3 September 1999
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, the Bishops of Zambia, as you gather in Rome for your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Your presence expresses and reaffirms the bond of communion which ties you and your local communities to the Successor of Peter, who is called to strengthen his brothers in the faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,32). With fraternal affection, I greet you with the words of the Apostle: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7). Through you, I address this same greeting to the priests, religious and lay faithful of the particular Churches over which you preside in love.
In our meetings in these days, I have seen the selfless zeal with which you give yourselves to your pastoral ministry, and I have shared the hopes and yearnings, the difficulties and concerns, the joys and successes of your service to the People of God in Zambia. Your visit has also reminded me of my Pastoral Visit to your country 10 years ago, when I was blessed to experience at first hand "the warmth of your human relations and the depth of your aspirations to live in a society based on respect for the dignity of every human person" (Address at Departure Ceremony, Lusaka, 4 May 1989, n. 1). It was my special joy then to witness "the steadfastness and vigour of the Catholic Church in Zambia" (ibid., n. 2), and that is something I have never forgotten.
2. In the 10 years since my visit, the situation on the African continent, including Zambia, has grown more dramatic. This is at times forgotten by the world at large, but it never ceases to weigh heavily upon the heart of the Church and of the Pope. The age-old human scourges of war, famine, poverty and disease continue to strike at Africa's peoples, and Zambia has not been spared their force. The wars in neighbouring lands have wounded Zambia, not least because of so many displaced persons seeking refuge in your country. The shadow of AIDS spreads across the continent and is reaping a fearful harvest of death. The capacity to deal with these problems is further restricted by the crushing burden of foreign debt. In such a situation, people can easily fall victim to anxiety and even despair, grasping at false promises and solutions which sometimes make things worse.
Yet it is clear from your quinquennial reports that, in the midst of this suffering, the Church in Zambia has remained steadfast, and grows with new life and vigour. This is surely a source of hope, and for that I give thanks to almighty God. Now, more than ever, Zambia needs the Church's witness to the crucified Christ, who alone is the light which no darkness can dispel (cf. Jn Jn 1,5).
Your country has recently celebrated the centenary of its evangelization; and, after a hundred years of growth, the Church is increasingly present, fulfilling her religious mission and serving in the areas of education and health care, as well as working for the integral human development of the people. These involvements are vital, and they will continue to challenge your pastoral leadership. But as wise shepherds of the Church you are also well aware that beneath them there lies the still more fundamental task of strengthening the natural family in its sacred task as "ecclesia domestica' and the spiritual family of the Church in its sacred task as "ecclesia publica'. Upon the successful accomplishment of that dual task which is really only one will depend the fate of the Church's mission in Zambia.
3. Rightly, then, the family has been the object of your special pastoral concern. In Zambia, as elsewhere, families are now facing an array of pressures, the roots of which are political, social, economic and even cultural. Unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, external cultural influences and traditional practices such as polygamy are a threat to the unity and stability of Zambian families. This must also be said of divorce, abortion, a growing contraceptive mentality and the kind of irresponsible sexual activity which is aggravating the AIDS crisis. All these factors demean human dignity in a way that makes the commitment of marriage increasingly difficult, since it is the nature of marriage to be grounded upon a deep sense of the value of human life and human dignity. That is why your recent pastoral letter on the sanctity of human life was so timely. I trust that it will strengthen Christian witness in Zambia and raise national awareness on this most crucial of issues.
Because no society can flourish unless the family flourishes, all the Church's resources and institutions must be mobilized to help Zambian families live faithfully and generously as true "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 11). This applies to Catholic schools, which from beginning to end must teach the values which give meaning to Christian sexuality. It applies to youth programmes which must consolidate and build upon that foundation, emphasizing especially the role and dignity of women. It applies to marriage preparation programmes, which must set before engaged couples the Christian significance and beauty of married love. It also means that pastoral help must always be available to families who are in difficulty. The future of Zambia is the future of Zambia's families.
More broadly, the support of the family as the fundamental unit of society calls for resolute efforts to respond to the difficulties which married couples face, including the cultural pressures and policies which work against the family. The energies of the whole Church must be galvanized now to ensure that Zambian families are as strong as God wants them to be so that the nation's future will be as rich as God wants it to be.
4. As Pastors, your ministry is principally directed to strengthening the spiritual family of the Church so that the "power of the Gospel to save" (cf. Rom Rm 1,16) will permeate every aspect of the life of the faithful and enlighten the path of society towards greater truth, justice and harmony. In many ways the Church will be a sign of contradiction in a situation where the powers of alienation are unmistakable, and this will demand that you yourselves have a deeply spiritual vision of things, and live "holy and blameless and irreproachable" lives before the Lord (cf. Col Col 1,22). The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa reminds Bishops of the admonition of Pope St Gregory the Great, according to whom "the Pastor is the light of his faithful above all through an exemplary moral conduct marked by holiness" (n. 98).
5. Since in the family of the Church so much depends upon the quality of leadership offered by priests, it is essential that they be the prime concern of your ministry. Your relations with them should always be marked by unity, fraternity and encouragement. In Holy Orders they have been configured to Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church. They must therefore share his complete self-giving for the sake of the flock and the coming of the kingdom. As you well know, the faithful and fruitful living of the priestly vocation requires permanent formation. It is for this reason that you have devised special programmes for priests, especially those recently ordained, in order to help them to continue their intellectual, pastoral and spiritual development. A good number of your clergy are already taking advantage of these, and I support you fully in this initiative, encouraging you to do all that you can to involve as many of your priests as possible in the process.
Unceasing personal conversion is an essential component of all Christian life, and for priests this involves a definite spirit of detachment from the things and attitudes of the world. This is most clearly signaled by priestly celibacy, the value of which as a complete gift of self to the Lord and his Church must be carefully safeguarded. This means that any behaviour which might give scandal must be carefully avoided or corrected where necessary. In all of this, seminary formation is of utmost importance, for if weak foundations are laid at that stage Zambia will not have the zealous and self-sacrificing priests that it now needs. Yet even before seminary training begins, good priestly vocations are born and grow in truly Christian families, which is yet another reason for you to spare no effort in your pastoral care of the family.
6. Another positive sign in the Church in Zambia is the growing number of vocations to the religious life. To ensure that here too there is leadership of the kind required by the family of the Church, I would also urge that great care be exercised in the selection of candidates and in their formation. Once again, family life is a key here: many of the young women and men discerning a call to consecrated life come from families with only a brief familiarity with Christian life or with little Christian training. Religious life, like the priesthood, runs the risk of becoming a means for social advancement or a source of prestige. Candidates must not succumb to the temptation of thinking of themselves as better than others, or of wanting to rise to a higher level of material welfare. When this happens, the genuine character of religious or priestly service is accepted only externally but is not assimilated at a deeply personal level. Programmes of formation should uphold the highest ideals and be entrusted to truly exemplary priests and women and men religious.
7. As the spiritual family of the Church grows stronger, you will be better equipped to enter into the ecumenical dialogue and cooperation which are needed so that the various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities can grow in mutual understanding and respect, and in order that Christians may move beyond the divisions that have impaired their mission in the millennium now drawing to a close (cf. Tertio millenio adveniente, n. 34). You will also be better equipped to enter into dialogue with Islam, which although a minority in your country, is growing in influence and is active in the building of mosques, schools and clinics in different parts of the country. In these circumstances there is need for a twofold response from the Church on the one hand, strong and continuing evangelization and catechesis of the Catholic people, and on the other hand a sincere openness to interreligious dialogue.
An important pastoral challenge of quite a different kind is the confusion and, in some cases, the loss of true Christian identity caused by the proliferation of fundamentalist sects. They tend to flourish in times of social dislocation and cultural alienation when anxiety and the temptation to hopelessness take hold; they are also strongest when the experience of the Church as family is weakest.To counteract their illusory promises and false solutions, the Church in Zambia needs programmes offering the faithful clear and correct catechesis which will give them a deeper grasp of the saving truths of the faith and of the true promises of Christ, which alone are trustworthy. In such programmes, a more extensive use of audiovisual religious materials and radio broadcasts by your Conference and individual Dioceses may prove helpful. A great effort of this kind will also ensure that lay people in Zambia give ever more visible public witness to their Catholic faith, becoming the true evangelizers in their families and communities.
Your efforts to create small Christian communities at the local level has done much to increase the active involvement of the laity in parish and diocesan life. In fact, such communities have become a characteristic trait of the Church's dynamic presence in your country. I cannot fail to mention two important associations working to foster the various lay movements of the apostolate now active in Zambia: the National Council for Laity and the National Council for Catholic Women. These are also signs of the continued growth of the Church in your country, and they show that you yourselves, dear Brothers, have taken to heart the words of the Rite of Episcopal Ordination: "As a father and a brother, love all those whom God places in your care.... Encourage the faithful to work with you in your apostolic task; listen willingly to what they have to say".
Dear Brothers, these are the brief thoughts that I share with you today, seeking to offer every encouragement in the Lord and to strengthen you in your ministry to his people. As your country moves into its second century of Christian faith and prepares to embark upon the third millennium, the challenge for Zambia is to show itself a Christian nation, not just by virtue of an official proclamation, but because yours is a country where the Christian faith is lived in word and deed, where the law of love holds sway, and where the Lord's command to "let your light shine before all, so that seeing your good works they may give glory to God" (cf. Mt Mt 5,16) is faithfully observed by all who bear his name. I commend you and the Catholic people of Zambia to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. As you invoke her holy name, may you be led to ever greater service of Christ her Son.
To you and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests, Religious and Seminarians,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a great joy to be with you today for the inauguration of the new Metropolitan Seminary and St Matthew's Home for the Clergy, institutions desired and built by the community of Salerno with the help of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the active support of the region's Bishops. I thank you for inviting me to this significant event and for your affectionate welcome.
I greet the ancient and noble Church of Salerno and the community of Pontecagnano-Faiano. I thank Archbishop Gerardo Pierro, the beloved and zealous Pastor of this Archdiocese, for expressing what you all feel towards the Successor of Peter. My affectionate thoughts also turn to the diocesan presbyterate, the consecrated men and women, the seminarians, the authorities present and everyone who has wished to take part in this important and joyous moment of faith and communion.
I greet Cardinal Michele Giordano, Archbishop of Naples and President of the Episcopal Conference of Campania. With him I spiritually embrace all the prelates of Campania and the peoples of this beloved region, especially those from the distressed area of Sarno.
In fact, on my journey to Salerno I flew over that land which was affected last year by terrible flooding that caused destruction and death. I prayed for the dead and, in particular, I asked for divine support for the persons and families who had been most harshly tried. May they find in Christian hope the strength to build a tranquil future especially for the younger generation, with the support of the national community. I send my cordial greetings to those brothers and sisters, who are all dear to my heart.
Opening a seminary shows great trust in Christ's work
2. Dear friends, this new Metropolitan Seminary and the St Matthew's Home for the Clergy, which the Church of Salerno has built with loving care, are a providential gift for those called to the priestly ministry and for priests themselves. The seminary in particular, with its modern and functional structure, continues the long tradition of service offered to the neighbouring Dioceses by the Archdiocese of Salerno, where the Pius IX Pontifical Regional Seminary has been located for years. Renewing the spirit of this commitment to communion and collaboration, the Metropolitan Seminary will also accept seminarians from other communities in Campania whose Bishops so request.
The opening of a seminary first presupposes great trust in the work of Christ, who continues to extend his invitation to so many young men who, like the two disciples in the Gospel passage we have just heard, feel called by him: "Rabbi (which means teacher), where are you staying?". This seminary is being opened today so that Jesus can reply to the young men of the Salerno region: "Come and see" (cf. Jn Jn 1,38-39). Indeed, the seminary is called to create an atmosphere where a special experience of communion with Christ can be lived. May the young men who will devote themselves to study and prayer here make their own Andrew's words to his brother Simon: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1,41).
3. In this perspective, dear seminarians, I would like to address you in particular: you are the first to celebrate today. This seminary is especially meant for you and for everyone in the future who will be ready to answer God's call and spend the years of necessary formation here.
I hope you will be docile to the Lord's voice and give yourselves generously to him. May you grow here in your commitment to prayer and study, looking upon your sacrifices and daily problems as so many acts of love for those to whom the Lord will send you. You will be able to count on your superiors' wise and generous guidance, on the prayer of the Christian community and, above all, on the motherly presence of the Queen of Apostles, to whom those who are called to act "in persona Christi" are particularly entrusted.
Evangelizers must be fully conformed to Christ
4. Dear teachers, you are entrusted with the task of helping future priests to relive the experience of the Upper Room which, in a certain sense, was the first seminary. After instructing the Twelve in the Upper Room, the Teacher washed their feet and, anticipating the bloody sacrifice of the Cross, gave himself totally and for ever under the appearances of bread and wine. Then, in the Upper Room, while they were waiting for Pentecost, the Apostles "with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Ac 1,14).
Dear friends, in training evangelizers for the third millennium, take your inspiration from this eloquent icon. Instil in your students love for the Lord and enthusiasm for his Gospel, so that they may be fully conformed to Christ, Teacher, Priest and Pastor (cf. Optatam totius, OT 5). Teach them fraternal communion. Provide them with a solid theological and cultural training. Above all, ensure that they are "men of God" and, for this very reason, men of charity, poverty and sharing, capable one day of generously ministering to the people of this land which, like all Southern Italy, is marked by old and new challenges and needs more than ever pastors who will bear witness to the Gospel without reserve.
5. By a wise decision, your Archbishop wanted St Matthew's Home for the Clergy to be built next to the seminary. It is meant to help priests live in brotherhood and to experience the many advantages of community life, which was recommended, in its various forms, by the Second Vatican Council (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, PO 8) and is so valuable to them in carrying out the ministry.
I hope that the closeness of the two institutions will give their respective residents a valuable opportunity for fraternal gatherings, communion in charity, mutual remembrance in prayer and encouragement in their service to the Lord.
6. I now have some special words for the other young people I see here. Dear young people, accept Christ's message and respond to his love. He invites each of you to follow him in a personal and specific way. The success of your life depends on your response to his call. Do not let yourselves be enthralled by deceptive and fleeting mirages: Christ is also calling you to holiness in the ordinary conditions of secular life. And if he asks some of you to dedicate yourselves totally to the service of the Gospel in the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid of courageously accepting his invitation, which opens exciting horizons of joy and grace. The Church awaits the contribution of your creativity, your gifts and your youthful enthusiasm.
Seminary is sign of love for Christ and his Church
7. Dear brothers and sisters, this complex which we are about to dedicate is the fruit of the commitment and collaboration of many people. I would like to express my pleasure to all who have devoted their efforts, intelligence and competence to it: to the designers, the builders, the workmen and everyone!
As a concrete sign of your love for Christ and his Church, you have wished to name the new seminary after the Pope who is speaking to you now. I cordially thank you for this affectionate gesture, which strengthens the ancient bonds of the Church in Salerno with the Successor of Peter, the visible principle and foundation of the unity of both faith and communion (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 18).
I entrust to Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of priests, whose image has been placed like a sentinal over the seminary, everyone who will live, study and work in this stronghold of faith and culture. May she watch lovingly over the efforts of all: may she support them on their journey, so that they can respond generously to the word of her Son and serve their brethren with constant fidelity.
With these sentiments, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to each of you present here, to the archdiocesan community and to the whole region of Campania.
At the end of his visit to Salerno, the Holy Father said extemporaneously:
This is the second time I have come to Salerno, but the first time I have visited this part of the city where the seminary is. My best wishes to your community, which is always thinking of the future, since the seminary and seminarians speak to us of the future, of the third millennium.
Best wishes for the third millennium of your Diocese. Praised be Jesus Christ! Goodbye!
Salerno, 4 September 1999
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I give thanks to the Father of all mercies for the gift of this meeting with you, the Bishops of Malawi, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome for your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. With great joy I welcome you and, through you, I embrace all the Malawi faithful, whom I remember with affection in the Lord and who remain always in my prayers. In a special way as the nation prepares to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the first Catholic mission on your soil, I pray for you, the Shepherds of God’s Holy People, and for the priests, Religious and laity that, in the words of Saint Paul, “God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him” (2Th 1,11-12).
2. With the founding of the mission at Nzama in 1901, the Christian faith took root in Malawi and has continued to grow there ever since. The numbers of those added day by day to the Lord is steadily increasing (cf. Acts Ac 2,47), and the Church herself is increasingly involved in the life of the nation, insisting upon the need for solidarity and civic responsibility, and urging dialogue and reconciliation as the way to resolve tensions. The relations between Church and State are good, and the Church is free to pursue her spiritual mission in the fields of pastoral ministry, education, health care and human and social development.
It is also widely recognized that the Church has played an important role in Malawi’s transition to democratic government. But the process of transition is not yet complete, and the Church must continue to work with all sectors of society in an effort to ensure that the nation does not go astray in its attempts to build a just, stable and lasting democracy. This will depend upon the quality of the foundation that is laid; and the one sure basis for a democratic society is a right vision of the human person and of the common good. Unless a society builds upon this truth, then it is like the house built on sand: it cannot stand (cf. Mt Mt 7,26-27). It is the Church’s solemn duty to declare this truth, to identify the human values which flow from it, and to remind everyone of the duty to act accordingly.
3. The challenges to Christian life and service are many and demanding in a situation of widespread poverty, often extreme, and where there is a weakening of moral and ethical conviction, giving rise to many social ills, including corruption and attacks upon the sanctity of human life itself. In light of this, there is a need to provide the faithful with solid programmes of evangelization and catechesis, aimed at deepening their Christian faith and understanding, and thus enabling them to take their rightful place in the Church and in society. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “The laity. . . are called by God so that led by the spirit of the Gospel they might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties” (Lumen Gentium LG 31). The Council Fathers go on to say that “all the faithful of Christ. . . are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. . . All of Christ’s followers are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfilment of their own state of life” (ibid., 40, 42). For this to happen, the words addressed by the Council to the Bishop should be borne constantly in mind: “Let him be a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him. Let him be a true father who excels in the spirit of love and solicitude for all... Let him so gather and mold the whole family of his flock that everyone, conscious of his own duties, may live and work in the communion of love” (Christus Dominus CD 16).
In this perspective I gladly encourage the initiatives you have taken to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and for the celebration in 2001 of the Catholic Church’s centenary in Malawi, both of which anniversaries imply a call to strengthen Christian faith and commitment. In your 1996 Pastoral Letter, Walking Together in Faith, you issued a timely call for conversion and for renewal in Christian living. Looking to these two moments of special grace, you heeded the exhortation of my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millenio Adveniente and “opened your hearts to the promptings of the Spirit, who does not fail to arouse enthusiasm and lead people to celebrate the Jubilee with renewed faith and generous participation” (cf. No. 59). Following the recommendations of the Special Assembly of Africa of the Synod of Bishops and those found in Tertio Millennio Adveniente, you devised a programme of preparation to help the priests, Religious and faithful of your Dioceses “to obtain the light and assistance necessary for...the celebration of the forthcoming Jubilee” (ibid.). This was reinforced by your Pastoral Letter Come Back to Me and Live, in which you rightly stressed the need to recover a sense of sin in order to recover a sense of the mercy of God which is the heart of the Great Jubilee. Indeed, this is the vision of life that is at the heart of the Gospel and which the Church is called to preach in every time and place.
4. As the announcement of the Good News is completed through catechesis, faith grows to maturity and Christ’s disciples are formed in a thorough and systematic knowledge of the person and message of the Lord (cf. Catechesi Tradendae CTR 19). Bible study, direct contact, that is, with the sacred text of God’s word, accompanied by devout prayer (cf. Dei Verbum DV 25) and supported by a clear exposition of doctrine as found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, will ensure that lay men and women are secure in their faith and prepared to fulfil its demands in all circumstances, not least of all in the crucial areas of Christian marriage and family life. Undoubtedly, one of the clearest signs of the “newness” of life in Christ is the bond of marriage and the family lived in accordance with the Saviour’s call for the restoration of God’s original plan (cf. Mk Mc 10,6-9). Good catechesis is especially important for young people, for whom an enlightened faith is a lamp to guide their path into the future. It will be their source of strength as they face the uncertainties of a difficult economic and social situation.
As they are strengthened in the revealed truth, Catholics will also be able to respond to the objections raised with increasing frequency by the followers of sects and new religious movements. Moreover, firm and humble submission to the word of Christ, as authentically proclaimed by the Church, also forms the basis for dialogue with the followers of African traditional religion and Islam, and for your relationship with other Churches and ecclesial communities, which is so important if Christian mission is not to be impaired by division in the future as it has been in the past (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, TMA 34).
5. Given the vital importance of good leadership in the Church, especially at a time such as this, I wish to encourage your efforts to ensure a more effective formation for your seminarians and priests. This remains an issue of critical importance for your local Churches and it requires direction from you, since without sound formation priests will not be equipped to fulfil their vocation and ministry, giving themselves daily “in order that faith, hope and charity may grow in human hearts and in the history of the men and women of our time” (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 82).
You have made great efforts to strengthen formation programmes and to provide a solid spiritual, intellectual and pastoral training for your seminarians; and the fruits of this are already beginning to appear. The Ratio Institutionis Sacerdotalis, the Ratio Studiorum and the rules for seminary living have been approved for the Major Seminaries of Kachebere, Zomba and Mangochi. Furthermore, the introduction of a programme of spirituality and a propaedeutic year for seminarians before they commence the study of philosophy, as well as the establishment of a Board of Governors for formation and for problems related to seminary life and discipline, are all very positive developments.
No less important than the training of future priests is the permanent formation of those already in Holy Orders. Pastoral dedication and zeal for the ministry, moral discipline and upright behaviour, detachment from worldly possessions and attitudes, readiness to give themselves completely in service to others: these are the traits which must be nurtured in your priests and become the hallmark of their lives. Then they will be, as Saint John Chrysostom insists the priest must be, “dignified yet modest, impressive yet kindly, masterful yet approachable, impartial yet courteous, humble but not servile, forceful yet gentle” (On the Priesthood, 3, 15), considering “one thing alone: the edification of the Church, never acting out of hostility or favour ” (ibid.). To this end, it is imperative that there be effective programmes of permanent formation for the clergy. This must be very high among your priorities for the Church in Malawi as she prepares to enter the Third Millennium, for Bishops have a crucial responsibility to provide opportunities for spiritual renewal and growth among their priests (cf. Optatam Totius OT 22).
6. The need for lifelong formation also applies to men and women Religious. Theirs is a special consecration which needs constantly to be deepened so that they may remain firmly rooted in Christ and the high ideals of their vocation may continue undimmed in their own hearts and in the eyes of the people to whom they are a special sign of God’s loving care. Through the profession of the evangelical counsels, they bear witness to the Kingdom and build up the Body of Christ by leading others to conversion and a life of holiness. They must be helped to remain faithful to the charism of their Institutes and to work in close cooperation and harmony with you, the Pastors of the Church, in carrying out their apostolate (cf. Mutuae Relationes, 8).
A life of chastity, poverty and obedience willingly embraced and faithfully lived confutes the conventional wisdom of the world, because it is a proclamation of the Cross of Christ (cf. 1Co 1,20-30). The witness offered by consecrated women and men can transform society and its ways of thinking and acting, precisely through the love which they show for all people, especially those with no voice, through their focus on the things of the spirit rather than on material things, and through their prayer, their dedication and their example. How can we not offer here a word of appreciation for the magnificent work done by men and women Religious in Malawi in the areas of human development, education and health care? It is a unique contribution which neither the Church nor the nation could do without.
7. Dear Brothers, as Shepherds of God’s Holy People you have the triple task of leading, challenging and uniting all those who are working in “God’s field” (1Co 3,9). This task of yours is more pressing than ever as the Third Millennium prepares to dawn and as you look to the celebration of the centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi, remembering the Lord’s words about the abundance of the harvest to be reaped through our service of the Gospel (cf. Mt Mt 9,37). On the eve of the Great Jubilee we are called to dedicate ourselves with fresh vigour to the work of sharing the light of Christ’s truth with all men and women. I pray that through your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul the Holy Spirit will strengthen you for the work of the new evangelization. In the love of the Blessed Trinity, I entrust you, your priests, Religious and lay faithful to the glorious intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in her divine Son.
From the Vatican, 6 September 1999