Pope Francis expresses solidarity to the people of Nigeria – The Courage of reconciliation
only the absence of conflict or the result of political compromise or
fatalistic resignation”. It entails “is
a daily endeavour, a courageous and authentic effort to favour reconciliation, to promote
experiences of sharing, to extend bridges of dialogue, to serve the weakest and
the excluded”. In a word, it consists in
“building up a ‘culture of encounter’”. The Pope wrote this in letter he sent
to Bishops of Nigeria, the densely-populated African nation now in the grips of
an increasingly ruthless and ferocious terrorism, fed by “new and violent forms of extremism
and fundamentalism on ethnic, social and religious grounds”. The following is
the English text of the Pope’s message.
Dear Brother Bishops,
we walk this Lenten journey towards the Resurrection of the Lord united with
the whole Church, I wish to extend to you, dear Archbishops and Bishops of
Nigeria, a fraternal greeting, which I extend to the beloved Christian
communities entrusted to your pastoral care.
I would also like to share some thoughts with you on the current situation
in your country.
known as the “African giant”, with its more than 160 million inhabitants, is
set to play a primary role, not only in Africa but in the world at large. In recent years, it has experienced robust
growth in the economic sphere and has again reasserted itself on the world
stage as an attractive market, on account of its natural resources as well as
its commercial potential. It is now
considered officially the single largest African economy. It has also distinguished itself as a
political player widely committed to the resolution of crisis situations in the
the same time, your nation has had to confront considerable problems, among
them new and violent forms of extremism and fundamentalism on ethnic, social
and religious grounds. Many Nigerians
have been killed, wounded or mutilated, kidnapped and deprived of everything:
their loved ones, their land, their means of subsistence, their dignity and
their rights. Many have not been able to
return to their homes. Believers, both
Christian and Muslim, have experienced a common tragic outcome, at the hands of
people who claim to be religious, but who instead abuse religion, to make of it
an ideology for their own distorted interests of exploitation and murder.
would like to assure you and all who suffer of my closeness. Every day I remember you in my prayers and I
repeat here, for your encouragement and comfort, the consoling words of the
Lord Jesus, which must always resound in our hearts: “Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27).
– as you know so well – is not only the absence of conflict or the result of
political compromise or fatalistic resignation.
Peace is for us a gift which comes from on high; it is Jesus Christ
himself, the Prince of Peace, who has made of two peoples one (cf. Eph 2:14). And only the man or woman who treasures the
peace of Christ as a guiding light and way of life can become a peacemaker (cf.
the same time, peace is a daily endeavour, a courageous and authentic
effort to favour reconciliation, to
promote experiences of sharing, to extend bridges of dialogue, to serve the
weakest and the excluded. In a word,
peace consists in building up a “culture of encounter”.
so I wish here to express my heartfelt thanks to you, because in the midst of
so many trials and sufferings the Church in Nigeria does not cease to witness
to hospitality, mercy and forgiveness.
How can we fail to remember the priests, religious men and women,
missionaries and catechists who, despite untold sacrifices, never abandoned
their flock, but remained at their service as good and faithful heralds of the
Gospel? To them, most particularly, I
would like to express my solidarity, and to say: do not grow tired of doing what
give thanks to the Lord for them, as for so many men and women of every social,
cultural and religious background, who with great willingness stand up in
concrete ways to every form of violence, and whose efforts are directed at
favouring a more secure and just future for all. They offer us moving testimonies, which, as
Pope Benedict XVI recalled at the end of the Synod for Africa, show “the power
of the Spirit to transform the hearts of victims and their persecutors and thus
to re-establish fraternity” (Africae
Brother Bishops, in perseverance and without becoming discouraged, go forward
on the way of peace (cf. Lk
1:79). Accompany the victims! Come to the aid of the poor! Teach the youth! Become promoters of a more just and fraternal
gladly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I ask you to extend to
priests, religious, missionaries, catechists, lay faithful and above all to
those suffering members of the Body of Christ.
the Resurrection of the Lord bring conversion, reconciliation and peace to all
the people of Nigeria! I commend you to
Mary, Queen of Africa, and I ask you also to pray for me.