The pontifical representatives from Africa were received on Saturday in Castelgandolfo by Pope John Paul II, who thanked them for their zeal and witness in difficult situations and for sharing in the suffering of the Churches which they serve.
The meeting marked the 10th anniversary of the Synod for Africa and the sixth anniversary of the post-synodal document "Ecclesia in Africa."
The Pope recalled Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi who was assassinated last December, saying "May his heroic witness infuse renewed vigor in everyone working for peace in Burundi and on the entire continent of Africa."
"I know," said John Paul II, "that you undertake your service with zeal and fidelity, in the midst of difficult situations, sharing the sufferings and dramas of the Churches and peoples to whom you were sent."
"Know that the Pope and the Roman Curia are close to you, as witnessed by this meeting of ours," said the Holy Father.
He said that "the Church in Africa must deal with old and new problems but it is also open to great hopes." Your work "is to accompany the development of ecclesial communities, favoring the integral progress of society and, above all, of sustaining the 'encounter of cultures with Christ and His gospel'."
"In all of your commitments,” concluded the Holy Father, "continue to be witnesses to communion, helping to overcome tensions and misunderstandings, to defeat the temptation to particularisms, to strengthen the sense of belonging to the one and undivided People of God."