Ahead of the papal visit to Africa, the continent's bishops have sent Francis a message of welcome. They emphasized the importance of the family in African society and the need for peace in regions suffering terrorism and violent conflict.

"As representatives of the Church in Africa we warmly welcome the Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he makes his first apostolic visit to our continent," said the standing committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

They prayed for the success of the Pope's visit and for God's "abundant blessings."

The statement was issued at the close of the bishops' conferences symposium held in Accra, Ghana Nov. 16-20. Pope Francis will be visiting Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic Nov. 25-30.

"We rejoice that the Holy Father's visit, coming so soon after the Synod on the Family, will strengthen the faith of our peoples in the Church as Family of God and confirm us in our long-cherished Christian and African values," the bishops' committee said.

They stressed that the family is "the fundamental and indispensable pillar" of life in society, the Catholic News Agency for Africa reports.

"We call on all the people of our continent and on all our governments to commit themselves to the sustenance of African families, and protect the fundamental values of our cultures. We reiterate our commitment also to the sustenance and promotion of the institutions of marriage and the family and confirm our unshakeable belief in the sanctity of human life."

The bishops' communique welcoming the Pope also responded to recent terrorist attacks in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

"We condemn all acts of terrorism that have occurred in any part of the world and urge the perpetrators and their sponsors to stop," they said. The bishops prayed for the dead and for consolation for those who are grieving their deaths.

They cited attacks in France, Lebanon, and Mali, as well as attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, Libya, and Burkina Faso.

The bishops voiced support peace efforts in African countries with violent conflicts.

"We appeal in the name of God to all parties involved in the conflicts in these areas to lay down their arms and embrace the path of dialogue and peace for the sake of posterity," the committee said.

The bishops praised a memorandum of understanding between SECAM and the African Union, saying it will advance efforts to secure development, human rights, and peace in collaboration with the union's 54 member states.

The bishops urged all of Africa to reconcile with one another and to reconcile with God, "our Merciful Father."

"It is only by this means shall we find God's mercy borne of harmonious co-existence and development," they said. They prayed that the Virgin Mary will "intercede for us all in our prayers so that our continent, Africa, may experience true love, justice and peace."