Receiving prelates from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, the Holy Father praised the growth of Christianity in their country and noted that the expansion of the Church calls for extra attention to the training of diocesan personnel, in order to deepen the faith of people in the region.
The Pontiff explained to the bishops, who were meeting with him after completing their “ad limina” visit last Saturday, that this formation and training could be achieved by: "teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance.”
It is from this basic foundation, he continued, that “faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community."
“You yourselves,” Benedict said to the bishops, “together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.”
The Holy Father then referred to the theme of “ethnic unrest,” one of the themes of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Africa. He encouraged the prelates to always “confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church."
“There is no place in the Church for any kind of division,” he explained. “All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives."
Finally, the Holy Father praised the bishops’ dedication to using Catholic principles to combat the country’s problems. “The natural law, inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being, and the Gospel, properly understood and applied to civic and political realities, do not in any way reduce the range of valid political options.”
In fact, they do the opposite, explained the Holy Father. “They constitute a guarantee offered to all citizens of a life of freedom, with respect for their dignity as persons, and protection from ideological manipulation and abuse based on the law of the strongest."
Pope Benedict ended the meeting by encouraging the prelates to continue expressing their authority in the “struggle against unjust practices and corruption against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping.”