.- Today in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo, shortly before his return to the Vatican this evening, the Pope received prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Mali. Benedict XVI called them to remain close to their flock, caring for the needs of priests, seminarians, and the laity.
The Pope called upon the bishops to be "zealous pastors who, as men of faith, guide the people of God with trust and courage, remaining close to everyone so as to engender hope, even in the most difficult situations."
Addressing the need for priests to remain spiritually grounded, Benedict said, contemplative and sacramental life are, “a real pastoral priority, which will help priests to respond decisively to the call to sanctity they received from the Lord and to their mission to guide the faithful on that same journey."
The Holy Father also reminded the Malian bishops of the need for the human formation of candidates for the priesthood. He called particular attention to how, “candidates' emotional maturity will help them to respond freely to a life of celibacy and chastity, a precious gift of God, and to maintain a firm and stable conscience throughout their lives."
The Pope also emphasized the need to form, "competent lay men and women to serve the common good", making them capable "of facing the daily challenges of the political economic, social and cultural fields."
Finally, the Pope expressed his satisfaction at the cordial relations that exist between the Catholic faithful of Mali and their Muslim compatriots. "It is legitimate," he said, "for each community to express its identity visibly, while maintaining mutual respect, recognizing the religious diversity of the national community and favoring peaceful coexistence at all levels of society. In this way it is possible to advance together, jointly committed to justice, harmony and peace."