Vatican City, May 12, 2015 / 02:26 am
In his meeting on Saturday with the bishops from Mozambique, a southeast African nation, Pope Francis urged support for public policies that promote the family and protect human life.
"Spare no efforts in supporting the family and in the defense of life from conception to natural death," he said May 9 in the Vatican. "In this sense, remember the options appropriate to one of Christ's disciples and the beauty of being a mother, accompanied by the support of the family and the local community."
"The family must always be defended as the main source of fraternity, respect for others and the primary path of peace."
The Mozambican bishops – whose country borders Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean – were in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit, a meeting with the Pope.
The Bishop of Rome cautioned his brother bishops against a worldly sense of success, saying, "the fecundity of our mission … is not measured by the number of collaborators, nor by the prestige of the institution, nor even by the quantity of available resources."
"What counts is being permeated with Christ's love, allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit, and grafting one's own existence onto the tree of life, which is the Cross of the Lord," he said, adding that "from St. Paul, the insuperable model of the Christian missionary, we know that this means trying to conform to Jesus in his death so as to participate in his resurrection … the paschal mystery is the beating heart of the mission of the Church."
"If you abide in this mystery, you will be protected both from a worldly and triumphalist vision of the mission, and the disappointment that may arise when faced with trials and failures."
Pope Francis encouraged the bishops to be particularly solicitous for their priests as well as for the religious communities in their dioceses, and to live among their faithful in the "'existential peripheries' where there is suffering, loneliness, and human degradation."
Reflecting on the nature and role of a bishop, he said: "you are spouses of your diocesan community, profoundly tied to it."
The Pope stated that "the pastors and the faithful of Mozambique need to further develop a culture of encounter," saying Christ's only request is "that you go out in search of the neediest." He mentioned those who suffer from natural disasters, as well as displaced persons and refugees.
"These people need us to share in their suffering, their worries, their problems," he told the bishops. "They need us to look upon them with love and you must reach out to them, as did Jesus."
Turning to the challenges facing Mozambique, Pope Francis encouraged investment in education, so as to oppose inequality and social division. He said education "teaches the young to think critically, and offers a path towards maturity in values. In this sense, it is appropriate to raise awareness among leaders in society and to revive pastoral ministry in universities and schools, combining the task of education with the proclamation of the Gospel."
"The needs are so great that they cannot be satisfied simply through individual initiatives or by a union of individuals educated in individualism. Community networks are needed to respond to social problems."
He concluded by encouraging the bishops in going to the peripheries, saying, "When we go out to take the Gospel with true apostolic spirit, [Jesus] walks with us. He precedes us, and for us this is fundamental: God always goes before us."