.- In a message to visiting Tanzanian Bishops, made public by the Vatican today, Pope John Paul highlighted the great importance of pastoral care for families and clergy in that country. The message was addressed to Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dal-es-Salaam and Bishop Severine Niwemugizi of Rulenge, Tanzania, who is also the president of the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania.
The Pope welcomed both bishops, who are in Rome for their “ad limina” visit, to his suite at the Gemelli Hospital earlier today.
The message offers the prelates the Holy Father’s greetings from the hospital, where, he said, “I offer my prayers and my sufferings for you: in these days I feel especially close to you."
John Paul II noted that he wanted his message to underscore "three integral parts of your pastoral ministry; care of the family; care of the clergy and care for the common good of society in your region."
"The world can learn much," he wrote, "from the high value that is placed upon the family as a building block of African society", and added that the Church must give "special priority to the pastoral care of the family, because of the great cultural changes taking place in the modern world.”
“For example,” he said, “the unjust practice of linking programs of economic assistance to the promotion of sterilization and contraception must be strenuously resisted" as they are "affronts to the dignity of the person and the family."
The Pope said that marriage is "sacred, ... one and indissoluble by nature" and "has to remain open to the generation of new life. ... The promotion of genuine family values is all the more urgent on account of the terrible scourge of AIDS afflicting your country and so much of the African continent.”
“Fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside it”, he pointed out, “are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of infection. ... It especially grieves me to consider the many thousands of children left as orphans in the wake of the merciless virus."
The Pope also addressed the issue of pastoral care for the clergy, saying that a bishop must be "a father, brother and a friend" to his closest collaborators. He urged the prelates to help priests "grow in holiness and in single-hearted commitment to discipleship" and "to enkindle within them a genuine longing for the Kingdom of God.”
“Continue to encourage them in their gifts,” he told them, “sustain them in their difficulties and form them to meet the demands of priestly life today. I know that you appreciate the importance of seminary formation and the need to assign your best priests to this task."
Noting the question of the Church's care for the common good, John Paul II underlined the steps taken by the Tanzanian bishops "to combat the material deprivation afflicting so many of your people" and says that "cooperation between Church and State on such matters of great social concern deserves to be commended."
He likewise noted Tanzania's contributions "to building peace and stability in East Africa" and its generosity "in providing a home for thousands of refugees fleeing persecution in their own countries."
The Pope concluded his remarks by stressing the challenge "to maintain and strengthen respectful relations with the Muslim community" and the "serious commitment to inter-religious dialogue."