In his ad limina address to the bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope Francis assured them of the necessity of contributing to political life, without replacing political institutions. “Dear Brothers in the episcopacy, I invite you to work tirelessly for the establishment of a just and lasting peace through a pastoral effort of dialogue and reconciliation among the various sectors of society, supporting the process of disarmament, and promoting effective collaboration with other religious confessions,” he said Sept. 12 at the Vatican's Consistory Hall. “Whereas your country will undergo political events important for its future, it is necessary for the Church to make her contribution, while avoiding the risk of becoming a substitute for political institutions and temporal realities that must retain their autonomy.” Particularly, he said, “pastors must be on guard not to take on roles that rightfully belong to the lay faithful, whose mission is justly that of bearing witness to Christ and the Gospel in politics and in all other areas of their activities.” Mindful of that role of the laity, he said it is essential that they be educated well, and exhorted the bishops to “continue to work to educate the public authorities in view of finalizing negotiations for the signing of an Accord with the Holy See.” Pope Francis began his address giving thanks for the blessings given to the Church in the DRC, and reminded the bishops that their “proximity and stability” are reassuring to their priests, seminarians, and faithful. Noting with pleasure that the Church is growing in the country — where already half the population is Catholic — the Pope also reminded the bishops that what is most essential for the Church is not “a question of numbers but a total and unconditioned adhesion to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.” “The quality of faith in Christ, died and risen, intimate communion with him, is the basis of the Church's strength.” Therefore, he noted, “it is of vital importance to evangelize profoundly.” “The Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some dioceses have celebrated recently their centenary of evangelization, is a young Church. But she is also a Church of the young. Children and adolescents, in particular, need God's strength to help them resist the many temptations of a precarious life, in which they are unable to study or find work,” he emphasized. The Pope particularly referred to those youth who have been conscripted into militias in the country's civil wars, which began in 1996 and did not end until less than a year ago, on Nov. 7, 2013. “I encourage you, therefore, to pursue the pastoral care of youth. By providing the greatest assistance possible, especially through the creation of spaces for human, spiritual, and professional formation, you can help them discover their deepest vocation, which predisposes them to encounter the Lord.” The best way of opposing violence, inequality, and ethnic divisions, he advised, is to “equip the young with a critical mind and to offer them the opportunity to mature an understanding of Gospel values. It is also necessary to strengthen pastoral care in universities and in Catholic and public schools, combining education with the clear proclamation of the Gospel.” “Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I invite you to be in your dioceses apostles to the young.” Faithfulness to the Gospel, Pope Francis reminded the bishops, means that the Church will participate in the building up of civic society. “One of the most valuable contributions that the local Church can offer your country, is to help people rediscover the pertinence of faith to daily life and the need to promote the common good.” “Similarly, leading figures in the nation, informed by pastors, and with respect to their competencies, can also be supported in integrating Christian teachings into their personal lives and in the exercise of their duties in the service of the state and of society.” Bishops are expected, Pope Francis said, to “provide guidance and solutions for the promotion of a society based on respect for the dignity of the human person,” such that they should constantly review their dioceses' care for the poor, needy, elderly, sick, and disabled. “Indeed, the Church is called to be concerned with the wellbeing of these people and to bring the attention of society and public authorities to their situation,” he exhorted, adding also his concern for the internally displaced and refugees. Concluding his address, the Pope reiterated his affection and encouragement to his brother bishops, telling them to persevere in their generous dedication in service of the Gospel. “Be men of hope for your people! May the luminous witness of Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta and Blessed Isidore Bakanuja keep you inspired!”
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