi.
Speaking to the bishops at the end of their ad limina visit Monday, the Pope mentioned the collaboration between the Holy See and the Republic of Burundi, which promised “a rich future for the proclamation of the Gospel.”
He referred to the formalization of a framework agreement that came into effect last February, and encouraged the bishops to continue participating in social and political dialogue and to meet with political figures without hesitation.
“Persons in positions of authority are the first to be in need of your witness of faith and your courageous proclamation of Christian values, to know better the social doctrine of the Church, appreciate its value and be inspired by it in the administration of public affairs,” he said.
Turning to evangelization, Francis acknowledged that Burundi, in its recent past, experienced terrible conflicts that continue to influence the unity of the people, causing deep wounds that are yet to heal.
Reconciliation is a significant priority, he said, and told the bishops that only an “authentic conversion of hearts to the Gospel can turn men to fraternal love and forgiveness, as to the extent that He reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for all. The profound evangelization of your people remains your first concern for ensuring true reconciliation.”
Turning to the third element of formation, the Pope stressed that the necessary intellectual formation of a priest is important, but not sufficient for formation to be a witness and live out this authentic conversion. Future clergy must receive, in addition, to the “necessary intellectual formation,” also “ a solid spiritual, human and pastoral formation.”
“These are the four pillars of formation,” he said, “Because it is through their lives, through their daily relations, that they bring the Gospel to all. An administrative approach should not prevail over a pastoral approach, and neither should concentrate on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.”
Pope Francis lauded the admirable work of religious congregations in education, hospitals and assistance to refugees, and reminded the prelates that many new communities formed require “careful and prudent discernment to guarantee a sound formation for their members, and to accompany the evolution they are called upon to live for the good of all the Church.” (D.C.L.)