.- Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with a number of Bishop’s from Africa’s often violence-ridded Ivory Coast, to whom he explained that although the road to peace is long and difficult, the Church must strive to build a “world of reconciliation.”
The prelates, all members of the Episcopal Conference of the Ivory Coast, have just completed their regular "ad limina" visits.
The Holy Father told the group that after reading the reports they had presented him on the tense and often violent political situation in their region, he is praying that their nation "may find unity and peace in true fraternity among all her citizens."
In 2002, the country, which was once called a model of stability, slipped into a violent civil war which has divided the nation in two ever since.
The Pope said that "The crisis your country has been through highlighted the divisions that constitute such a deep wound in relations between the various components of society."
The resulting violence, he continued, "dealt a harsh blow to trust between people and the stability of the country, leaving much suffering in its wake.”
He told the prelates that “In order to recreate true peace, there must be generous forgiveness and true reconciliation among the individuals and groups affected. ... They must begin a courageous dialogue, examining ... the causes that gave rise to the conflict."
"The road to peace," Benedict stressed, "is long and difficult, but it is never impossible, and Catholics must take their place in this shared endeavor, because building a world of reconciliation is never something foreign to them."
He said that in order to achieve this lofty goal, "it is necessary…to restore confidence among Christ's followers, despite their differences of opinion…Faced with political or ethnic tensions in diocesan churches, bishops, priests and consecrated people must be models of fraternity and charity for everyone, contributing through word and deed to the construction of a unified and reconciled society."
The Pope told the bishops that in this light, their primary concern must be initial and permanent formation of priests. They must, he said ensure that priests had "an intense spiritual life," and also must "favor unity and fraternal life among them."
Evangelizing the laity
In their reports, the bishops mentioned "the urgent need for the formation of the laity" in their country. To this, the Holy Father said that “a deepening of the faith is truly necessary in order to resist the return of ancient practices or the lure of sects, and above all as a testimony to Christian hope in a complicated world of new and grave problems."
He said that "For the Church to be an ever clearer sign of what she truly is, and more adapted to her mission, attention must be given to the enculturation of the faith…This process, which is so important for announcing the Gospel to all cultures, must not compromise the specificity and integrity of the faith, rather it must help Christians to understand and experience the gospel message in their own cultures, abandoning practices that run counter to their baptismal promises."
Benedict went on, explaining that "The weight of traditional mentality is often an obstacle to the acceptance of the Gospel," and among the many questions facing the faithful, that of "commitment to the Sacrament of marriage is one of the most important.”
“Polygamy or de facto cohabitation with no kind of religious celebration,” he chided, “often constitute great obstacles." Therefore, "it is necessary to continue tirelessly in efforts to ensure that people, especially the young, accept that for Christians marriage is a way to sanctity."
In conclusion, the Pope noted the important growth of various ecclesial movements in the Ivory Coast’s dioceses, saying that these groups "contribute to providing a renewed missionary drive in Christian communities."
Likewise, he encouraged the movements to entrust themselves to the generosity of Christ, "remaining always rooted in His Church."
"Nonetheless," Benedict stressed, "these movements must be subject to enlightened and constant discernment by bishops, in order to guarantee the ecclesiality of their activities and to maintain authentic communion with the universal and diocesan Church."