.- Meeting with bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged advancement on the countries' history of more than a century of evangelization. He urged them to continue building on existing missionary work and inter-religious relations.
Benedict XVI met with the bishops, whose countries share an episcopal conference, on Saturday as part of their âad Liminaâ visit to the Holy See.
In his address to the group, he urged them to continue to promote evangelization in a ânew missionary pushâ so that the Gospel is âfully received and faithfully livedâ in the countries. He called them to stick to the roots of the faith so as to avoid the return to âold practicesâ that are incompatible with the Jesusâ teachings and to âresist calls from a world at times hostile to the evangelical ideal.â
The Pope went on to encourage them in their missionary efforts regarding the âsister-Churchesâ of Africa.
In an interview with Fides news agency last week, the President of the bishopsâ conference, Archbishop Seraphin Rouamba, spoke about the bishops' efforts to circulate missionaries to Niger, Chad, Mali and even to Europe.
Historically, the archbishop said, âpeople have come from abroad specifically to ring the Gospelâ to the area âand to communicate the richness of faith.â
âNow we want to send our missionaries abroad,â he said.
Burkina Faso celebrated the 100-year anniversary of evangelization in the country in the year 2000.
On Saturday, Pope Benedict praised the bishops in their commitment to âcombating the evils that impede the population from reaching true developmentâ and recognized the solidarity of the people in response to floods in Sept. 2009 as well as in sending assistance to Haiti, âin spite of their (own) great needs.â
Promotion of the interior renewal of the priestly ministry during the Year for Priests, increased involvement of lay faithful and better formation of catechists were additional points in the Popeâs address. He touched also on the importance of developing educational institutions and giving them responsibility in the Church and society for being âtrue witnesses of the Gospel.â
Alluding to the peaceful inter-religious relations that normally exist in the countries, the Holy Father asked the bishops to âdeepen the bonds of esteem and friendshipâ to teach new generations that the âfundamental value of respect and fraternity will favor mutual comprehension.â
Referring especially to Muslim-Christian relations, he hoped for the continued reinforcement of relations so as to âprogress peace and justice and promote the common good, refuting every temptation of violence or intolerance.â
Archbishop Rouamba told Fides that official statistics estimate that 19-20 percent of the population in Burkina Faso is Catholic, while more than 60 percent is Muslim. Many of the remaining percentage follow traditional religions.
In conclusion, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted their dioceses to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary and imparted his Apostolic Blessing on the bishops and all those under their direction.