The small minority of Catholics in the predominantly Muslim African country of Mali remains committed to mission by “good example and concrete works,” says Bishop Jean-Gabriel Diarra of San, Mali. Still, he said, there is the need to announce that these good works are animated by the Gospel.
Mali has a population of about 10 to 12 million, of whom 3 percent are Catholic. There are about 100 local priests, some missionary priests, such as the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), and orders of women religious.
“There are catechists and as everywhere in Africa, they too are extremely important,” the bishop told Fides while in Rome for the ad limina visit.
“In this context the Church wishes to be leaven which makes the dough rise, and light to illuminate civil society and institutions, and all men and women of goodwill. The Catholic community is structured like a Church-family where people know each other and help one another to live the Gospel.
“Lay Catholics are called to bear witness to the Gospel at work, with honesty, sincere and disinterested promotion of the common good. I am happy to say that I have heard non-Catholics say that we do not impose the Gospel, we live it.”
At the same time, the bishop says he reminds priests, religious and lay people that the Gospel must be announced. “I remember visiting a forest dispensary run by a religious order, an indispensable structure for several thousand people. I asked the people working there: Why are you here? Do you tell your patients why you care for them? The replies were somewhat reticent, almost as if not to hurt the feelings of non-Catholics.
“We must explain that we are animated by the Spirit of the Gospel: we do not want to impose our faith, but we do want to announce it,” he said. “The Church is not a non-governmental organization; it is at the service of the proclamation of the Word.”