Meeting with Sudanese bishops on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI urged them to always look to the Gospel for the principles necessary "to shape your preaching and teaching, your judgments and actions" in working to help restore peace.
Several bishops from Sudan were in Rome last week for their periodic "ad Limina apostolorum" visit.
In his audience with them at the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of peace throughout his address.
"If peace is to plant deep roots," he said, "concrete efforts must be made to diminish the factors contributing to unrest, particularly corruption, ethnic tensions, indifference and selfishness." He added that if the bishops base their initiatives on "integrity, a sense of universal brotherhood and the virtues of justice, responsibility and charity," they will "surely be fruitful."
Noting "the exercise of mature and morally upright leadership" is fundamental to the process, Benedict XVI urged the bishops to implore "a change of heart" in the Sudanese people as a gift of the grace of God, so that the effects of violence can be healed and a "just and lasting peace" can be achieved.
"As heralds of the Gospel, you have sought to instill in your people and in society a sense of responsibility towards present and future generations, encouraging forgiveness, mutual acceptance and respect for commitments taken," said the Pope.
He commended them on their work to recognize basic human rights in law and to apply integral economic and human development models in Sudan. Benedict XVI said he appreciated the Sudanese Catholic Church's effort to help the poor "live with dignity and self-respect, ... find long-term work and to enable them to make their proper contribution to society."
He told them to always be inspired by a "spirituality of communion" in their preaching and pastoral activity and to be "teachers and witnesses of our communion in faith and the love of Christ.” Pope Benedict commended to them the practices of “sharing common initiatives, listening to your collaborators, helping priests, religious and faithful to accept and support one another as brothers and sisters, without distinction of race or ethnic group, in a generous exchange of gifts."
Benedict XVI concluded by encouraging the Sudanese bishops to strengthen Catholic education as part of the local Church's witness. He also invited them to continue promoting cooperation with followers of Islam through practical initiatives, stressing "the values that Christians share in common with Muslims” should be “the basis for that 'dialogue of life' which is an essential first step towards genuine inter-religious respect and understanding."
The bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger begin their "ad Limina" on Monday, following the Sudanese bishops and those of Uganda a week earlier.