With these sentiments, I commend all of you to the loving intercession of Mary, Mirror of Justice, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of lasting joy and peace in Jesus Christ her Son.
Friday, 29 May 1992
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In these days of joyful expectation before the Solemnity of Pentecost, I have the happiness of welcoming you, the Bishops of Southern Africa, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. In my heart I embrace all the priests, Religious and lay faithful of the Dioceses and Apostolic Vicariates of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. I thank Bishop Napier for his kind words of greeting. With Saint Paul, "I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus... who will sustain you to the end" (1Co 1,4).
In the realm of faith, your pilgrimage to this Holy See is an encounter with the very origins of the Church: the mission of the Apostles and their confession of Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. According to the Father’s plan, it was in Rome that Peter and Paul sealed their preaching with that most eloquent testimony, the imitation of Christ’s free self–giving: Peter here at the foot of the Vatican Hill and Paul outside the city walls along the Ostian Way. We who are successors of the Apostles hear Christ address to us the same command as he gave to them: "Go... make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19). It is my prayer that your ad Limina visit will encourage you in your own confession of the Lord and in your commitment to his service.
2. In the five years since your last ad Limina visit, in Southern Africa there has been a significant shift in the course of political events. After much travail, Namibia has achieved its independence and taken its place among the free nations of the world. The Republic of South Africa has taken new steps along the path of its transformation into a nation without apartheid. Hope for a peaceful transition to a more just and democratic society has been strengthened since the agreement, in December 1991, in favour of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa and since the referendum a few weeks ago. I pray that God will guide the leaders of all your countries in establishing a secure foundation for a society in which the dignity and rights of every individual are assured. Above all, my heart and voice are united with yours in asking that the peoples of your region be spared any further violence.
3. The decision to turn away from unjust political structures, welcome as it is, does not mean that the bitter fruits of past policy will simply disappear from your midst. Herein lies an extraordinarily urgent task for Christians, a task in which ecumenical cooperation can be an essential element of effective progress. I am referring to an observation made in many of your quinquennial reports: namely, that one of the great challenges now facing the Church in Southern Africa is to assist in healing the wounds caused by racial segregation and discrimination, to serve as God’s instrument for reconciling those parts of society which have, through years of contention, become confirmed in their mistrust of one another. It is for the Church to point out that the root of enmity is sin–a decision to act contrary to God’s commandment of love. Humbly, yet with supreme confidence in the Lord who has taught her how to love, the Church in Southern Africa must invite all to a change of heart, must teach the ways of repentance and forgiveness, so that the concrete steps to be taken for the transformation of society will effectively bring people together in mutual acceptance and solidarity.
In this regard I would call your attention to the 1983 Assembly of the Synod, of Bishops devoted to "Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church". There the People of God heard again a powerful summons to be the sign of reconciliation for the whole human family. In the subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia", it was my wish "to pass on the elements from the doctrinal and pastoral treasure of the Synod which seem to me providential for people’s lives at this magnificent yet difficult moment in history" (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 4). To you, the Fathers and Shepherds of the flock of Christ in Southern Africa, I entrust this document anew. The Gospel of reconciliation–given to the Church, preached by the Apostles and their successors, and lived by Christ’s disciples in every age–is the greatest assistance the Church can offer to Southern Africa in this decisive hour. I am confident that the Lord who died "to gather into one the children of God... scattered abroad" (Jn 12,52) will strengthen you and all the faithful for this task.
4. Social changes in Southern Africa greatly alter the context in which the members of Christ’s Body live the life of grace and strive to be a leaven in society. Action on many fronts is needed so as to achieve a civic order worthy of the human person and in harmony with the natural moral law established by the Creator. The truth about human dignity which makes all racial discrimination and injustice so abhorrent is the reason why the Church must defend the sanctity of life from the moment of conception, oppose abortion and euthanasia, promote sound family life with permanent and monogamous marriage as its basis, and emphasize the equal yet complementary status of men and women in society. The Church likewise champions the truth about man when she calls for authentic human development. An essential goal of such development is an economic order in which all men and women have the opportunity to use their gifts and talents in work which contributes to the common good and from which they obtain a just recompense in order to support themselves and their families.
The Church remains committed to using all her spiritual authority to inform and confirm individual consciences and the moral conscience of each nation in Southern Africa concerning the implications of justice and freedom. As you so clearly emphasize in your Pastoral Letter, "A Call to Build a New South Africa", because the Catholic Church transcends every political, economic or social system (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 42), her pastors will continue to raise an impartial voice on ethical or moral issues of public debate and on trends in the nation’s life. In many ways, both for society and the Church, the process of building a better future will be even more demanding than the struggles of the past. It will require fresh resources of intelligence, wisdom and moral rectitude.
5. By responding to her Lord with ever greater fidelity, the Church becomes that effective sign and sacrament of unity for which she was established (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). It is just such fidelity that you seek to foster through the pastoral plans which you have developed or are developing for your particular Churches.
I note with special interest your decision to make the encouragement of small Christian communities a central element of this endeavour. Such a focus, if properly understood, can lead the faithful to a more intense experience of the Church as a communion, a living unity wherein the members share the gifts of grace and make visibly present the one divine life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Cf. ibid. 4). You have wisely seen that the renewal of preaching, catechesis and the liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council reaches fulfilment in strengthening ecclesial communion. To deepen the sharing of the family of believers in the life of the Trinity strengthens the Church’s prophetic witness and her call for justice.
A more intense experience of true Christian fellowship has in many parts of the Church proved to be an effective means for giving pastoral care to young people. For them, awareness of the support of the ecclesial family is especially necessary as they move into their adult roles in the Church and society and face the challenges which accompany their development.
6. In trying to nurture small Christian communities a Bishop’s special concern is to see that in every part of the flock there is present the integral life and faith of the whole Catholic Church united around the successor of Peter. This of course demands a great deal of your attention as pastors. A particular instance of this pastoral responsibility is your overseeing of the teaching of theology in seminaries, colleges and universities and the religious instruction given in schools and parishes.In this you discharge the duty God has laid upon you of ensuring that his people receive the saving truth which is their right as baptized members of the Church. When the Christian community is fully alive in Christ’s Spirit, it is filled with zeal for sharing the love of God with others and more readily appears as the efficacious instrument of the salvation for which all human hearts are made.
7. Strengthening the life of small Christian communities in your particular Churches likewise produces a favourable environment from which God will bring forth priests and Religious to serve his People and to carry the light of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard of his love. I understand your anxiety to provide labourers for the vineyard; it is the echo in your hearts of the Good Shepherd’s own concern for those whom he treasures more than his own life (Cf. Jn. Jn 10,11). You can be confident that from Christian communities renewed in grace more young people will be called and that they will be sustained by their brothers and sisters in answering the Lord’s invitation.
In the work of guarding and guiding Christ’s flock, the Bishop’s chief co–workers are the members of his presbyterate. I am aware of the remarkable generosity of your priests, and I am confident that you will continue to support them by your fatherly and fraternal care. In the circumstances of the present day, a form of assistance and support which priests especially need is the affirmation of the indispensable worth of their ministry for the eternal salvation of those entrusted to their care. Theirs is the work of Christ. In explaining the vocation, mission and consecration of priests, the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" affirms that "the priest’s fundamental relationship is to Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd. Indeed, the priest participates in a specific and authoritative way in the ‘consecration/anointing’ and in the ‘mission’ of Christ.... In this way priests, like the Apostles, act as ambassadors of Christ" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 16). This truth about the ministerial priesthood is the heart of every priest’s self–understanding, no matter what the particular context is in which the Lord sends him to serve. Only by building on this foundation will the formation of future priests and the permanent formation of those who are already ordained bring forth fruit that will last (Cf. Jn. Jn 15,16). The identity, which all priests – diocesan and Religious – share with the Good Shepherd, is the motive and wellspring for their pastoral charity and their fraternal cooperation in caring for his flock.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, my remarks to you today cannot hope to respond fully to the diversity and complexity of the circumstances in which you exercise your ministry. What is essential is that we should be united in ensuring that the genuine ecclesiological vision bequeathed to us by the Second Vatican Council is the source of our preaching and pastoral leadership. We know that the Church is much more than an instrument of human progress or social change. She is the field of God (Cf. 1Co 3,9) the Spouse of Christ (Cf. Rev. Ap 21,2), the temple in which the Spirit dwells (Cf. 1Co 3,16). She is "our Mother" (Ga 4,26) who moulds us into Christ’s image until he is fully formed in us (Cf. ibid.4, 19). She is the place of encounter with the living Christ. As the Council reminded us: "The conditions of this age lend special urgency to the Church’s task of bringing all men to full union with Christ"(Lumen Gentium LG 1). Not an imaginary Christ who would be no more than the projection of too earthly aspirations, but "Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1Co 23-24). Only in union with the Incarnate Son of the Father will your peoples be truly liberated and truly blessed with life and peace.
In my love and concern for you and your communities, I remember in my prayers all the people of Southern Africa. Commending you and all the faithful of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland to Mary, Mother of God, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Friday, 29 May 1992
Dear Bishop Hollis,
I am pleased that during the course of your visit to Rome I can welcome you to the Vatican, and so give expression to the faith and charity which unite the Diocese of Portsmouth with this Apostolic See. In greeting you I extend my prayerful best wishes to all the priests, religious and laity of your Diocese.
We have just celebrated the feastday of Saint Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, that champion of the faith who, in the few years of his activity, planted the Church firmly and deeply in England’s ready soil. It was the saintly Pope Gregory the Great who sent him to evangelize what was then a distant and seemingly inhospitable corner of the known world. Despite the tests and trials of history, the bonds of union with the See of Peter were never altogether broken, and we must now intensify our prayer for the progress of ecumenical understanding and cooperation, so that all Christ’s disciples can once more come together in the visible unity of the one Body.
Commending you all to the intercession of our Lady of Walsingham and of Saint Edmund of Abingdon, and invoking Almighty God’s loving protection upon you and your families, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Hall of Popes
Monday, 15 June 1992
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to welcome the participants in the International Symposium "Conversion of Nuclear Warheads for Peaceful Purposes". My special thanks go to Monsignor Elio Sgreccia for his kind words spoken on your behalf.
The topic which you will be discussing in these days gives a concrete and practical form to the message of hope which the Church has proclaimed down through the centuries in echoing the words of the Prophet Isaiah as he announced the messianic era: "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks" (Is 2,4).
2. As we know all too well, in the last fifty years mankind has become truly capable of self–destruction. By means of the arms race there has been at work a certain "logic of power" which required constant preparation for a possible conflict of massive proportions, and which led to the building up of immense arsenals of conventional and nuclear weapons.
In making an appeal to overcome this perilous situation the fathers of the Second Vatican Council, quoting the Encyclical of Pope John XXIII, "Pacem in Terris", stated the following: "Peace must be born of mutual trust between nations rather than imposed on them through fear of one another’s weapons. Hence everyone must labour to put an end at last to the arms race, and to make a true beginning of disarmament, not indeed a unilateral disarmament, but one proceeding at an equal pace according to agreement, and backed up by authentic and workable safeguards" (Gaudium et Spes GS 82).
Since the time of the Council, especially since the historic events of 1989, the world picture has altered greatly, increasing mankind’s hope for a truly effective disarmament. The possibility of eliminating the threat posed by the arms race gives rise to the prospect of transforming weapons into means of producing the goods required for life and for a development worthy of the human person.
3. The specific aim of your meeting is to investigate the ways in which the resources to be recovered through disarmament and through the conversion of nuclear arms can be used for the economic and social progress not only of the countries which once manufactured them, but also for the developing nations. Transferring to these countries the enormous resources derived from such conversion constitutes a new effort at collaboration and solidarity between peoples and nations (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 29).
By using your scientific knowledge and skills to help reclaim for the cause of peace resources which were once devoted to the means of war, you truly contribute to the good of mankind. Today more than ever science should dedicate its efforts to the authentic progress of man and must work to diminish the threats which arise from the harmful use of its discoveries. Science is an essential element of human development, because that which the scientist discovers in his search to understand the universe is part of the fuller truth about creation and the place of the human person in it. Hence, the need for the scientific community to watch over the right use of the results of its research in the service of humanity.
4. I express to you my esteem for the worthy goals of your Symposium, and I offer my prayerful best wishes that your study and cooperation will help to foster peace and improve the conditions of life for millions of our brothers and sisters in need. May the Spirit who guided the Prophet Isaiah direct you, and may the Redeemer of Mankind crown your work with success.
God bless you all.
Hall of Popes
Friday, 26 June 1992
1. It is a pleasure for me to greet you, participants in the Colloquium "Women in Society according to Islam and Christianity", organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and by the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research (Al Albait Foundation) of Amman, Jordan. The third in your series of colloquia on themes of common concern to Christians and Muslims, this seminar treats of a topic of great concern in our day, and one of fundamental importance for building more just relationships between individuals and between the peoples of the world.
Believers ought to feel the urgency of the call to defend the equal human dignity of all persons, created by God male and female. The differences between women and men must never be used to oppress or discriminate against the one, or to claim a superior position for the other. Yet we are sadly aware that, in practice, women experience widespread forms of discrimination. There is ample room therefore for believers to work together in order to defend and promote the proper and dignified place of women in society as intended by God.
2. As Christians, our approach to this question is formed by the teaching of the Bible – the active social roles played by the valiant female figures of the Old Testament like Deborah, Naomi, Judith and Esther, and by the faithful women of the Gospels who accompanied Jesus, who "listened to the word of God and kept it" and who, with Mary Magdalen, were the first proclaimers of the Resurrection (Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 16) . Most of all, our Christian understanding of the role of women is formed by the attitude of respect and esteem which Jesus always showed towards women, and by our meditation on the exalted figure of Mary, who is for Christians the model of both virginity and motherhood, of faith and active social concern. We recall the words of Mary in the hymn we call the "Magnificat":
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
Holy is His name!...
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifted up the downtrodden.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
but has sent the rich away empty (Lc 1,46-53).
Similarly, you Muslim participants in the Colloquium are explaining to your Christian colleagues what the Koran and your traditions teach you about the role of women in society. In this way your Colloquium offers an excellent example of the interreligious dialogue and cooperation necessary in order to enable believers to foster justice, harmony and peace.
3. I therefore encourage you in your deliberations, as I support and encourage all serious efforts of Christians and Muslims to study together the important issues of our day. As believers in God who seek to surrender our lives to his will, we have an essential contribution to make to our world. We can do this most effectively when we inform ourselves through careful examination of the issues and when we reflect on these issues in the light of our respective religions.
The problems and challenges facing women in modern societies stand out as one of the issues which need to be urgently addressed in such joint endeavours. I hope that your discussions will inspire great interest in promoting respect for women’s rightful role and freedom.
May God abundantly bless your work in this Colloquium!
Monday, 29 June 1992
The Psalmist gave expression to an intimate joy when he exclaimed: "How good and how pleasant it is, brothers dwelling in unity!" (Ps 133,1). With the same gladness I greet you, the members of the Delegation that His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and his Synod have sent this year to join in our celebration of the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome. Your presence, full of meaning because it is a sign of the spiritual and ecclesial communion which unites us, is also an expression of the concrete task which stands before us: our common task, rooted in the one apostolic tradition, of intensifying our relationship as we strive for full communion, in faithful obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. Jn. Jn 17,21).
Your presence, Eminence, is particularly significant. It affords us an opportunity to take stock of how much progress has been made in relations between our Churches since March 1959 when you came as the Special Envoy of His Holiness Athenagoras I to visit Pope John XXIII, the first Orthodox Bishop to do so, thus setting in motion that rich exchange of contacts which has become known as the "dialogue of charity". The now firmly established practice of celebrating together the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome and of Saint Andrew at the Phanar is an important part of the development of warm relations between us. These regular contacts facilitate the sharing of ideas and the coordination of practical initiatives. Most importantly, they give us an opportunity to join in prayer before the Lord. Indeed prayer, which is the very soul of the ecumenical movement, serves to purify our endeavours of any secondary or contingent motivations, and sets them firmly within the context of obedience to Christ, the Chief Shepherd of the flock (Cf. 1P 5,4).
For many years the "dialogue of charity" went hand in hand with a rich theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the entire Orthodox Church. More recently, however, practical difficulties have emerged in various parts of the world which seem to have put pressure on these contacts. This is due in part to the sad legacy of the long and tragic period of persecution that Christian communities in various countries have experienced in this century. Clearly, a genuine purification of memories is necessary, with God’s help, as well as an increased sense of Christian love and mutual forgiveness.
Relations between Christians must always be guided by what Saint Paul teaches us in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Love is patient and kind... Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it... rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things"(1Co 13,4-7).
Such an attitude is particularly incumbent upon the Pastors of the Church. Hence I wish to assure you that the Church of Rome is fully prepared to cooperate with the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the purpose of strengthening the dialogue of charity, especially in those areas where difficulties have recently emerged. An atmosphere of mutual respect will ensure that words and actions are not misinterpreted but understood in the light of a relationship based on openness and trust.
The presence in Rome of a Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is a fitting symbol of our desire to improve relations between us. It illustrates our commitment to pray together and to strive together in the quest for the unity which the Lord wishes for his Church. May the Lord abundantly bless us in this task!
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I have eagerly looked forward to this meeting with you, the Bishops of Zimbabwe, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit, and I greet you with the words of Saint Paul: "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus" (1Co 16,24). In welcoming you, I embrace the clergy, the men and women Religious, and the lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Harare and the Dioceses of Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Hwange and Mutare, and in a particular way the new Diocese of Gokwe. Please assure them that the memories of my visit to your country in 1988 have not grown dim. I am grateful to Bishop Reckter for his kind words, and I send a special greeting to Bishop Muchabaiwa and pray for his full recovery.
Your presence testifies to the communion in grace which binds you, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, to the Bishop of Rome, the visible focus of unity in every age. In making your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles you renew your conviction that the concrete historical reality which is the Church traces its origins back to the Twelve and to our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who established this living Body as the channel and instrument of the salvation he won for us in his death and resurrection.
2. This conviction about the Church as the efficacious sign of salvation (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1), is the source of your tireless efforts to carry the Gospel to all those entrusted to your pastoral care. It is the basis of the pressing duty of all the Church’s Pastors to inspire and guide the plantatio Ecclesiae and the Church’s subsequent development in every place and every culture (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 44). My visits to Africa have made me even more clearly aware of the many elements in the social and cultural life of the continent which can be fitting vehicles for the communication of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, just as there are other elements in need of healing through contact with the grace of Christ Jesus.
Your desire that all things African should find their true significance in Christ has already led you in your National Episcopal Conference and in the Inter–regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) to devote much attention to the theme of inculturation.Such work by you and your Brother Bishops, in preparation for the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for Africa, holds great promise for the future of the People of God. However, in this as in all things, we, the Shepherds of the flock, must always be conscious that we are instruments of the Holy Spirit, who "searches everything, even the depths of God " (1Co 2,10). We need constantly to turn to him and ask him to enlighten our judgment so that we may accurately discern which human realities are in harmony with the truth and grace revealed by Christ Jesus and handed on to us by the Apostles. Inculturation, which is not merely a question of externals, matures when the Good News of Christ’s triumph over suffering and death effectively shapes the thinking and everyday life of Christians. It culminates in frequent, joyous and devout participation in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist as central moments of the experience of faith.
3. The priests whom God has given you as your co–workers are consecrated for the building up of the Body of Christ. How grateful you must be to the many missionary priests who have sown the seed of faith in your part of Africa and have laboured with humble love for the development of its peoples! How great is the challenge faced by your indigenous priests in continuing the same commitment and dedication, and in bringing to maturity the harvest which the Lord awaits among your people!
All priests have received a "call" which they and the Church have subjected to testing and discernment during the years of preparation leading to priestly Ordination. After prayer and with trust in God’s unfailing grace, they have agreed to renounce home, wife, children, social position and wealth (Cf. Mt. Mt 19,29), not grudgingly, but gladly, in order to serve the Kingdom and to devote themselves to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I join you in praying to Jesus the High Priest that he will grant your priests the grace of perseverance and the intimate joy which comes from fidelity to the Redeemer.
Since sacramental configuration with Christ the Shepherd and Head of the Church is inseparable from the following of his example of self-giving love, priests must be encouraged to cultivate genuine asceticism. In order to remain faithful to the gift of celibacy in perfect continence, it is essential, as the Second Vatican Council says, that they should pray humbly and perseveringly, make use of all the helps available to them for this purpose, and observe the prudent norms of self–discipline tested by the experience of the Church (Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 16). With regard to the loneliness which sometimes accompanies the pastoral ministry, it is worth recalling the words of the Encyclical "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus" which Paul VI published twenty–five years ago last month: "One cannot sufficiently recommend to priests a life lived in common and directed entirely towards their sacred ministry; the practice of having frequent meetings with a fraternal exchange of ideas, counsel and experience with their brother priests; the movement to form associations which encourage priestly holiness" (Paul VI Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 80; cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 74).
4. Because the ministry of priests is so essential to the life of the local Church, the training of your seminarians should continue to be one of your chief priorities. It is vital that future ministers of the Gospel should be not only well instructed academically but also, at the deepest level, totally dedicated to shepherding their brothers and sisters in the ways of salvation.
I am sure that your seminary staff are grateful for the many ways in which you support them in their difficult and demanding task of helping candidates for the priesthood to grow towards the new "identity" conferred at Ordination. They themselves ought to be "convinced" models of priestly life. They must be clear about the behaviour expected from candidates to the priesthood, for it would be an injustice to let seminarians go forward to Ordination if they have not internally and consciously assimilated the objective demands of the grace which they are to receive.
My recent Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" urges the whole Catholic community to have "a correct and in–depth awareness of the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood" (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 11). I hope that you and your priests and seminarians will make this document a frequent theme of reading and study.
5. One of the great joys of your ministry is surely the support you receive from the men and women Religious working in your local Churches. The whole history of the Church in Zimbabwe is linked to the courageous and generous service of the members of Religious Institutes. Through the testimony of their way of life and their loving service, they have been outstanding heralds of the Gospel, especially in the fields of health–care and education. The recent centenary celebrations of the arrival in the region of the Jesuits and of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were yet another reminder of the power with which God has lovingly been at work, generation after generation, bringing forth from the labours of his zealous servants an abundant harvest for his Kingdom (Cf. 1Co 3,6). I would ask you to convey to the Religious of your Dioceses my gratitude and esteem, and my hope that they will always be faithful witnesses to the Lord in the midst of his people.
6. I wish to refer briefly to another of your weighty responsibilities as Bishops: namely, Zimbabwe’s Catholic schools. In many ways you are personally involved in guiding and directing the educational apostolate, and in making sure that the necessary means are available (Cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 794, § 2). I have great hope that the forthcoming Catechism of the Catholic Church will be a substantial help to all Bishops in ensuring that the fullness of the Church’s faith is taught to children and young adults in Catholic schools and religious education programmes. The success of your efforts depends upon stimulating the generous collaboration of all those who work with you in this field, and upon maintaining the high standards of the institutions and organizations through which the work of education is carried out. I am pleased to note that you hope to strengthen even further that cooperation with the civil authorities which will enable the Church’s schools to serve the needs of the nation while maintaining their specific Catholic identity and their rightful autonomy.
7. Catechists and lay teachers carry on, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "a distinguished form of the apostolate of the laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 30)", and so they must have the initial and continuous formation they need in order to do this well. They should have a deep awareness of their role within the ecclesial community and of the importance of their contribution to the life of the nation.
The laity, because of their vocation to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Cf. Mt. Mt 5,13 Mt 13,33), should be well–grounded in the Church’s social doctrine and, through their presence in public life, contribute to strengthening the fabric of society through their diligence and industriousness, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relations, and courage in undertaking responsibilities in the fields of economics and politics (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 32).
Words and deeds of justice, peace and solidarity serve your country at a time when it is facing serious challenges. Christian wisdom about the human person and about the way to build a society worthy of man can be a fruitful point of reference for Zimbabwe’s efforts to adjust its economic structures, to respond to the grave consequences of the present drought and to raise the ethical climate of business and social life. It is therefore right for you the Pastors to speak out clearly regarding the moral and ethical implications of policies and actions, and thus to place the insights of Catholic social doctrine at the service of the wider community.
8. The laity’s task of ordering the temporal sphere according to the law of Christ, as I noted in "Christifideles Laici", "begins in marriage and in the family" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 40). Because the integrity and worth of the family are increasingly threatened in our age, your Pastoral Letter of last year, Save Our Families, was most timely. I fully share your stated concerns about the way urbanization – which itself is often the result of economic depression – and secularization are corroding the strength of family bonds and replacing many traditional values. The anonymity of the city, the absence of parental control, the often ruthless competitive ethic of the world of work, all contribute to the alienation of many young people from their families. You are rightly concerned at the imposition of demographic control programmes, at the increase of abortion and the spread of AIDS.
The initiatives being implemented in your Dioceses to defend and foster marriage and the family–especially providing engaged couples with a sound catechesis in preparation for their new life together–are extremely valuable. They are very helpful for the growth of the Christian community and for a true inculturation of the faith. The strengthening of marriage and the family truly constitutes an important service to the well–being of the whole nation.
9. Dear Brothers, I began these remarks by noting that your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is a profession of faith in the Church. It is also an occasion for you to renew your commitment to the great and urgent task of evangelization. Through episcopal ordination you are members of the College which Christ established so that until the end of time the Church, his beloved Bride, would never lack an Apostle’s care. If we read the Acts of the Apostles attentively, we see that one of the hallmarks of the Apostles’ service to the Church was the boldness with which they proclaimed the Gospel. After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled them with light and joy, they tirelessly went forth to pro claim that in Christ Jesus God’s Kingdom had come into this world (Cf. Acts Ac 2,28).
I ask our Saviour to confirm you in that same confidence and sense of urgency. It is my prayer that the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will do a great deal to enhance missionary zeal throughout your cherished continent. As the whole Church in Zimbabwe prepares for that important event, may the Holy Spirit increase in your hearts that steadfast faith which remains undaunted in the face of every obstacle, a faith based on the unshakable conviction of the power of God’s word to save (Cf. Rom. Rm 1,16). I commend you and all those whom you serve to the loving care of the Virgin Mother of God, and I impart my Apostolic Blessing.