Pope Benedict XVI met with the bishops of Uganda this morning in the Vatican on the occasion of their “ad Limina” visit to the Holy See. He urged them to be strong in renewing evangelization in the east African country and resisting "the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism."
The President of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Bishop Matthias Ssekamanya, began the audience at noon on Friday with an address in which he reported that the Church in Uganda has had "some success" since the bishops' last visit to the Vatican. But, he added, "we have many challenges to meet for the spiritual, pastoral and material needs of our people."
The Holy Father addressed some of these concerns in his discourse, calling on the bishops to continue to make efforts “in the service of a more profound evangelization”of Africa, which was a major theme of the Synod of African bishops last October.
“The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people’s lives by changing for the better the way they think and act,” explained Pope Benedict.
The Pope exhorted them to encourage “full appreciation of the sacrament of marriage in its unity and dissolubility and the sacred right to life” amongst the faithful. He also urged the bishops to help the nation’s Catholics, including priests, to “resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries.”
Addressing the violence that has plagued the northeastern region of the country for two decades, the Holy Father asked them to continue to promote “lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation.”
In response to concerns about the influx of evangelists from a wide variety of denominations, the Holy Father told them that in the promotion of “true ecumenism,” they must make an effort to remain close to the people “who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects."
“Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power," the Pope told the Ugandan bishops, advising them that "in this way you will continue, as responsible Pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ.”
Going more in-depth on the topic of evangelization, Pope Benedict encouraged the Ugandan prelates to renew evangelization efforts, especially through education, thereby creating a “deeper Catholic culture.”
"As the first agents of evangelization," said the Pope, bishops have the vocation of bearing "clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ." So, he added, "In a spirit of Christian charity dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less" while also aiming to achieve self-sufficiency.”
"It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church,” Benedict XVI added.
Additionally, he asked them to maintain the paternal role of priests by always promoting vocations and providing constant support for religious men and women. With these priests and religious the bishops should promote “spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator,” Benedict XVI said.
At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father remembered the victims of recent landslides in the hilly Bududa region of Uganda, praying that the Lord “grant eternal rest of the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope” to survivors.