African Catholic bishops urge forgiveness, end to exploitation

African Catholic leaders in justice and peace have released a message encouraging spiritual renewal and condemning the exploitation of "the poorest and weakest."

"Like St. Paul, we invite you to let yourselves be reconciled with Christ, by spiritually renewing your minds and hearts in the promotion of the integral development of the person, to be able to say 'no' to the misery that surrounds us caused by our behavior as sinners," the justice and peace coordination of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar said Oct. 31.

The message was released during a meeting of bishops and other leaders of regional justice and peace commissions in Africa and Madagascar. It convened in Bujumbura, Burundi Oct. 28-Nov. 2. The meeting discussed good governance, the common good, and transitions to democratic societies across the continent.

The coordination message, provided by Catholic News Agency for Africa, was addressed to all African Catholics and men and women of good will. It expressed the "total rejection" of the exploitation of the poor and weak, including enslavement of children, child trafficking, and organ trafficking. It also denounced "growing insecurity" and violence and criminality in the Central African Republic and the recurring conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The "unfair exploitation" of natural resources is one source of the violence, the message said.

The coordination also condemned "fanaticism and religious extremism" in Nigeria, Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Its message emphasized forgiveness, calling it "a grace of God in which we see Jesus Christ forgiving all our sins."

In allowing ourselves to be reconciled with God, the message said, "we engage with our brothers as on the road to Emmaus, in receiving and recreating the universal brotherhood for which all, without exception, we aspire."

The coordination called for the exploration of new ways to implement good governance without corruption or abuse of power. They voiced a commitment to "a democratic culture" that is "respectful of freedom of opinion" and respects the rights of immigrants.

The coordination also called for "patient and fruitful dialogue" concerning the management of the Nile River, noting that the well-being of people and countries along the Nile is dependent on the great river.

The meeting reflected on the document "Africae Munus," Benedict XVI's 2011 post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

Coordination leaders also voiced their sympathy for the victims of the latest shipwreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, which killed over 350 immigrants.

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