Vatican City, Sep 27, 2014 / 05:48 am
Personal conversion is the key to the work and fruits of the Church, Pope Francis told bishops visiting Rome from Ghana, particularly noting the Church's healthcare apostolate, due to the Ebola outbreak in several nearby countries.
"From the grace of Christ experienced in our own converted hearts comes the spiritual strength which helps us promote virtue and holiness in our priests, men and women religious, and laity," the Pope said in his Sept. 23 address.
"Out of the spiritual vitality of all the faithful come the Church's numerous charitable, medical and education endeavors, and her works of justice and equality," Pope Francis said.
Ghana recently agreed to become a hub for international Ebola relief efforts by allowing flights from the country to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have been heavily affected by the often-fatal virus. Pope Francis encouraged the bishops to continue to support the Church's Ebola aid efforts.
"I pray for the repose of the souls of all who have died in this epidemic, among whom are priests, men and women religious and healthcare workers who contracted this terrible disease while caring for those suffering," the Holy Father said. "May God strengthen all healthcare workers there and bring an end to this tragedy!"
Pope Francis also prayed for the victims and caregivers in the Ebola outbreak during his general audience the next day and continued to urge international assistance. Aid agencies estimate that nearly 3,000 people have been killed and thousands more infected by the disease which first broke out in December 2013.
The Holy Father also recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI to Africa nearly three years ago, which urged African priests "to be concerned for the human, intellectual, doctrinal, moral, spiritual and pastoral formation of catechists."
"It is timely, then, to ask whether and to what degree we have responded to this summons to encourage and form the next generation of men and women who will pass on the faith and build upon the legacy of our forebears," the Pope noted.
Ghana's population is blessed with people who easily express their faith and belief in God, Pope Francis observed, though evangelization and educational efforts can be difficult due to the county's material poverty.
Pope Francis encouraged the Church at large to continue to be generous in evenly distributing her material wealth and for priests and catechists to trust the Lord's providence. He also said material poverty tends to draw greater attention to the spiritual needs of a person.
"While your communities rightly make many efforts to alleviate extremes of poverty, so too the Church is called, in imitation of Christ, to work with humility and honesty, using the goods at her disposal to open minds and hearts to the riches of mercy and grace flowing from the heart of Christ."
The Pope assured his prayers for religious leaders and lay faithful of the country, and asked that they continue their zeal in spreading the Gospel.
"Finally, dear brothers, like Saint Paul, I wish you to go to the cities and the countryside, to the markets and the streets, witnessing to Christ and showing his love and mercy to all."
The Ghanaian bishops were in Rome for their Ad Limina visit - every five years, bishops the world over are required to make a pilgrimage to Rome to visit the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and to present the Pope with an account of the Church in their respective dioceses.