.- On Saturday, Pope Benedict told members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi, in Rome for their "ad limina" visit, that through the Gospel they must âtirelesslyâ call their people, ravaged by recent war, to forgiveness and reconciliation.â Speaking in French, the Holy Father first recalled Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, murdered in December 2003 while serving as the Vaticanâs apostolic nuncio to Burundi.
"He was faithful,â the Pope said, âeven to the point of sacrificing his life to the mission with which the Holy Father had entrusted him in the service of your dear country, and of the local Church."
The Pope also noted that the five yearly "ad limina" visits which bishops make to the Vatican, and the corresponding reports they present, highlight "the Catholic Church's active role in promoting peace and reconciliation in your country, especially during this election period."
"The suffering occasioned by the warâ, he said, âduring which, we must recall, many Christians bore heroic witness to their faith - cannot conceal the desire to work, for Christ and in His name, towards fraternity and unity among everyone."
On this theme, the Pope encouraged pastoral work and diocesan synods, which work toward âannouncing the Gospel, to healing memories and hearts, to favoring solidarity among all citizens, eliminating the spirit of vengeance and of resentment, and tirelessly calling for forgiveness and reconciliation."
Recalling Pope John Paul IIâs post synodal Apostolic Exhortation âEcclesia in Africa,â of ten years ago, Pope Benedict expressed hope that this document would become "a Magna Carta of your commitment to the mission with which you have been entrusted, in communion with the other local Churches."
He called on the bishops to pastor their people carefully "so that they experience ever more intensely the requirements of their Baptism. Many of them know extreme poverty and interior distress, and are tempted to return to ancient practices not purified by the Spirit of the Lord, or to sects."
For this reason, he said, "solid Christian formation is necessary, without neglecting efforts of enculturation, especially in the field of translating the Bible and the texts of the Magisterium."
The Pope concluded his visit by giving thanks "for the apostolic commitment shown, often in difficult conditions, by priests, and male and female religious in your dioceses, both locals and those who have come from other areas.â
âNor do I forget the catechists,â he said, âworthy helpers in the apostolate, or all the faithful who participate in the development of human beings and of society within the ambit of the Church's activity of social promotion, and her service in the world of education and health care."