In his audience closing out the Togolese bishops’ ad Limina visit to Rome, Pope Francis on Monday encouraged solid faith formation for the young, especially those preparing for marriage. “I encourage you to persevere in your effort to support families in difficulty … and to prepare couples for the commitments, demanding but magnificent, of Christian marriage,” he said, according to a Vatican report. Even with many different religions making up Togolese society, marriage remains “a pastoral reality that is well accepted in your country,” the Pope said, though some “ideological and media attacks” increasingly seek to present family models that are “incompatible with Christian faith.” African family life, especially the reverence and care shown for the elderly, serves as an example to the rest of the world, the Holy Father told the bishops from the small West African nation. “In particular the African family welcomes life, and respects and takes into consideration the elderly. This heritage must be preserved, and serves as an example and impetus for others,” he said. While Christians and Muslims make up nearly equal parts of the population, over half of the Togolese people practice indigenous religions. Pope Francis praised the “peaceful co-existence” among different religions, especially with Islam in light of “the current situation in Western Africa,” where the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has been carrying out violent attacks on Christian communities. As vocations to the priesthood grow in Togo, the Holy Father said the formation that seminarians receive now is key to helping them later “in their battle against ambition, careerism, jealousy, worldliness, the seduction of money and worldly goods, and in living a sincere and joyful celibacy.” With about 60 percent of the population under the age of 25, formation of the young is an important part of the answer to many societal challenges that Togo faces, Pope Francis emphasized. “It is crucial that the young learn to live their faith with coherence, in order to bear witness to it with authenticity and to contribute to a more just and fraternal society,” he said. The Pope encouraged men and women religious of Togo to “always show paternal care” in their endeavors with the young, as they “play an indispensable role in the proclamation and transmission of the faith.”
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